UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!



The HAWK surface to air missile system provides medium-range, low to medium altitude air defense against a variety of targets, including jet and rotary wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missiles. This mobile, all-weather day and night system is highly lethal, reliable, and effective against electronic countermeasures. The Hawk was originally named for the predatory bird but later the name was turned into an acronym for "Homing All the Way Killer."

The HAWK system has provided US forces with low to medium altitude air defense for the past forty years. The Hawk System has been the Marine Corp's primary air defense since the early 1960's. Basic HAWK was developed in the 1950s and initially fielded in 1960. The system has been upgraded through a series of product improvements beginning with the Improved HAWK in 1970. The Phase III product improvement and the latest missile modification were first fielded in the early 1990s to the US Army and US Marine Corps (USMC). The system has maintained it's effectiveness against succeeding generations of high technology aircraft through periodic preplanned product improvement programs. An evolving system, HAWK is now in its Phase III configuration with research and development underway to obtain a tactical missile defense capability.

This success lead many NATO countries to adopt HAWK as a primary air defense weapon. Today, HAWK systems are in the arsenals of over fifteen countries, including most of NATO countries. In the coming years, HAWK will continue its prominent position by undergoing system upgrades to allow it to deal with the changing nature of the battlefield threat.

Although HAWK missile batteries were deployed by the U.S. Army during the conflicts in Vietnam and Persian Gulf, American troops have never fired this weapon in combat. The first combat use of HAWK occurred in 1967 when Israel successfully fired the missiles during the Six Day War with Egypt. Even though it was not used by the coalition during Operation Desert Storm, the HAWK missile did see action during the Persian Gulf War. Kuwaiti air defense units equipped with U.S. HAWK antiaircraft missiles downed about 22 Iraqi aircraft and one combat helicopter during the invasion of 2 August 1990.

In January 1991, the official Iraqi news agency claimed that two of the captured HAWK batteries were operational, while three others would be combat ready later that month. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was reportedly told by his military chiefs that, "Our fighters are now ready to use [the captured HAWK batteries] against the planes of invasion and aggression in order to make their weapons backfire with the determination derived from your own." Although MICOM officials initially believed that Iraq would be too unfamiliar with the system to be able to use it, later there was speculation that Iraq may have gained its expertise from captured Kuwaiti soldiers.

Regardless of Iraq's stated plans to employ U.S.-made missiles against the U.S.-led coalition, MICOM spokesman Dave Harris noted: "Our guys know what the capabilities of the HAWK are and the capabilities of Basic TOW are and what they should do if they are used against them. We have known since August the Iraqis had captured Hawks and TOWs in Kuwait, and we've done what had to be done to make sure people knew what the capabilities of those systems are."

Actions to counteract this threat were implemented at the start of Operation Desert Shield. Because the HAWK was vulnerable to American electronic warfare systems, the US Air Force reprogrammed the missile jammers on its aircraft to thwart Iraq's attempted use of the captured HAWKs. About 90 percent of this software modification was completed within 48 hours of the aircraft's arrival in Saudi Arabia, with all being upgraded within 72 hours of landing. In addition, aircraft radar warning receivers were enhanced to accommodate HAWK radar signals. Because of the HAWK's distinctive radar signature, any Iraqi efforts to train on the captured systems were expected to be immediately visible to watching allied forces. This "Blue-Gray" threat--so-called because it is posed by a U.S. or allied-produced weapon in the hands of the adversary -- was one which U.S. military officials were confident could be successfully counteracted.

Current developments will provide an engagement capability against Tactical Ballistic Missiles (TBM). The US Marine Corps and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) have jointly funded improvements to the Marine Corp's HAWK system. The HAWK has been modified and tested to intercept short-range ballistic missiles. Because HAWK is a well established system, the current program of upgrades and enhancements is seen as a low risk, near-term missile defense solution against short-range ballistic missiles and other airborne threats such as aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles. In this role, HAWK can be considered a lower-tier missile defense system. All US HAWK systems are owned and operated by the Marine Corps and, as the Marine's only ballistic missile defense system, it will be relied on to protect Marine expeditionary forces. In September 1994, two LANCE target missiles were successfully intercepted by the modified HAWK system in an operational test by Fleet Marine Forces at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. By the end of 1997 over one third of the active Marine Corps HAWK equipment has been modified to provide a basic, short-range tactical ballistic missile defense (TBMD) for expeditionary Marine forces. The entire fleet inventory was modified by the end of 1998 year.

