BAE Systems Hawk

The BAE Systems Hawk is a British single-engine, jet-powered advanced trainer aircraft. It was first flown at Dunsfold, Surrey, in 1974 as the Hawker Siddeley Hawk, and subsequently produced by its successor companies, British Aerospace and BAE Systems, respectively. It has been used in a training capacity and as a low-cost combat aircraft.

Operators of the Hawk include the Royal Air Force (notably the Red Arrows display team) and a considerable number of foreign military operators. The Hawk is still in production in the UK and under licence in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with over 900 Hawks sold to 18 operators around the world.

BAE Systems Hawk
Class Aircraft
Type Trainer
Manufacturer Hawker Siddeley
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1974
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Australia View
Canada View
Finland View
India View
Indonesia View
Kenya View
Korea View
Kuwait View
Malaysia View
Oman (Muscat) View
Saudi Arabia View
South Africa View
Switzerland View
United Arab Emirates View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1976 View
Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) View
Bahrain View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
British Aerospace View
BAE Systems View
Hawker Siddeley 1974 1000 View


In 1964 the Royal Air Force specified a requirement (Air Staff Target (AST) 362) for a new fast jet trainer to replace the Folland Gnat. The SEPECAT Jaguar was originally intended for this role, but it was soon realised that it would be too complex an aircraft for fast jet training and only a small number of two-seat versions were purchased. Accordingly, in 1968, Hawker Siddeley Aviation (HSA) began studies for a simpler aircraft, initially as special project (SP) 117. The design team was led by Ralph Hooper.

This project was funded by the company as a private venture, in anticipation of possible RAF interest. The design was conceived of as having tandem seating and a combat capability in addition to training, as it was felt the latter would improve export sales potential. By the end of the year HSA had submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Defence based on the design concept, and in early 1970 the RAF issued Air Staff Target (AST) 397 which formalised the requirement for new trainers of this type. The RAF selected the HS.1182 for their requirement on 1 October 1971 and the principal contract, for 175 aircraft, was signed in March 1972.

The prototype aircraft first flew on 21 August 1974. All development aircraft were built on production jigs; the program remained on time and to budget throughout. The Hawk T1 entered RAF service in late 1976. The first export Hawk 50 flew on 17 May 1976. This variant had been specifically designed for the dual-role of lightweight fighter and advanced trainer; it had a greater weapons capacity than the T.1.

More variants of the Hawk followed and common improvements to the base design typically include increased range, more powerful engines, redesigned wing and undercarriage, the addition of radar and forward-looking infrared (FLIR), GPS navigation, and night vision compatibility. Later models were manufactured with a great variety in terms of avionics fittings and system compatibility to suit the individual customer nation, cockpit functionality was often rearranged and programmed to be common to an operator's main fighter fleet to increase the Hawk's training value.

In 1981 a derivative of the Hawk was selected by the United States Navy as their new trainer aircraft. Designated the McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk, the design was navalised and strengthened to withstand operating directly from the decks of carriers in addition to typical land-based duties; This T-45 entered service in 1994; initial aircraft had analogue cockpits, while later deliveries featured a digital glass cockpit. All airframes are planned to undergo avionics upgrades to a common standard.

Further development

A major competitor to the Hawk for export sales has been the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet; aviation expert John W. R. Taylor commented: "What Europe must avoid is the kind of wasteful competition that has the Hawker Siddeley Hawk and Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jet battling against each other in the world market." By early 1998, a total of 734 Hawks had been sold, more than 550 of which had been to export customers. Military customers often procured the Hawk as a replacement for older aircraft such as the BAC Strikemaster, Hawker Hunter, and Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.

During the 1980s and 1990s, British Aerospace, the successor company to Hawker Siddeley, was trying to gain export sales of the variable-wing Panavia Tornado strike aircraft; however countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, whom had shown initial interest in the Tornado, concluded that the Hawk to be a more suitable and preferable aircraft for their requirements. Malaysia and Oman cancelled their arranged Tornado orders in the early 1990s, both choosing to procure the Hawk instead. Aviation authors Norman Polmar and Dana Bell stated of the Hawk: "Of the many similar designs competing for a share of the world market, the Hawk has been without equal in performance as well as sales".

On 22 December 2004, the Ministry of Defence awarded a contract to BAE Systems to develop an advanced model of the Hawk for the RAF and Royal Navy. The Hawk Mk. 128, otherwise designated as Hawk T2, replaces conventional instrumentation with a glass cockpit, to better resemble modern fighter aircraft such as the new mainstay of the RAF, the Eurofighter Typhoon. In October 2006, a £450 million contract was signed for the production of 28 Hawk 128s. The aircraft's maiden flight occurred on 27 July 2005 from BAE Systems' Warton Aerodrome.

