The BAe Hawk – an amazing success story

By: shortfinals

Jan 18 2011

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Category: aircraft, Aviation, British Isles, England, Great Britain, military, Museums, RAF, Royal Air Force, Wales, warbird


Focal Length:55mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D40

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.

4 comments on “The BAe Hawk – an amazing success story”

  1. The size and fuselage look similar to the Folland Gnat though the wing shape of the Hawk is significantly different with regard to the Gnat.


    • The Gnat is deceptive – it is REALLY tiny. Even with the under-wing tanks fitted as standard, Indian Air Force pilots had to be taught the ‘boost/climb/glide, boost/climb/glide’ technique on the Gnat to stretch the range!


  2. That is how the tinier of birds fly, the ones which flit from tree to tree … I think the flight technique is called bounding by birders. Interesting that the Gnat was flown to extended distances with the same type of technique. Thanks for that gem of info 😉


    • Here is a great quote for you, about the Gnat in Indian Air Force hands! (Another post on the Gnat at some time in the future.)

      “Sqn Ldr Das often claimed that he had more gliding hours on the Gnat than flying with the engine supplying power. He became so proficient at aerobatics in the Gnat that his eight point roll just off the ground was stunning. He became the first Indian pilot to show off an aircraft at the SBAC Farnborough Air Show – of course, it was the Gnat.”


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