The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Hawk fleet on March 2 marked 25 years of service as both a light attack aircraft and an advanced jet trainer, delivering highly-skilled pilots for its fast jet fleet in a special ceremony held at Butterworth Air Force Base. Manufactured and upgraded by BAE Systems, the RMAF currently operates two versions of the Hawk aircraft. The RMAF Hawk 108 twin-seater aircraft has trained more than 140 fast jet pilots for the RMAF, enjoying consistently high-level of reliability and availability while the single-seater Hawk 208 aircraft is operated by the RMAF as a lightweight, multi-role combat aircraft which has provided protection for the past 25 years and is equipped to continue this role for decades to come. Both aircraft served three squadrons, namely No 6 Squadron, No 9 Squadron and No 15 Squadron. During the ceremony, a special livery of a Hawk 208 was revealed including a special commemorative insignia.
Though passed its prime, the Hawk is still relevant in carrying out its main role in maintaining the safety and sovereignty of the country’s air space. According to RMAF chief Gen Tan Sri Affendi Buang, the aircraft is still very capable and could go on for another 10 years with some improvements, especially in systems and technology. He also added that though there is a need to increase the number of the aircraft of which there are 19 throughout Malaysia, but it depends on the budget allocation from the government.
For this special occasion, the RMAF chief rode a Hawk 108 aircraft from Subang, Selangor state, flown by No 6 Squadron commanding officer Lt Col Mohammad Syagol Abdul Hamid to the Butterworth Air Base, while accompanied by another Hawk 108 aircraft.
The history of the RMAF Hawk aircraft’s service began on April 15, 1994 after the receipt of the first two aircraft through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Malaysia and the UK. The deal was sealed on Dec 10, 1990. At that time, Malaysia agreed to obtain the services of 10 Hawk 108 and 18 Hawk 208. The aircraft were received in stages with two aircraft delivered each month.
Playing both roles in support and training, the Hawk continues to be used as advanced training aircraft for transitional courses to teach pilots to fly fighter aircraft operated by No 15 Squadron at Butterworth Air Base, teaching young pilots to fly fighter aircraft, before qualifying them to fly other combat aircraft in RMAF. The Hawks have proven themselves during Ops Daulat in March 2013 in which five aircraft were assigned to launch air strikes on the hideouts of terrorists in Lahad Datu, Sabah.