According to BAE Systems, as of July 2012 they have sold nearly 1000 Hawks so far, with sales continuing to date. In July 2012, Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith confirmed that Australia's fleet of Hawk Mk 127s would be upgraded to a similar configuration to the RAF's Hawk T2 as part of a major mid-life upgrade. The Hawk T2 was considered to be a competitor for the United States Air Force's T-X program to acquire a new trainer fleet,[20] but in February 2015 Northrop Grumman determined the Hawk's shortfalls made it ill-suited for the program requirements and dropped it as their offering.

In May 2015, Indian aerospace manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) revealed that it was examining the prospects of performing its own Hawk upgrades, including armed light attack variants. The Indian Air Force (IAF), who were in the process of receiving trainer Hawks built under license by HAL, were reportedly interested in the upgrade proposals, which would also include avionics and cockpit modifications; HAL has stated that it also aims to export combat Hawks to other countries in partnership with BAE. Missile developer and manufacturer MBDA may provide their ASRAAM and Brimstone missiles to arm the new attack type.

The Hawk is an advanced trainer with a two-man tandem cockpit, a low-mounted cantilever wing and is powered by a single turbofan engine. Unlike many of the previous trainers in RAF service, the Hawk was specifically designed for training. Hawker had developed the aircraft to have a high level of servicability, as well as lower purchasing and operating costs than previous trainers like the Jet Provost. The Hawk has been praised by pilots for its agility, in particular its roll and turn handling.

The design of the fuselage included a height differential between the two seats of the cockpit; this provided generous levels of visibility for the instructor in the rear seat. Each cockpit is fitted with a Martin-Baker Mk 10B zero-zero rocket-assisted ejection seat. Air is fed to the aircraft's rear-mounted Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour engine via intakes on each of the forward wing roots. During the aircraft's development, Hawker had worked closely with Rolls-Royce to reduce the engine's fuel consumption and to ensure a high level of reliability.

Even within the development stages, a Hawk variant was intended to also serve as a single-seat ground-attack fighter; both the trainer and fighter models were developed with the export market in mind. On single seat models, the forward cockpit area which normally houses a pilot is replaced by an electronics bay for avionics and onboard systems, including a fire control computer, multi-mode radar, laser rangefinder and forward-looking infrared (FLIR). Some export customers, such as Malaysia, have extensive modifications to their aircraft, including the addition of wingtip hardpoint stations and a fittable inflight refuelling probe.

The Hawk was designed to be manoeuvrable and can reach Mach 0.88 in level flight and Mach 1.15 in a dive, thus allowing trainees to experience transonic flight before advancing to a supersonic trainer. The airframe is very durable and strong, stressed for +9 g, the normal limit in RAF service is +7.5/-4 g. A dual hydraulic system supplies power to operate systems such as the aircraft's flaps, airbrakes and landing gear, together with the flight controls. A ram air turbine is fitted in front of the single tail fin to provide backup hydraulic power for the flight controls in the event of an engine failure, additionally a gas turbine auxiliary power unit is housed directly above the engine.

The Hawk is designed to carry a centreline gun pod, such as the 30 mm ADEN cannon, two under-wing pylons, and up to four hardpoints for fitting armaments and equipment. In RAF service, Hawks have been equipped to operate of Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. In the early 1990s, British Aerospace investigated the possibility of arming the Hawk with the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile for export customers.


  • Hawk T1
  • Hawk T1A
  • Hawk 50
  •     Hawk 51 
  •     Hawk 51A
  •     Hawk 52 
  •     Hawk 53 
  • Hawk 60
  •     Hawk 60 
  •     Hawk 60A
  •     Hawk 61
  •     Hawk 63 
  •     Hawk 63A 
  •     Hawk 63C 
  •     Hawk 64
  •     Hawk 65 
  •     Hawk 65A 
  •     Hawk 66 
  •     Hawk 67 
  • Hawk 100
  •     Hawk 102 
  •     Hawk 103 
  •     Hawk 108
  •     Hawk 109 
  •     Hawk 115 
  •     Hawk 129
  • Hawk 120/LIFT
  • Hawk 127
  • Hawk 128 (Hawk T2)
  • Hawk 132
  • Hawk 165
  • Hawk 200
  •     Hawk 203
  •     Hawk 205
  •     Hawk 208 
  •     Hawk 209 
  • T-45 Goshawk

United Kingdom

The Hawk entered RAF service in April 1976, replacing the Folland Gnat and Hawker Hunter for advanced training and weapons training. The Hawk T1 was the original version used by the RAF, deliveries commencing in November 1976. The most famous users of the Hawk are the Red Arrows aerobatic team, who adopted the plane in 1979.

