About the Hawk T2
The Hawk is operational in two very distinct variants, the Hawk T.Mk 1 (and very similar Mk 1A) and T.Mk 2. The latter has replaced the Mk 1/1A in the flying training role, bringing personnel up to fast jet operational conversion unit (OCU) input standards after they graduate from the turboprop Texan T1.
The aircraft’s glass cockpit and comprehensive avionics suite provide a realistic advanced fast jet training platform which, as part of the UK Military Flying Training System (UK MFTS), meets current and future standards. It allows trainees to be immersed in more complex tactical environments, ‘downloading’ training from the OCUs onto the Hawk, which is far more economical to fly than the Typhoon or F35.
Previously the RAF’s premier fast jet trainer, the Hawk T1 now continues in service with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (RAFAT) The Red Arrows and 100 Sqn. With the former it provides an exceptional mount for formation aerobatics and with the latter it provides all manner of target facilities and threat simulation, as well as working closely in Joint Tactical Air Controller (JTAC) training.
The Mk 2’s avionics enable simulations of many of the functions of a modern fighter, combined with an extensive mission debrief system that extracts maximum output from every sortie. Via the aircraft’s data link, for example, synthetic radar returns are generated for intercept and basic fighter manoeuvres training, yet no radar is fitted. The on board simulation capability also enables air-to-ground ‘weapon drops’, realistic electronic warfare (EW) training against surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and other complex operational scenarios.
In RAFAT service the Hawk T1 is modified with a smoke generation system, while minor changes to the engine controls enable a more immediate throttle response to that of the standard aircraft. In 100 Sqn service the T.Mk 1/1A remains largely unchanged to its previous training incarnation, the expertise of its crews lending it unique capabilities in the adversary, target facilities and JTAC training roles.
In 1962, the Folland Gnat entered service to replace the de Havilland Vampire as the RAF’s advanced jet trainer. An aircraft of exceptional performance, the Gnat was earmarked for eventual replacement by the SEPECAT Jaguar B, a training variant of the famous attack aircraft. Even as the ‘Jag’ option began to look too expensive, however, Hawker Siddeley was working on its P.1182 trainer design as a private venture.
In 1970 the MoD acknowledged that Jaguar B was not viable and instead looked to a requirement issued in October 1968 for a jet to replace the Hunting Jet Provost T.Mk 5 basic trainer, modifying it slightly to describe an advanced trainer design. The P.1182 was chosen in October 1971, becoming the HS.1182 and then the Hawk. The Jaguar foray had not been entirely wasted, since a non-afterburning version of its Adour turbofan was selected as the Hawk powerplant. Combined with a simple, yet elegant airframe, it made for a high-performance aeroplane and a trainer of exceptional qualities.
Airborne for the first time on August 21, 1974, the Hawk required little adjustment before it was ready for service, initially with 4 Flying Training School (FTS) at RAF Valley in November 1976. By 1978 it had replaced the Gnat trainers and the following year RAFAT relinquished its own Gnats in favour of Hawks, which it debuted in 1980.
With the Cold War showing little sign of thawing, in the late 1970s the government looked to improve UK air defence. Part of the requirement called for a local air defence fighter capable of taking on enemy aircraft that had evaded the Lightning and Phantom fighter screen, and defensive SAMs.
The Hawk offered an ideal basis for such a fighter and between 1983 and 1989, some 89 aircraft were modified to T.Mk 1A standard, equipped to launch pairs of AIM-9L Sidewinder IR-guided air-to-air missiles, in addition to the centreline 30mm ADEN gun pod.
The aircraft remained in regular training and RAFAT service, their instructors and the ‘Reds’ remaining current in fighter tactics and exercising, latterly with the Tornado F.Mk 3, regularly. This so-called ‘mixed force’ concept faded away in the 1990s, leaving a mixed T1/1A fleet as its legacy.
The Hawk had delivered excellent training for Phantom, Harrier, Jaguar and Tornado pilots, but graduates moving on to Typhoon lacked glass cockpit experience. The twin-engined fighter is considerably more expensive to fly than a Hawk, but students were consuming hours simply learning how to work in a modern cockpit. There were clearly advantages to be had by fielding a new trainer, with a glass cockpit and advanced avionics that could download training from the OCU.
Hawker Siddeley had been absorbed into British Aerospace in 1977, the latter beginning work on the advanced Hawk 100 long before it became part of BAE Systems in 1999. With its more powerful engine, new wing and dramatically revised airframe, the Hawk 100 was an obvious basis for a next-generation RAF Hawk and in 2004 the MoD contracted for 24 examples of the RAF-specific Hawk Mk 128, known in service as the Hawk T.Mk 2.
The aircraft became operational as part of a comprehensive, world-class fast jet training system under the auspices of the new Advanced Fast Jet Training (AFJT) programme, a pioneering component of the wider UK Military Flying Training System that is now reaching fruition. The type served in 19(R) Sqn markings from 2009, changing to IV(R) Sqn colours when the unit renumbered in 2011. Since then, the T2 and wider training system at RAF Valley have proven exceptional, the jet delivering all the capability asked of it and enabling even more capacity to be downloaded from 29 Sqn’s Typhoons than had been expected.
Header image by Cpl Mark Dixon
BAE Systems Hawk T.Mk 2:
- Powerplant: one 6,500lb st (28.91kN) Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca Adour Mk 951 turbofan
- Length: 40ft 9in (12.43m)
- Height: 13ft 1in (3.98m)
- Wingspan: 32ft 7in (9.94m)
- Wing area: 179.64sqft (16.70m2)
- Maximum take-off weight: 20,000lb (9,100kg