The Hawk is an advanced trainer with a two-man tandem cockpit, a low-mounted cantilever wing and is powered by a single turbofan engine. Unlike many of the previous trainers in RAF service, the Hawk was specifically designed for training. Hawker had developed the aircraft to have a high level of serviceability, as well as lower purchasing and operating costs than previous trainers like the Jet Provost. The Hawk has been praised by pilots for its agility, in particular its roll and turn handling.
The design of the fuselage included a height differential between the two seats of the cockpit; this provided generous levels of visibility for the instructor in the rear seat. Each cockpit is fitted with a Martin-Baker Mk 10B zero-zero rocket-assisted ejection seat. Air is fed to the aircraft's rear-mounted Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour engine via intakes on each of the forward wing roots. During the aircraft's development, Hawker had worked closely with Rolls-Royce to reduce the engine's fuel consumption and to ensure a high level of reliability.
Even within the development stages, a Hawk variant was intended to also serve as a single-seat ground-attack fighter; both the trainer and fighter models were developed with the export market in mind. On single seat models, the forward cockpit area which normally houses a pilot is replaced by an electronics bay for avionics and onboard systems, including a fire control computer, multi-mode radar, laser rangefinder and forward-looking infrared (FLIR). Some export customers, such as Malaysia, have extensive modifications to their aircraft, including the addition of wingtip hardpoint stations and a fit able inflight refuelling probe.
In 1964, the Royal Air Force specified a requirement for a new fast jet trainer to replace the Folland Gnat. The SEPECAT Jaguar was originally intended for this role, but it was soon realised that it would be too complex an aircraft for fast jet training and only a small number of two-seat versions were purchased. Accordingly, in 1968, Hawker Siddeley Aviation (HSA) began studies for a simpler aircraft, initially as special project (SP) 117. The design team was led by Ralph Hooper.
This project was funded by the company as a private venture, in anticipation of possible RAF interest. The design was conceived of as having tandem seating and a combat capability in addition to training, as it was felt the latter would improve export sales potential. By the end of the year HSA had submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Defence based on the design concept, and in early 1970 the RAF issued Air Staff Target (AST) 397 which formalised the requirement for new trainers of this type. The RAF selected the HS.1182 for their requirement on 1 October 1971 and the principal contract, for 175 aircraft, was signed in March 1972.
The prototype aircraft XX154 first flew on 21 August 1974 from Dunsfold piloted by Duncan Simpson, Chief Test Pilot of HSA (Kingston), reaching 20,000 ft in a flight lasting 53 minutes. All development aircraft were built on production jigs; the program remained on time and to budget throughout and the Hawk T1 entered RAF service in late 1976. The first export Hawk 50 flew on 17 May 1976. This variant had been specifically designed for the dual role of lightweight fighter and advanced trainer; it had a greater weapons capacity than the T.1.
More variants of the Hawk followed, and common improvements to the base design typically included increased range, more powerful engines, redesigned wing and undercarriage, the addition of radar and forward-looking infrared, GPS navigation, and night-vision compatibility. Later models were manufactured with a great variety in terms of avionics fittings and system compatibility to suit the individual customer nation; cockpit functionality was often rearranged and programmed to be common to an operator's main fighter fleet to increase the Hawk's training value.
In 1981, a derivative of the Hawk was selected by the United States Navy as their new trainer aircraft. Designated the McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk, the design was adapted to naval service and strengthened to withstand operating directly from the decks of carriers, in addition to typical land-based duties. This T-45 entered service in 1994; initial aircraft had analogue cockpits, while later deliveries featured a digital glass cockpit. All airframes were planned to undergo avionics upgrades to a common standard.
McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk
A major competitor to the Hawk for export sales has been the Dassault Dornier Alpha Jet; aviation expert John W. R. Taylor commented: "What Europe must avoid is the kind of wasteful competition that has the Hawker Siddeley Hawk and Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jet battling against each other in the world market." By early 1998, a total of 734 Hawks had been sold, more than 550 of which had been sold to export customers. Military customers often procured the Hawk as a replacement for older aircraft such as the BAC Strikemaster, Hawker Hunter, and Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.
Dassault Dornier Alpha Jet BAC Strikemaster
Hawker Hunter Douglas A-4 Skyhawk
During the 1980s and 1990s, British Aerospace, the successor company to Hawker Siddeley, was trying to gain export sales of the variable-wing Panavia Tornado strike aircraft; however, countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, which had shown initial interest in the Tornado, concluded that the Hawk is a more suitable and preferable aircraft for their requirements. Malaysia and Oman cancelled their arranged Tornado orders in the early 1990s, both choosing to procure the Hawk, instead. Aviation authors Norman Polmar and Dana Bell stated of the Hawk: "Of the many similar designs competing for a share of the world market, the Hawk has been without equal in performance as well as sales".
