RAF’s Trouble-Prone Hawk T2 Jets Face Early Retirement

The RAF is looking for a replacement for its troublesome Hawk T2 trainer, and is investigating possibilities such as AERALIS' modular aircraft idea to satisfy future training needs in line with its 6th generation fighter ambitions.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

A British fighter pilot trainee undergoes initial training at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in Lincolnshire before transitioning to flight training onboard a Tutor Mk1 based on Grob G-115 or a Prefect Mk1 based on Grob G-120TP. Subsequently, upon verifying their capabilities, they proceed with training at RAF Valley in Wales, where they operate a BAe Hawk T2. This aircraft commenced operations in 2004 and is comparatively newer than the T-6 Texan II.

In September 2021, in a written response to a parliamentarian, the British Ministry of Defense announced that the RAF would retain its twenty-eight Hawk T2 aircraft until at least 2040. They argued that this aircraft was ideally suited to training future fighter pilots, thanks to avionics capable of simulating “many functions of a modern combat aircraft” and thus ensuring “realistic training” for “complex operational scenarios,” including electronic warfare.

However, the Hawk T2 fleet has faced significant availability issues recently, notably due to repeated engine failures with the Rolls Royce Adour Mk-951 engine. These failures led to the decision to ground the aircraft for several days last year.

The Adour Mk-951 engine in the RAF Hawk T2 has been experiencing problems with its Low Pressure Compressor Module 01. This bug first appeared in March 2022. The RAF can manage only half of the required Hawk T2 flight hours. The engine issue is expected to be fixed during the next two to three years.

The MoD did not consider a successor to this aircraft in 2021; however, that is no longer the case. Not long ago, someone in parliament received a letter answering this question.

“The RAF has already initiated a review of future capabilities for combat crew training. It aims to determine an approach for replacing the current ‘Advanced Jet Trainer’ capability. It will examine options regarding aircraft, simulators, and the use of associated virtual reality so that we can offer world-class training capability to the British Armed Forces,” explained the MoD.

The MoD further specified that the findings of this study would be presented as early as this year, including an assessment of “likely” costs and a timeline for replacing the Hawk T2.

The quest for a new training aircraft is linked to the training needs arising from introducing the 6th generation combat aircraft, which will be the backbone of the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), a project conducted in cooperation with Italy and Japan. The RAF has concluded that the Hawk T2 would not be suitable for this purpose.

Will the choice be an aircraft already on the market, such as Leonardo’s M-346 or Korea Aerospace Industries’ T-50 Golden Eagle? Or an aircraft nearing market entry, like Boeing/Saab’s T-7 Red Hawk? Or perhaps a British solution, such as the proposed Integrated Combat Air Support and Training (iCAST) by manufacturer Aeralis?

The third hypothesis seems the most appealing, especially since Aeralis’ development of a training aircraft capable of transforming into three different versions to meet various needs has already received financial support from the British Ministry of Defense’s Rapid Capabilities Office.

AERALIS is developing a novel category of operational light jet aircraft systems that are designed for training. The new aircraft will be built upon a modular system. The company will be able to provide a variety of configurations for distinct missions by using a shared fuselage and avionics while modifying engines, wings, and mission systems. The organisation has concluded phases one and two of development, finalised feasibility studies, and formed its core team in anticipation of producing a preproduction aircraft within two years.

Using the AERALIS fleet concept of common modular aircraft, operators can incorporate platforms into the force mix in a specific configuration and reassign the aircraft as needs evolve. By integrating the AERALIS Common Core Fuselage, which is “missionised” with a modular wing, powerplant, and cockpit, with the PYRAMID-based open system and digital architecture, the aircraft can receive spiral capability upgrades at an accelerated pace over the life of the platform, obviating the necessity for costly mid-life upgrades.

Despite being relatively new, the Royal Canadian Air Force has already decided to divest its CT-155 Hawks. Advanced training for its future fighter pilots will partly be conducted in the United States within the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program.

The Indian Air Force uses this engine to operate a significant fleet of aircraft, including Jaguars and Hawk Mk132. It is the world’s largest user of these engines. The Rolls-Royce-produced ‘Adour’ Mk 871-07 aero-engines have a Time Between Overhauls of 1,000 to 1,400 hours rather than the authorised 2,000.


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