BAE Systems Hawk AJT creates a buzz at RAF Valley
BAE Systems has welcomed the start of the next generation of the UK MoD’s combat training with the phased arrival throughout this year of the new Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) at RAF Valley in Anglesey, North Wales. This represents a major milestone in the RAF’s long involvement with BAE Systems’ Hawk programme.
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. Under a £450m contract, a total of 28 aircraft were ordered by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).
Mark Kane, Managing Director for BAE Systems’ Air Mission and Support Services said:
“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. 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% ’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’”.
In charge of the growing Hawk TMk2 fleet at RAF Valley is Squadron Leader Dan Beard, Flight Commander for the new planes. He said they were creating a “fantastic buzz” for all involved. The first of the planes was delivered in February 2009. Squadron Leader Beard said it is clear that the current focus was on the aircraft acceptance process, including shake-down flights and other testing. 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.
In Squadron Leader Beard’s words, the AJT was a “massive leap forward” that will give students the cockpit environment and advanced avionics of front-line aircraft such as Typhoon.
“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. 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,” he said.
Squadron Leader Beard continued “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. 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.”
BAE Systems has been involved in operations at RAF Valley since 1997, when the Hawk Synthetic Training Facility (HSTF) was opened. In 2001 the Company was awarded a Ground School contract for technical and survival training, and June 2007 saw the introduction of the Hawk Integrated Operational Support (Hawk IOS) programme, delivered with BAE Systems’ sub-contractor partner Babcock Defence Services. This involves the provision of both forward and depth maintenance of the Hawk TMk1 fleet at RAF Valley.
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