On 22 December 2004, the Ministry of Defence awarded a contract to BAE Systems to develop an advanced model of the Hawk for the RAF and Royal Navy. The Hawk Mk. 128, otherwise designated as Hawk T2, replaces conventional instrumentation with a glass cockpit, to better resemble modern fighter aircraft such as the new mainstay of the RAF, the Eurofighter Typhoon. In October 2006, a GB£450 million contract was signed for the production of 28 Hawk 128s. The aircraft's maiden flight occurred on 27 July 2005 from BAE Systems' Warton Aerodrome.
According to BAE Systems, as of July 2012, they have sold nearly 1000 Hawks so far, with sales continuing to date. In July 2012, Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith confirmed that Australia's fleet of Hawk Mk 127s would be upgraded to a similar configuration to the RAF's Hawk T2 as part of a major mid-life upgrade. The Hawk T-2 was considered to be a competitor for the United States Air Force's T-X program to acquire a new trainer fleet, but in February 2015, Northrop Grumman determined the Hawk's shortfalls made it ill-suited for the program requirements and dropped it as their offering.
In May 2015, Indian aerospace manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) revealed that it was examining the prospects of performing its own Hawk upgrades, including armed light attack variants. The Indian Air Force, which were in the process of receiving trainer Hawks built under licence by HAL, were reportedly interested in the upgrade proposals, which would also include avionics and cockpit modifications; HAL has stated that it also aims to export combat Hawks to other countries in partnership with BAE. Missile developer and manufacturer MBDA may provide their ASRAAM and Brimstone missiles to arm the new attack type.
The Indian Air Force
The Hawk was designed to be manoeuvrable and can reach Mach 0.88 in level flight and Mach 1.15 in a dive, thus allowing trainees to experience transonic flight before advancing to a supersonic trainer. The airframe is very durable and strong, stressed for +9 g; the normal limit in RAF service is +7.5/-4 g. A dual hydraulic system supplies power to operate systems such as the aircraft's flaps, airbrakes and landing gear, together with the flight controls. A ram air turbine is fitted in front of the single tail fin to provide backup hydraulic power for the flight controls in the event of an engine failure; additionally, a gas turbine auxiliary power unit is housed directly above the engine.
The Hawk carries a centreline gun pod, such as the 30 mm ADEN cannon, two under-wing pylons, and up to four hardpoints for fitting armaments and equipment. In RAF service, Hawks have been equipped to operate the Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. In the early 1990s, British Aerospace investigated the possibility of arming the Hawk with the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile for export customers. In 2016, BAE Systems was developing the so-called 'Advanced Hawk' with a new wing using leading-edge slats, and potentially additional sensors and weapons, a head-mounted display, and a single large-screen display in the forward cockpit.
In August 2011, a Red Arrows pilot was killed when his Hawk T1 crashed following a display at the Bournemouth Air Festival, the inquest found "G-force impairment" may have caused the pilot to lose control; the Hawk T1 fleet was grounded as a precautionary measure and returned to flight status a few days later. In November 2011, the Red Arrows suffered another pilot fatality when the Martin-Baker Mk.10 ejection seat fitted to the Hawk T1 activated while the aircraft was stationary; the veteran combat pilot died on ground impact when the ejector seat parachute also failed to deploy. This resulted in the UK Ministry of Defence implementing a ban on non-essential flying in aircraft fitted with ejector seats similar to those fitted in the Hawk T1 after the death. The ban was lifted for Tornado attack jets but remained on Hawk T1, Hawk T2 and Tucano flights while the RAF reviewed evidence on those aircraft.
The South African Airforce ordered 24 Lead-In Fighter Trainer aircraft in 2000, which was part of the highly publicised Arms Deal. The South African purchase includes ground based training systems, mission planning and ground support systems, logistical support equipment and in-country support. All 24 aircraft are dual seat aircraft. They are used for both fast-jet training as well as weapon‑delivery instruction. The introduction of the Hawk into the SAAF not only modernising the SAAF's jet trainer capability, due to the nature of the deal with several local partners participating as sub-contractors and suppliers it was hoped that it would rejuvenate the South African aerospace and defence industry.
"BAE Systems is thrilled that the Hawk should be the first jet aircraft to be built in the democratic South Africa. These aircraft represent the labours, capacity and expertise of a new generation of South Africans across industry and government with whom we have enjoyed several years of close collaboration. With Hawk, the training of South Africa's future fighter pilots is in safe hands and we look forward to supporting the SA Air Force as it operates the aircraft," said Mike Rennardson, the Project Director, Hawk South Africa at BAE Systems at the handover ceremony of the first two aircraft on May 24, 2006.
The SAAF Hawks are based 85 Combat flight school at AFB Makhado in the Limpopo Province.