David Cameron Confirms RAF Red Arrows Will Not Be Axed Under Defence Cuts

India has signalled it may buy a third tranche of UK-built Hawk aircraft for use by its version of the Red Arrows aerobatics display team, it emerged today.

And Prime Minister David Cameron has offered the expertise of the Red Arrows team in helping them to put on a show using their trademark trails of coloured smoke.

Following recent speculation over whether defence cuts may spell the end for the Red Arrows, Downing Street described them as "one of Britain's most iconic brands".

A Number 10 aide said: "The Prime Minister is clear that for as long as he is in Downing Street the Red Arrows will grace the skies of Britain."

During talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi yesterday as part of Mr Cameron's three-day visit to India, the two leaders discussed how Britain could help the country's military aerobatics team, known as Surya Kiran or "The Sun Rays".

Surya Kiran uses a fleet of 12 Indian-built HAL jets, but Mr Singh indicated that he was interested in purchasing a number of BAE Systems Hawks for the team.

Mr Cameron responded that the RAF would be willing to help the team learn how to fit smoke pods to the Hawks, so that they can spread the orange, green and white colours of the Indian flag across the sky.

A Downing Street source accompanying the PM in India said: "The PM has always believed that the Red Arrows reflect everything that is great about Britain - not just what it shows about our military capabilities but also the skill, dedication and courage of the pilots - and that so long as he's in Number 10 they will grace the skies of Britain.

"Today was a great opportunity for the PM to promote them overseas."

India bought 66 Hawks in 2004 and a further 57 in 2008. There was no immediate indication of how many they are considering buying now, or of how much the deal may be worth.