Hawk Airframe Fit to Fly for Decades to Come

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CANBERRA/KUALA LUMPUR: A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Hawk advanced jet trainer has completed the equivalent of 50,000 “flying” hours as part of a major structural testing programme in a joint project involving BAE Systems and the defence department’s DST Group.

The world first test programme was conducted at DST Group’s Fishermans Bend facility in Victoria where for 14 years a Hawk air frame was subjected to the range of loads that would it experience in actual flight, simulating real life fleet usage based on projected operational requirements, BAE Systems said today.

The 33 Hawk 127 AJT aircraft operated by the RAAF have a clearance of 10,000 flying hours. The total of 50,000 flying hours of structural testing is five times the current clearance of the most modern Hawks in air forces across the world and more than 10 times the current flying hours on most of the Australian fleet.

Based on current usage, the fatigue life remaining in the Hawk airframe would allow the aircraft to continue operations well into the late 2040s.

BAE Systems Australia Director Aircraft Sustainment and Training Andrew Chapman said: “The Full Scale Fatigue Test is a hugely important achievement for the Australian Lead-In Fighter programme and was made possible by the collaboration of a small dedicated team across many thousands of kilometres.

The Hawk is the world’s most successful and proven military aircraft trainer, built on more than 35 years of fast jet training experience.

“The 2019 completion of Hawk (LIFCAP) upgrade ensures the aircraft is freshly updated and available for service in the RAAF for many more years,” he said.

BAE System Hawk aircraft have been in service in many nations around the world and deployed for pilot conversion training, light-attack and combat roles.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force has deployed Hawk jets to monitor airspace in the South China Sea and eastern Sabah state which borders southern Philippines, and also used for counter terrorist operations.

RMAF Hawk 208 with mid-air refueling probe.

The RMAF has said that its Hawk fleet needs to undergo an upgrade programme to ensure the type remain a capable aircraft well into the future.

Operators of the Hawk aircraft in the region include India (Hawk 132 AJT), Indonesia (Hawk 209), and Malaysia which operates the both Hawk 108 trainer jets and Hawk 208 light multi-role combat aircraft. – shp/aaa/mgm