New version to train Typhoon pilots and boost exports

BAE Systems is closing on the final specification of the latest-generation Hawk advanced trainer planned for the UK Royal Air Force.

The company made an unsolicited bid in 2001, offering a further update of the Hawk to meet the RAF's training needs for aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon. A UK deal for an upgraded Hawk is considered essential to position the trainer for international markets, allowing it to compete against the latest crop of advanced trainers such as the Aermacchi M346, EADS Mako and Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50.

The RAF requires new aircraft by 2006 and it is understood BAE is working to finalise its proposal by the end of the first quarter. The deal - initially for 31 aircraft - is likely to allow the RAF to specify additional capabilities for the aircraft during the development phase.

BAE is considering a range of changes to the Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter Trainer, already delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force, as the basis of its offer.

Options include a fly-by-wire flight-control system, new avionics, further engine thrust increases, and revised wing and intake aerodynamics, says Ray Rowlands, BAE Hawk campaign support manager.

A key systems change will be a move to an open architecture avionics system, which would make it simpler to add systems and sensors. BAE has started testing open architecture stores management computers at its Brough, Humberside, factory.

BAEis also studying onboard radar and weapons simulation as well as further changes to the man-machine interface. The latest Hawks are already equipped with three multifunction displays.

Fly-by-wire "does not come up as a prime objective" among potential customers, according to Rowlands. A more likely solution will be the addition of an autopilot which would allow trainee pilots to concentrate on tasks such as formation management rather than flying the aircraft, says Hawk test pilot Pete Wilson. This would support a shift in training emphasis towards battlespace management.

BAE began flying a Hawk New Development Aircraft in August last year. Initial tests cleared the revised Rolls-Royce Adour 951 engine, which offers a time between overhauls doubled to 4,000h, digital engine control and a power increase from 5,800lb-thrust (25.8kN) to 6,500lb.

Source: Flight International