BAe scoops pounds 480m order from Australia

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British Aerospace has won its biggest single order worth an estimated A$1bn (pounds 480m) for its successful Hawk military training jet, writes Chris Godsmark.

The Australian Air Force has chosen BAe as the preferred candidate to replace its fleet of 87 Italian Aer Macchi trainers which have been in service for more than 25 years.

The new contract is for BAe to guarantee to provide a given amount of flying hours rather than planes, but the total number of Hawks likely to be supplied is believed to be around 35. The list price for the plane is between pounds 10m and pounds 16m. BAe beat off competition from Aer Macchi and McDonnell Douglas of the US.

The Hawks will be specially modified to match the cockpit design of the RAAF's fleet of McDonnell Douglas F18 fighters. The first planes will enter service by 2000, with several BAe staff likely to provide back-up service in Australia.

BAe said that the order would guarantee jobs for staff in Brough near Hull and Warton near Preston and a small number of extra jobs could be created.