From 1983 to 1986, some Hawks were equipped as short-range interceptor aircraft. 88 T1s were modified to carry two AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles in addition to a 30 mm ADEN cannon gun pod; these aircraft were redesignated as Hawk T1A. In a wartime scenario, they would have worked in collaboration with the RAF's Tornado F3 interceptors, which would use their Foxhunter search radars and more sophisticated navigation systems to vector the Hawks against enemy targets.

The Hawk subsequently replaced the English Electric Canberra for target towing duties. The Royal Navy acquired a dozen Hawk T1/1As from the RAF; these are typically operated in a support role, often to conduct simulated combat training onboard ships.

During the 1990s and 2000s, 80 Hawk T1/1A aircraft were upgraded under the Fuselage Replacement Programme (FRP) to extend their operational lifespan; sections of the centre and rear fuselage sections were entirely replaced. In 2009, the RAF began receiving the first Hawk T2, in the long term, T2 aircraft will replace the ageing T1s. Training operations on the Hawk T2 began in April 2012.

In August 2011, a Red Arrows pilot was killed when his Hawk T1 crashed following a display at the Bournemouth Air Festival, the inquest found "G-force impairment" may have caused the pilot to lose control; the Hawk T1 fleet was grounded as a precautionary measure and returned to flight status a few days later. In November 2011, the Red Arrows suffered another pilot fatality when the Martin-Baker Mk.10 ejection seat fitted to the Hawk T1 activated while the aircraft was stationary; the veteran combat pilot died on ground impact when the ejector seat parachute also failed to deploy. This resulted in the UK Ministry of Defence implementing a ban on non-essential flying in aircraft fitted with ejector seats similar to those fitted in the Hawk T1 after the death. The ban was lifted for Tornado attack jets but remained on Hawk T1, Hawk T2 and Tucano flights while the RAF reviewed evidence on those aircraft.


In January 1978, Britain and Finland announced a deal to in which the Finnish Air Force was to receive 50 Hawk Mk. 51s in 1980; these aircraft were built in Finland under licence by Valtion lentokonetehdas. The Finnish Air Force was limited to 60 first-line fighter aircraft by the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947; by acquiring Hawks, which counted as trainers rather than fighters, capacity could be increased while continuing treaty compliance. These conditions were nullified at the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Seven additional Mk. 51As were delivered in 1993–94 to make up for losses. In June 2007, Finland arranged to purchase 18 used Hawk Mk. 66s from the Swiss Air Force for 41 million euros; they were delivered in 2009–2010. Finnish Hawks have reportedly been armed with Russian Molniya R-60/AA-8 air-to-air missiles. The Finnish Air Force aerobatics team, the Midnight Hawks, also uses the aircraft.

Due to rising levels of metal fatigue, 41 out of 67 in Finland's total Hawk fleet will be taken out of service between 2012–2016; the remaining aircraft are younger and thus are expected to be flying into the 2030s. In 2011, Finnish Mk. 51s and Mk. 66s underwent upgrades, including a new Patria Cockpit 2000 glass cockpit and new software.


On 23 February 2008, the Hawk Mk. 132 formally entered service with the Indian Air Force (IAF), after one of the most protracted procurements in India's history, two decades having elapsed between the initial interest and the contract signing on 26 March 2004. The IAF received 24 aircraft directly from BAE Systems with deliveries beginning in November 2007, and further 42 Hawks assembled by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited between 2008 and 2011. In February 2008, India planned to order 57 more Hawks, with 40 going to the Indian Air Force and the remaining 17 to the Indian Navy.

In July 2010, it was announced that the IAF and the Navy would receive the additional 57 aircraft. The additional aircraft will be all built in India by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), continuing to work under licence from BAE. On 10 February 2011, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and GE Aviation signed a contract under which GE Aviation will conduct the next 30 years of maintenance on the Hawk fleet. In 2011, the IAF was reportedly unhappy with the provision of spare components; In December 2011, BAE received a contract to provide India with spares and ground support.

The Hawk fleet is based at IAF's Bidar station in north Karnataka, about 700 km from Bangalore.

As of 2015, a total of 123 aircraft were ordered by the Indian Air Force and 17 by the Indian Navy. An additional order of 20 aircraft is being negotiated.


