My sortie with the Royal Air Force’s 4 Sqn was conducted from its Valley training base on the Isle of Anglesey, north Wales on 1 July, with BAE Systems Hawk T2 ZK010 flying as “Victor 95”.

The aircraft was available in the configuration used during the advanced weapons unit course, with a centreline fuel tank installed for extended endurance and wing-tip-mounted seekers from the Raytheon AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missile to support emulated weapons use.

Twenty of the RAF’s 28 Hawk T2s were on the flightline, with three in depth maintenance and the others having faults rectified – including one that had suffered a birdstrike to its nose the previous day.

Following our take-off using runway 13, we routed towards Liverpool to perform a practice diversion to John Lennon International airport. This enabled me to familiarise myself with the Hawk’s new-generation cockpit, which in the back seat (which is ordinarily occupied by an instructor) includes a head-up display repeater on its middle (upper) of three multi-function displays. The others showed traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) data and a moving map.

Hawk cockpit

Rear cockpit display functionality is akin to a fighter platform

Craig Hoyle/Flightglobal

As a single-ship flight there was no opportunity to demonstrate the T2’s Hawk-to-Hawk datalink in operation so, after transiting back through Wales my pilot, Flt Lt Alasdair Spence – who had combat experience flying the Panavia Tornado GR4 – made two runs through the “Mach Loop”, a favoured spot for low-level training. Spence says that the area's challenges for 4 Sqn’s students can be enhanced greatly by the introduction of electronic warfare threats such as emulated surface-to-air missile systems, but the high-g turns were arduous enough for a novice passenger.

Following a brief spell of general handling conducted at medium altitude, we returned to Valley, joining the circuit and performing a touch and go landing before completing a flight lasting 1h 5min.

My impression of the aircraft was that the range of advanced capabilities introduced with the current fleet-wide OC2 operating standard will heighten the situational awareness of student pilots compared with the legacy Hawk T1’s analogue instrumentation. The introduction of TCAS, a ground proximity warning system, and full authority digital engine control software, has also moved the T2 a generation ahead in terms of its operating safety.

While the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon is often described as flying “like a big Hawk”, the T2’s embedded training equipment means that the type can now truly operate like a “little Typhoon”, and effectively prepare new pilots for the frontline.

Source: Flight International