Britain Orders 28 Hawk LIFT Advanced Fighter Trainers
In 2006, Great Britain signed a GBP 450 million contract to buy another 28 advanced Hawk trainers, as the first step toward a public-private partnership that would provide military flight training to the RAF, Army Air Corps, and Royal Navy for the next 25 years.
Britain already had plenty of trainers designed to train pilots, and many of them are earlier version of the successful Hawk jet trainer that also serves with at least 14 other countries around the globe. So what makes this contract significant, and why are Hawk LIFT aircraft different?
The Hawk Mk.128/ RAF Hawk-T Mk2
BAE Systems popular Hawk jets come in Block 50 (including the US Navy’s T-45 Goshawk) and Block 60 configurations. There are also Hawk 100 series advanced two-seat weapon systems trainers with ground attack capability, and the single-seat Hawk 200 series which is a cheap subsonic multi-role fighter.
The Hawk Mk.128 is designed to be closer to flying front-line fighter jets. Derived from the Hawk 100, it achieves this goal by delivering a modern cockpit environment with digital displays, sophisticated navigation and advanced avionics, including simulations of the latest airborne weapons systems and a cockpit environment that shares many features with front line jets like the Eurofighter Typhoon, F-35B Lightning II, etc.
For instance, in addition to having a “glass cockpit” of color LCD displays, a modern Heads-Up Display (HUD), and Hands-On-Throttle-And-Stick’ (HOTAS) controls fully representative of front line combat aircraft. The Mk. 128 Hawk LIFT also has a full featured IN/GPS navigation system with moving map display, new lighting fully compatible with the use of night-vision goggles for after dark operations, and twin Open Architecture mission computers hosting simulations of a wide range of sensor and weapon systems.
Performance upgrades are included as well. The next generation Hawks (MK. 120, 127, 128, 129) feature a new wing, forward and center fuselage, fin and tailplane. The aircraft have only 10% commonality with the existing first generation aircraft. The new variants also have four times the fatigue life of the original aircraft.
For uprated power, the Mk.128/129s are fitted with the uprated Rolls-Royce Adour MK 951 that delivers 6,500 pounds of thrust and has a Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC). This is an upgrade over the 5,845 pound thrust Adour MK 871 found on earlier Hawk LIFT versions bought by Australia (33), or the Adour MK 861 found on many other Hawk trainers. This new engine also equips Bahrain’s 6 Hawk LIFT MK.129s, South Africa’s 24 Hawk LIFT Mk.120 aircraft (optimized for JAS-39 Gripen commonality), and the pan-European nEUROn Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle.
All of this upgraded equipment will allow the RAF to conduct more fighter pilot training on the less expensive Hawk LIFT aircraft. This in turn allows them to reduce the number of preparation and training flights in vastly more expensive front-line fighters, which have a limited airframe life and are more expensive per hour to fly. Indeed, the Hawk Mk. 128s will form a key part of the UK’s new joint service Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) program, whose service contract was won by the Ascent Consortium.
Contracts and Key Events
Note that currency conversions will differ over time.
Work to install the new software upgrades has already begun at RAF Valley, Anglesey. 19 Sqn’s Wing Commander Brian Braid describes the new Hawks as “…an absolute step change in the way we can conduct our fast jet flying training… [and with OC2] the pilots are able to train almost exactly as they are on the front line.” Which is significantly less expensive than racking up those flight hours on Eurofighters or F-35Cs.
BAE Systems recently delivered a somewhat similar OC4 upgrade to South Africa’s Hawk Mk.120s, which will have to step into the flight hours gap that inadequate training budgets have created for its JAS-39C/D Gripen fighter pilots. There are fears that RAF pilots are beginning to face similar dilemmas, due to a combination of existing budget cuts, and expectations of future shortfalls.
July 2/09: The first of the RAF’s fleet of 28 new Advanced Jet Trainers dubbed “Hawk T Mk2,” arrives at RAF Valley in Anglesey. UK MoD.
Oct 9/06: A GBP 450 million (about $841.5 million) contract for BAE Systems’ Hawk Mk.128 Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) aircraft. The contract covers production of 28 jets, logistics spares, and initial training. These Hawk LIFT aircraft will provide advanced jet training for both Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots, as part of the UK Military Flying Training System.
Additional Readings & Sources
- DID – Ascent Secures GBP 6b Contract for UK Military Flight Training. Including operation of the new Hawks.
- Air Force Technology – Hawk Mk 127 / Mk 128 LIFT Lead In Fighter Trainer, United Kingdom
- RAF – Hawk 128 Technical Specifications
- United Kingdom Military Flying Training System
- Air Force Technology – Hawk Trainer/Light Combat Aircraft, United Kingdom