Paris Air Show

Paris 2011: Next-generation Hawk vies for export sales

 - June 20, 2011, 5:15 AM

BAE Systems brings its Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) to the Paris Air Show seeking to extend the life of its hugely successful trainer, which has already trained around 20,000 pilots. There are plenty of opportunities for the Hawk AJT, including the potentially massive T-X requirement for a T-38 replacement for the U.S. Air Force.

T-X envisions the acquisition of around 350 aircraft with initial operating capability to be achieved in 2017. A formal request is expected in the third quarter of this year, and BAE Systems considers its Hawk AJT to be well placed to succeed. The lack of supersonic capability is not likely to be a disadvantage as the U.S. Air Force has already undertaken some preliminary evaluation and, according to BAE, sees “no reason for the Hawk not to be in the competition.”

Winning T-X would be a major coup, and would almost certainly lead to other sales as other U.S. agencies such as NASA may follow suit, as would many FMS customers. The U.S. Navy, too, is looking for a new advanced trainer to replace its current T-45 Goshawks in a later timescale. In an environment of declining defense budgets training is a growth business, and there are many other global opportunities, including Poland, which is expected to issue a request for proposal covering around 18 aircraft imminently, and the European AEJPT program.

BAE Systems sees the operating cost of the Hawk as one of its key benefits, especially when compared with its twin-engine and supersonic rivals. The company also has long experience in a business that is changing to a more service/effects-based model. “Increasingly it’s not about the number of simulators or aircraft,” said Paul Dawkins of Training Solutions and Services. “It’s about working with customers to meet their requirements based on input and desired output standards, and how to deliver the best effect for every flying hour.”

Hawk AJT has been developed to download much of the front-line type operational conversion work to the final phase of advanced training. The RAF’s T.Mk 2 aircraft have a cockpit designed to look and operate like that of the Typhoon, and to be ready for the F-35. The aircraft has reconfigurable software that can be changed by the customer to suit their particular requirements and match their own front-line equipment.

The key to operating fourth- and fifth-generation fighters is systems management, and that can effectively be learned in the Hawk AJT rather than in the expensive-to-operate front-line type. “We don’t see this as hours-stealing [from the OCU],” said Squadron Leader Rob Caine from the RAF’s No. 19 Squadron. “We see it instead as moving the learning of skills to an earlier point in the syllabus, so that front-line type instruction can concentrate on more advanced combat training.”

The RAF has taken delivery of 28 Hawk T.Mk 2 AJT aircraft, and is currently in the process of training instructors and establishing the syllabus in preparation for training courses to begin on the new type in November. The latest OC2 software has just been released, allowing the embedding of virtual targets in the cockpit environment. The Hawk AJT works on a split-cockpit principle, giving the instructor the ability to set up the aircraft and manage training scenarios from the rear cockpit.

BAE Systems envisions no problems in maintaining the Hawk’s production status for many years, with the production line in India now driving and sustaining the all-important supply chain. If the Hawk is successful in the T-X competition then it would almost certainly be assembled in the U.S.