The BAE Hawk is one of those British success stories that doesn’t get a lot of attention, despite it being in service with just under 20 nations and nearly a thousand produced.
The latest variant is the T2 that is virtually a new aircraft, with the avionics package being of particular note.
From the RAF’s web site
Gone are the cockpit dials and switches of the T1. In their place are three, full colour, multi-function displays similar to those used by modern fighters such as Typhoon. These can be used to display navigation, weapon and systems information. The cockpit has new lighting fully compatible with the use of night-vision goggles for night operations. The aircraft’s head-up display (HUD) has been updated to use symbols and data used in more current combat aircraft. Other changes include ‘Hands-On-Throttle-And-Stick’ (HOTAS) controls which are fully representative of front line combat aircraft types, and twin Open Architecture mission computers hosting simulations of a wide range of sensor and weapon systems as well as a full featured IN/GPS navigation system with moving map display.
The really clever thing is the displays can be set to emulate a number of different aircraft which means they can be used to largely replace traditional two seat fighter trainers, the F35 for example, will not be produced in a two seat version and combining advanced aircraft like the T2 with high fidelity synthetic environment trainers means advanced conversion training can be delivered at a much lower cost.
The T2’s ‘radar system’ can also be used to inject realistic returns from target aircraft and these features have led many to characterise the T2 and a classroom in the sky, although in comparison with the older models, it will not carry a gun pod or any stores, releases being ‘simulated’
The RAF has 28 T2’s in service equipped with the latest ‘Operational Capability 2’ software operating from RAF Valley in Anglesey.
The approach has been to offload some of the training syllabus from the Operational Conversion Units which allows students to have more time of key subjects at the OCU.
Many had though that the Hawk was reaching the end of its export life, eclipsed by the newer Aermacchi M-346 and Korean T/A-50 but the UK has been pushing the T2 for F35 training and is said to be quite advanced, this makes for an interesting future in the export market. The USAF need to replace their T-38 Talons and despite the programme contract award being delayed to 2016 with IOC in 2020. The T-X programme calls for between 300 and 350 aircraft but BAE face tough competition, Lockheed Martin are offering the KAI T-50 Golden Hawk, the Alenia Aeronautica T-100 (a locally produced M-346) and Boeing with a new design.
The ‘buy American’ influence will be large and the heritage of the M-346 i.e. it is a Westernised Yak 130 will weigh heavily.
The Hawk is perhaps the lowest risk offering with potentially some commonality with the USN Goshawks, although these are made by Boeing. There has even been discussions about relifing the T38’s and fitting with the same EJ200 engine as on the Typhoon.
The T-X has been overshadowed by the F35 but it is an important programme and given the likely pairing of T-X and F35 it has long term strategic implications for the winner and losers.
The question is, can the software and land based training system integration of the T2 overcome its aerodynamic limitations in comparison with the larger T50 and M346 (or whatever new design might emerge)
As the RAF and its contractor partners progress with the T2 and F35 integration, interesting times ahead.
Anyway, some nice pictures