RAF VALLEY -
20th AUGUST 1999; Roger Cook, Pynelea Photo Bureau was
there, Gary Parsons profiles the aircraft.
The BAe Hawk
(nee Hawker Siddeley Hawk) first flew on 21st August 1974 and to celebrate its 25th
anniversary the Valley Aviation Society organised a small photocall and static display of
representative aircraft to raise money for the NSPCC. Four Hawks carried special 'BAe Hawk
25 Years' markings on their tails, three from Valley XX158, XX174, XX236 and XX154 from DTEO Llanbedr.
Also present was FAB 350 Sqn F-16A, FA131/FS to commemorate the
founding of this squadron at Valley in 1941 and Delta Engineering's Hunter T7B WV318 to represent this type previously operated at Valley. British
Aerospace sent Hawk 100 ZJ100 and the USAF's long association with
this airfield was represented by 95790 MH-53J from 21st SOS,
Mildenhall. One further Hawk, XX258, carried 'NSPCC' markings on
the tail to mark the charity supported by the personnel at Valley during 1999.
Born from Air Staff Target (AST) 397 of
January 1970, which required a basic/advanced trainer to replace the Folland Gnat, the
aircraft was designed and built by Hawker Siddeley and originally given the designation
HS.1182, being successful in winning the tender against an alternative design promoted by
the British Aircraft Company (BAC), the P59. Ironically the Hawk would prove to be one of
the very last designs by the company as it was merged with its competitor to form the
fledgling British Aerospace, and as such was one of the last inter-British aviation
competitions. Given the name Hawk in 1973, the airframe had an initial life of some 6,000
hours, enough for about twenty years...such has been the success and ruggedness of the
airframe that it has surpassed this by some margin, and a successor has yet to be
announced, although a majority of the fleet gained new wings some years ago as stress
fractures were encountered on some examples.
An order for 176 Hawks was placed in March 1972, some
two years before the type would make its first flight, such was the confidence in the
design. A single pre-production aircraft was part of the order, this being XX154, which
would eventually be returned to service, flying with the A&AEE and subsequently DRA
and derivatives. Originally scheduled for its first flight on 22 August 1974, impending
poor weather prompted the team to go for the first flight the day before, test pilot
Duncan Simpson getting airborne in the early evening at 19:20. A flight of fifty-three
minutes followed, during which '154 achieved 325 knots and reached an altitude of 20,000
feet without incident.
The following five aircraft from XX154 were
used for development work and the last delivery to the RAF was XX158 on 17 March 1982,
about a month after the last production aircraft (XX353) had been handed over on 9
February. RAF Valley was the first station to receive the new trainer, XX161 arriving on 1
April 1976 to begin the long transition from the Gnat. Eighteen more Hawks were due to be
ordered in 1980, but these fell victim to the Defence cuts of the year and so the original
176 has reduced to 143 serviceable aircraft over twenty-three years of active service, a
loss of just under two a year. This has led to a shortage of late, with examples
previously used for testing duties returned to the training role, themselves replaced by
Hunters returned to active duty.
mainly for fast jet training, in times of war the Hawk would
bolster the front-line air defences as a fighter, some of the
fleet having the capability to carry Sidewinders in addition
to the Aden cannon carried on the fuselage centreline (denoted
by the T1A designation), including those of the Red Arrows.
Lacking a radar, the Hawk would be unable to operate independently,
but would operate in a mixed force with Tornado F3s under the
control of AWACS. The quick turning Hawk would actually be a
better proposition in a close-in dogfight, leaving the Tornados
to undertake the Beyond-Visual-Range targets.
Also famous for
equipping the world-famous Red Arrows,
the team has been heavily involved in promoting the Hawk overseas,
contributing to the enormous sales success the type has achieved.
Part of this success can be credited to the Hawker Siddeley
design team, who were determined to cater for more than the
basic RAF requirement. Most of this enhancement can be seen
in the cockpit, which features the raised rear seat for excellent
visibility, air-conditioning and a duplicate set of controls
for the 'back-seater'. A generous fuel allowance allows the
Hawk to fly two training sorties without refuelling, with enough
in reserve for diversions if necessary. This feature has proved
to be very useful for the Reds, who can spend less time en-route
than was possible with the Gnat. The wing is a one-piece section
fitted to the fuselage with just six bolts, and incorporates
two hardpoints on each side, allowing a load of up to 6,800lbs
(3,100kg) to be carried. This has led to the type being developed
as a ground-attack aircraft for smaller nations, typified by
the single-seat type 200 which has no intended training role.
orders have included Mk51s for Finland, Mk52s for Kenya, Mk53s for Indonesia, Mk60s for
Zimbabwe, Mk61s for Dubai, Mk63s for Abu Dhabi, Mk64s for Kuwait, Mk65s for Saudi Arabia,
Mk66s for Switzerland and Mk67s for South Korea. The 60 series Hawk has a more powerful
Adour engine and a number of improved features over the series 50, but there are few
differences between the types delivered to each air force. Introduced in the mid-eighties
were the Series 100 and 200 types, the 100 being a two-seat derivative of the 200.
Confused? Good. Deliveries have included Mk203s and 103s to Oman, Mk205s to Saudi Arabia,
Mk208s and 108s to Malaysia and Mk102s to Abu Dhabi. Perhaps its greatest accolade is
being chosen by the US Navy as its primary jet trainer, all American Hawks being known as
the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) T45 Goshawk, a much modified airframe capable of being
operated from carriers.
For the immediate future, Hawk's light is
still shining brightly. Earlier this year the MoD awarded a contract worth £100 million
to BAe for eighty new fuselages under programme mod 2010. Commencing shortly, the contract
will involve the existing fuselage being stripped and transported to the factory at Brough
where the rear two-thirds will be replaced with a new section similar to the Mk65, after
which the airframe will return to St. Athan for installation of new avionics and systems.
This will enable a suitable lead-in trainer for Eurofighter to be established with 'glass'
cockpits and up-to-date control systems, giving the Hawk another decade or so of useful
life before a replacement is found. They won't have to look far however, as the only
logical replacement will be a new-build Hawk!