RAF accepts first Hawk T2s, but others head for storage

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The UK Ministry of Defence has received its first two Hawk 128 advanced jet trainers (AJT) from BAE Systems, but the majority of its additional aircraft to be delivered this year will be placed into storage due to logistics issues.

Type acceptance of the Royal Air Force's first new Hawk T2s took place at BAE's Warton site in Lancashire on 9 and 10 February, and so-called "convex training" of the service's first six instructor pilots began the following week. Operations will continue using the company's facilities until later this year, when several of the UK's eventual fleet of 28 aircraft will be flown to RAF Valley in Anglesey, north Wales.

"Over the next 18 months we will shake down the aircraft and maintain a pool of four to six at Valley for instructor work," Sqn Ldr Dan Beard, a flight commander on the RAF's 19 Sqn told IQPC's Military Flight Training conference in London. "We will put the rest in store at [RAF] Shawbury."

 
© BAE Systems

Parliamentary undersecretary of state for defence Baroness Taylor earlier this year said that BAE expects to deliver 22 Hawk 128s (first development example pictured above) this year, with the remainder to follow in 2010.

However, the UK Defence Equipment and Support organisation now says: "Emerging issues have caused BAE Systems to seek a number of production concessions, and the MoD is working with them to identify the optimum way forward in terms of cost and schedule."

The problem is the result of "supply chain and manufacturer resource issues", it continues, but adds that "the slippage is not sufficient to have a significant impact on the timetable for the MoD's restructuring of its flying training programme." The Hawk T2's November 2009 in-service date is not at risk because of the issue, it adds.

 
© BAE Systems

RAF instructors will begin flying the type in an "OC0" standard, which will lack the embedded simulation capabilities of the final "OC2" version. The first students are expected to fly the aircraft in mid-2011, with the new AJT system to achieve full operational capability by 2012.

The need to initially store the bulk of the service's new AJT fleet stems from ongoing infrastructure work at RAF Valley. The MoD signed a delayed Military Flying Training System contract with Lockheed Martin/VT joint venture Ascent last June, but work to lay the foundations for a new Hawk T2 hangar only began during the week that the first aircraft were accepted.

The MoD also has yet to finalise a deal to provide in-service support for the new type, although ground technicians from Babcock Defence Services began training at Valley late last year using the programme's two development aircraft.