RSA Hawk Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT)
BAE Systems delivered 24 Hawk Mk120 Lead In Fighter Trainers to South Africa where they are operated by the South African Air Force’s 85 Combat Flying School at Air Force Base Makhado. South Africa’s Hawks are used for training Gripen pilots and weapons officers. The Hawk aircraft have been configured so that their cockpits and systems closely resemble those on the Gripen advanced fighter.
The first two-seater Hawk T Mk 1 series was designed and delivered to the Royal Air Force in the mid-seventies. This evolved into the Hawk Mk 50/60 series through to the nineties, when a major 7 station wing modernisation and nose cone was done on the Mk 100 series. The first single-seater Hawk 200 trainer/light fighter was delivered to the Royal Oman Air Force in the early nineties. A naval version of the two-seater named Goshawk, was designed for the United States Navy in 1991. To date around 750 Hawk aircraft are being operated in more than 16 countries worldwide, flying in excess of 1,4 million flying hours. The NATO Flight Training Centre (NFTC) in Canada trains fighter pilots from a number of additional countries, and this makes the Hawk unique. By means of a well-established Hawk User Group for Aircrew and Groundcrew, an excellent exchange of knowledge and networking has been established. South Africa has participated therein since 2000 and will host the next User Group in 2007. Since South Africa signed up for the Hawk 100 series, the Indian Air Force, Royal Air Force and the Bahrain Air Force acquired versions of this aircraft. This bodes well for the future sustainability of Hawk worldwide.
The Hawk is a transonic lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) encompassing ideal handling characteristics for fighter training and is capable of demonstrating supersonic flight in a dive. The aircraft can train aspirant fighter pilots in all aspects of modern fighter flying. In the case of the Hawk Mk 120, the cockpit has been specifically tailored to seamlessly and cost effectively train pilots graduating from the SAAF Astra basic trainer to the SAAF Gripen front line fighter.
The Adour 951 engine introduces full authority digital engine control (FADEC), care free handling and a maximum thrust output of 6 500 lbs. The power to weight ratio and good sustained turn rates provide an ideal flight envelope and performance domain to step from the Astra to the Gripen. The Hawk has an open architecture avionics system which allows for efficient training in a systems environment and gives the aircrew a high situational awareness. Aircrew awareness is further enhanced by a simulated radar, multi-functional displays and hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS). External fuel tanks and an air refuelling capability enhance the range of the aircraft. The combination of the above factors ensures a very capable lead-in fighter-trainer aircraft.
The Hawk 100 series airframe was designed to be operated around the world and has proven itself worthy in this regard. The upgraded thrust of the engine of the SAAF Hawk will largely overcome previous limitations of operating in very hot and high altitude conditions. A large part of the Avionics Suite, Training System and Logistics Support equipment is locally developed and/or manufactured. Much effort has been placed on the Integrated Logistics and Life Cycle Cost Management processes to maximise local capabilities and reduce life cycle costs to the SAAF. The take-off and landing distances of the Hawk are well within the available capabilities and, together with the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), can be easily deployed away from the Main Operating Base. The environmental control system (ECS) has also been improved to cope with the cooling demands of the African scenario. Lastly, all the current weapons on Hawk are of local manufacture. The communications and identification systems have been designed according to the SANDF Combat Net Interoperability Standards. Therefore, the aircraft avionics can adequately interact with the SANDF Command and Control systems to achieve meaningful training in this regard.
The primary role of the Hawk Mk 120 is all aspects of Air Combat Training for the SAAF's air and ground crews from aircraft type conversion to full mission training during a deployment. This will include Joint Training with the other Arms of Service and participation in Operational training exercises. The 24 Hawks replace the 250 Impala Mk 1 and Mk 2 aircraft phased out in late 2005. They will be based at AFB Makhado and the Unit will retain its name of 85 Combat Flying School. The unit relocated from AFB Hoedspruit to AFB Makhado in January 2005. By nature of the Hawk's inherent training capabilities, certain collateral operational tasks in a low threat environment are envisaged for the aircraft.
The Hawk Project has entered the Implementation Phase. The initial cadre of instructor and unit personnel training is well underway, most of the necessary facilities are in place and the first Hawk learner Aircrew course is due to commence in a year. The required Engineering, Training and Logistics support are being implemented. These will continue to be delivered, along with the remaining 14 aircraft and the full system will be handed over to the SAAF in 2008, at which point steady-state operations will have been achieved. Thereafter the Hawk LIFT System is expected to be in service with the SAAF for at least 30 years, in all likelihood closer to 40 years.
By early 2011 BAE Systems had completed work to upgrade the navigation and weapons system for the South African Air Force’s fleet of Hawk jet trainers, with work to fit the new system underway. The software and hardware upgrade, jointly developed with long term South African partner Advanced Technologies and Engineering, enables the Hawk Mk120 to share simulated radar data across multiple platforms. For example the South African Hawk Mk120 can see the same data as the South African Air Force Gripen and South African Navy Corvette frigate while on a training sortie. The upgrade, known as Operational Capability 4, includes the introduction of software to simulate the use of infra-red and radar guided missiles. The upgrade also involves the replacement of the existing analogue video recording with a digital recording capability. This means greater flexibility in analysing the data post sortie, vastly improving the quality of the debrief process for both the aircrew and ground crew.
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