Here, basking in the warm sunshine on the ramp at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford Airfield, is a British Aerospace Hawk T.1, XX325, of 208 (R) Sqn/4 Flying Training School, Royal Air Force. This Hawk, along with many others, is based at RAF Valley (Y Fali), on the Isle of Anglesey (Ynes Môn), Wales (Cymru), and is used to train future fast jet pilots for the RAF’s fighter and strike squadrons; it is a well-travelled example, having been seen in France, Portugal, Malta and the Czech Republic. The main difference between the Hawk T.1 and the Hawk T.1A (also based at RAF Valley) is the fact that the T.1A is capable of carrying various weapons on four underwing and one centre-line hardpoints, and covering that part of the flying syllabus.
Originally a Hawker Siddeley Aviation design (the HS.1182), the British Aerospace merger meant that for most of its life it has been developed and marketed by BAe (now BAE Systems). Meant to replace the Gnat and the Hunter in training roles, the Hawk T.1 is powered by an unreheated Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca Adour Mk151 turbofan of 5,200 lbs st, which gives excellent performance for what was thought to be a subsonic airframe specification (9000 ft/min initial climb; transonic performance - Mach 1.1/30° dive). The RAF took delivery of its first Hawk in 1976 (the initial order was for 175 aircraft) and export interest from a number of nations was very strong; Finland, Australia, Switzerland South Africa and India all eventually acquired manufacturing licences.
As of January, 2011, a total of 871 Hawks have been sold, including exports to nations such as Australia, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Canada, Dubai, Finland, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland (aircraft sold to Finland) and Zimbabwe, with sparkling performances by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows (based at RAF Scampton), often sealing the deal. Just to show the overall excellence of the aircraft, it actually became a standard ‘training system’ of the US Navy – beating off fierce US competition – in the form of the carrier-capable BAe/MDD T-45 Goshawk (although there had to be MANY changes, including split perforated airbrakes either side of the rear fuselage). The many export variants included a very capable radar-equipped single-seater (a Northrop-Grumman AN/APG-66H pulse-Doppler X-band multimode radar, similar to that carried by early F-16 aircraft) marketed as the Hawk 200.
XX325 is in a shiny black finish, sometimes known as ‘high-conspicuity black’, rather than the former silver/yellow or later red/white colour schemes for training aircraft. It was found in tests that an all-over gloss black object was noticed by the eye faster than any other (the change to Hawk and Tucano types was announced to the House of Commons in February 1998, by the then Junior Defence Minister, John Spellar).
Soon, the venerable T.1 will be augmented by the much more capable T.2 (28 in total), with a brand-new ‘glass-cockpit’, mission-management systems and other similarities to modern ’4th and 5th generation’ fighter and strike aircraft such as the Tornado T.2 and the coming Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35 Lightning II. On a personal front, I used to enjoy coming out of my office at RAF Finningley and watching the Hawks of 6FTS (blue over white and red colour scheme) launch and recover; the enjoyment factor rose even higher when the all-black aircraft of No 100 Squadron moved to Finningley!
The Hawk is a continuously-evolving and highly successful aircraft, which still has a great future ahead of it. Hawker Siddeley might not have ‘built a better mousetrap’, but they definitely built a worthy successor to the Hunter.
A word of thanks!
Just a brief word to mark the fact that this is my 200th diary. I am truly humbled by the kind words of encouragement that many of you have written, and the friendship shown to me. I certainly could not have done this without the help of my esteemed editor, Otteray Scribe, and the support of my 'morale officer', Joy of Fishes! Many, many thanks!