ANGSLEY, United Kingdom, 28 Nov. 2009. BAE Systems started the next generation of the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense's (MOD's) combat training with the phased arrival throughout this year of the new Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) at royal air force (RAF) Valley in Anglesey, North Wales. Under the contract, a total of 28 aircraft were ordered by the MOD.
On arrival, each Hawk AJT, known to the RAF as the Hawk TMk2, is put through its paces as the training syllabus begins to take shape, to help RAF pilots transition to handling current and future generation military jets such as the Typhoon and F-35 Lightning II.
The trainers are creating a "fantastic buzz" for all involved, says United Kingdom air force squadron leader Dan Beard, flight commander for the new planes. The AJT was a "massive leap forward" that will give students the cockpit environment and advanced avionics systems of front-line aircraft such as Typhoon, he adds.
The current focus was on the aircraft acceptance process, including shake-down flights and other testing, Beard says. Work was also under way to redesign the training syllabus to take account of the very different more advanced capabilities of the new aircraft, compared to the current fleet of Hawk TMk1s. Instructor training will start midway through 2010, with the first students flying the aircraft towards the end of 2011.
"I am delighted that there are an increasing number of new Hawk AJTs being delivered to our customer, with 17 of the 28 aircraft contract now accepted," says Mark Kane, managing director for BAE Systems' Air Mission and Support Services. "BAE Systems is very proud to be associated with operations at RAF Valley, where our presence has grown over the last 12 years. We are playing a key role in the successful entry into service of the Hawk AJT, with an innovative and challenging support package that will hold us responsible not only for the number of aircraft made available on a daily basis for training flights, where we consistently exceed the 95 percent 'dispatch reliability' level set by the customer, but, in an industry first, ensuring that the aircraft are able to carry out the chosen mission, known as 'duty carried out'".
"It is almost a misnomer to call it a Hawk because it is such a totally different aircraft - from the outside it looks like a Hawk but inside it is a totally different beast," Beard says. "The T1 Hawk was designed for training for a previous generation of frontline aircraft, such as Phantoms, Buccaneers and Jaguars, and that's what sitting in its cockpit is like. It means we have had a growing capability gap between the training we can do at RAF Valley and what the latest front-line combat aircraft do.
"Although we have still been able to produce pilots with the skills and capacity to deal with those frontline aircraft, now we will be able to train them in an aircraft that looks and feels just like the front-line aircraft they are going to fly," Beard continues. "There is a fantastic buzz for us in flying this new aircraft and there's also a big buzz on the base about the change to T2 operations. Everyone who is involved with it is very excited, and I think it's fair to say that people outside RAF Valley who are not yet involved are possibly a little bit jealous, and looking forward to the day when we start training everybody on the new aircraft."