BAE Systems Australia has acknowledged that the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) BAE Systems Hawk 127 lead-in fighters are failing to meet the operational availability targets set for the 33-aircraft programme.

BAE says the trainers have "experienced entry into service issues, such as spares availability, which have affected aircraft availability". The RAAF introduced its first 14 Hawks last November, with the final two delivered at the beginning of this month.

The RAAF placed an A$850million ($426 million) order for the trainers in June 1997, with this rising to A$1.03 billion by May this year due to exchange rate fluctuations. The contract includes an initial seven-year logistics and maintenance package under which BAE guarantees to meet aircraft availability targets. The agreement is extendible in five year increments over a further 20 years.

Delays in aircraft delivery last year lead to the RAAF incurring a A$58.6 million "capital use charge" penalty against its budget allocation.

BAE Systems Australia says that the availability problems "are typical in the initial operating phase of a sophisticated product and in the establishment of its associated support infrastructure."

The company also says that these problems are being "addressed-with the agreement of the [government] in order to allow the RAAF to meet their training programme requirements".

Meanwhile, the RAAF plans Hawk capability developments, including a software upgrade by December to enable use of the Mk83 bomb and Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile. A further software upgrade, to be completed in 2005, will fit a moving-map radar emulator and mission simulation capabilities.

Source: Flight International