In April 1978, Indonesia, seeking to increase its aerial capabilities, placed the first of multiple orders for the Hawk. The Indonesian Air Force received more than 40 Hawks in the 1980s and 1990s In June 1991, BAe and Indonesian Aerospace (IPTN) signed a major agreement for collaborative production of the Hawk, and more orders of the Hawk were anticipated. Further Hawk exports were eventually blocked due to concerns over Indonesian human rights, particularly in East Timor. During the 90's protests erupted across England over arming Indonesia and pressure increased after the mass-murder of the Balibo Five journalists and Roger East came to light and the use of Hawk's being crucial in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor which led to 80,000 dead by most conservative Indonesian estimates.

The Hawks have been the backbone of Indonesian Air Force, supplementing more advanced and expensive aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon. In September 2013 the Indonesian Air Force began receiving the KAI T-50 Golden Eagle which will replace the Hawk in service.


The Royal Malaysian Air Force (Malay: Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia) has 19 Hawk aircraft, consisting of four Hawk 108 export versions as training aircraft and 14 Hawk 208 as combat aircraft. On 5 March 2013, during the 2013 Lahad Datu standoff, five Hawk 208 together with three American-made Boeing F/A-18D Hornets were employed in airstrikes on hideouts of the terrorist group Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo in Lahad Datu, Sabah ahead of the ground assault by joint forces of the Malaysian Army and Royal Malaysian Police.


In the 1980s, 12 BAE Hawk T.Mk. 60/60As were purchased for the Air Force of Zimbabwe; the purchase was supported by a £35 million loan from the UK to Zimbabwe. The Hawk deal also included the transfer of a number of used Hawker Hunters. In July 1982, at least one Hawk was destroyed on the ground and three more heavily damaged during a dissident attack on Thornhill air base, Gweru.

Zimbabwe's Hawks were used during the Second Congo War. Numerous airstrikes were conducted in support of the Congolese Army against Rwandan, Ugandan and rebel forces in 1998–2000. In 2000, the controversy over Zimbabwe's military intervention in the Congo and poor human rights record led to Britain imposing a total arms embargo on the nation, including spare parts for the Hawk. Due to the embargo, Zimbabwe has purchased six Chinese Hongdu K-8s as a substitute.


During the 1980s, a prospective sale of 63 Hawk trainers to Iraq was considered by the British government. While the proposal had its proponents, it was controversial as in a ground-attack capacity Iraq might have employed the Hawk against neighbouring Iran and to oppress Iraq's own Kurdish population; there was also concern that the Hawk could be potentially armed with chemical weapons. After considerable deliberation the sale was blocked. In 2010, Iraq entered talks with BAE for an order of up to 21 Hawks.

Saudi Arabia arranged to acquire the Hawk under the Al-Yamamah arms deal with Britain; a total of 50 Hawk Mk. 65/65A were ordered under two orders placed in 1985 and 1994 respectively. In August 2012, a roughly $800 million deal for 22 Hawk 'Advanced Jet Trainers' was announced; these are to replace the older models of Hawks in the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF). The RSAF also has a demonstration team that flies the Hawk.

In 1993, talks between BAe and South Africa's Denel Aviation began regarding a replacement for the South African Air Force (SAAF)'s ageing Atlas Impala fleet. By 2004, Denel had begun construction of Hawks under licence from BAe; components for other customers have also been produced by Denel. On 13 January 2005, the first locally assembled Hawk conducted its first flight; it belonged to a batch of 24 trainers ordered by the SAAF.

Role Advanced trainer aircraft
Manufacturer Hawker Siddeley (1974–1977)
British Aerospace (1977–1999)
BAE Systems MAS division
First flight 21 August 1974
Introduction 1976
Status In service
Primary users Royal Air Force
Indian Air Force
Finnish Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
Produced 1974–present
Number built 1,000+
Unit cost £18 million (2003)
Variants British Aerospace Hawk 200
Developed into McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: student, instructor
  • Length: 12.43 m (40 ft 9 in)
  • Wingspan: 9.94 m (32 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 3.98 m (13 ft 1 in)
  • Wing area: 16.70 m2 (179.64 ft2)
  • Empty weight: 4,480 kg (9,880 lb)
  • Useful load: 3,000 kg (6,600 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 9,100 kg (20,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× Rolls-Royce Adour Mk. 951 turbofan with FADEC, 29 kN (6,500 lbf) 29 kN


  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.84 (1,028 km/h, 638 mph) at altitude
  • Range: 2,520 km (1,360 nmi, 1,565 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 13,565 m (44,500 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 47 m/s (9,300 ft/min)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.65


  • Note: all armament is optional.
  • 1× 30 mm ADEN cannon, in centreline pod
  • Up to 6,800 lb (3,085 kg) of weapons on five hardpoints, including:
  • 4× AIM-9 Sidewinder or ASRAAM on wing pylons and wingtip rails
  • 1,500 lb (680 kg), limited to one centreline and two wing pylons (Hawk T1)

End notes