Royal Air Force use of BAE Systems' Hawk 128 advanced jet trainer has moved a step closer, with the type poised to achieve its release to service declaration, targeted for late August.

The milestone will clear the way for the first military pilots and technicians to start conversion training on the new aircraft at BAE's Warton site in Lancashire in September.

Initial deliveries under the UK Ministry of Defence's 28-aircraft AJT deal are due to take place at RAF Valley in Anglesey, north Wales in November. The 128 fleet will replace a number of ageing Hawk T1/1As operated by the RAF's 19 Sqn training unit, which expects the glass cockpit-equipped model to achieve a formal in-service date of mid-2010.

 BAE Hawk 128
 © BAE

The first of 26 UK production Hawk 128s was flown to Warton from BAE's Brough manufacturing site in Yorkshire on 4 August for flight testing. RT003's flight debut follows an initial two risk-reduction and development aircraft that have been used to support new technologies for the Hawk.

Intended to close the training gap between the RAF's current jet trainers and its multirole Eurofighter Typhoons and future Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the Hawk 128 will deliver technologies including embedded simulation and emulated weapons use.

The first production Hawk 128 was flown to Warton on 4 August

Source: Flight International