Units with HAWK missiles are teamed with acquisition radar, a command post, a tracking radar, an Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system, and three to four launchers with three missiles each. The system can be divided into three sections: acquisition, fire control, and firing sections. Target detection is provided to the fire control section from pulse and continuous wave radars for engagement evaluation. Target data can also be received from remote sensors via data link. The fire control section locks onto the target with high-powered tracking radar. A missile or missiles can be launched manually or in an automatic mode from the firing section by the fire control section. Radars and missile have extensive electronic counter counter measures (ECCM) capabilities.

The HAWK Fire Unit is the basic element of the HAWK system. The actualfiring battery has two identical fire units, each consisting of a command post that houses the operator console, a continuous wave acquisition radar (CWAR) for target surveillance, a high power illuminator for target tracking, MK XII IFF interrogator set, and three launchers with three missiles each. Normally the HAWK is deployed in a battalion configuration, communicating with the controlling unit (usually a TSQ-73 Missile Minder) over an Army Tactical Data Link (ATDL-1) connection as well as on voice.

The TSQ-73 Missile Minder Fire Direction Center (FDC) is the system used for the Army HAWK Battalion and Air Defense Brigade. The TSQ-73 supplies command, control and communications for the Army fire units (both Patriot and HAWK) and provides a link to the Air Force C3I units (MCE and AWACS). The Brigade and HAWK battalion units rely on information passed over the data links to produce a comprehensive air picture, while the HAWK battalion can also deploy the Pulse Acquisition Radar (PAR) to generate its own air picture. With the command and control of Army fire units being moved to the Information Coordination Center (ICC) and Army ADTOC (Air Defense Tactical Operations Center), the TSQ-73 is gradually being phased out over the next several years. However, it still plays a vital role in the coordination of SAM assets into the integrated theater air defense environment.

The new HAWK systems will be composed of three major components: the TPS-59 radar, the HAWK launcher and HAWK missiles, and the Air Defense Communications Platform (ADCP). The TPS-59 radar provides target detection, discrimination, and tracking. The HAWK launcher transports, protects and launches the missiles. Each HAWK launcher can carry up to three missiles. HAWK missiles use radar guidance and destroy their targets in proximity explosions. Finally, the ADCP will connect the TPS-59 with the HAWK and the remainder of the theater missile defense architecture in order to create missile defense in depth. Under the current program, the TPS-59 radar and the HAWK launcher and missiles are being upgraded, while the Air Defense Communications Platform [ADCP] will be a new addition.

The most prominent upgrade to the HAWK system includes modifying the Marine Corps primary air surveillance radar, the TPS-59. The AN/TPS-59 Radar Set is a Marine Air Command & Control System which serves as the primary sensor for the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF), providing air target information and raw video to the Tactical Air Operations Module (TAOM). The AN/TPS-59(V)3 Radar is the primary long range air search sensor for the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF). The Radar provides surveillance of an airspace by performing target detection and reporting of Air Breathing Targets (ABT's), Tactical Ballistic Missiles (TBM's) as well as Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) targets. The Radar may also be operated in the autonomous mode for Ground Controlled Intercept (GCI) and TBM alert by utilizing internal display consoles and communication equipment. It can also be forward-deployed as a stand-alone remote sensor and air traffic controller. The improved radar will detect theater ballistic missiles out to 400 nautical miles and up to 500,000 feet in altitude. These improvements will give the radar the sort of surveillance and tracking ability needed for theater ballistic missile defense (TBMD). The first units were equipped with upgraded TPS-59s in FY98.

The Air Defense Communications Platform, an entirely new addition to the HAWK system, will link the TPS-59 to the HAWK battery and will also transmit formatted data to other theater sensors. This will allow the HAWK to communicate with other TBMD systems through the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System. These links will allow the air defense commander to cue HAWK with other missile defense systems and integrate the HAWK into the theater missile defense architecture. The ADCP is fully developed, and began production in FY97.

The HAWK missile and warhead were modified to allow the HAWK to better engage enemy ballistic missiles. Specifically, the upgrade improved the HAWK's missile fuse and warhead which resulted in an "improved lethality missile." Additionally, improvements to the launcher made the HAWK more mobile and better able to interface with the missiles.

These new HAWK systems underwent extensive testing. In August of 1996, a single Marine Corps battery equipped with upgraded HAWK systems intercepted and destroyed a LANCE short range theater ballistic missile and two air breathing drones simultaneously in an operational test at White Sands Missile Range, NM. When fielded, the upgraded TPS-59 radars and ADCPs will belong to the Marine Air Control Squadrons, part of the Marine Air Wings.

Sources and Resources

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 21-07-2011 13:04:41 ZULU