Australian Government Department of Defence; released a Request For Information (RFI) to industry on June 2 with a view to replacing its Lead In Fighter Training System (LIFTS), currently provided by the BAE Systems Hawk Mk.127 platform. The Hawk 127 lead-in fighter prepares qualified Air Force pilots for conversion to F/A-18A and F/A-18B Hornets and F/A-18F Super Hornets. The Hawk is operated by Number 76 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle, and Number 79 Squadron at RAAF Base Pearce near Perth. The Hawk has been designed to allow for system upgrades to reflect evolving training requirements.
The BAE Systems Hawk has recently completed a significant mid-life upgrade under Project Air 5438 and has a current planned withdrawal date of 2026. This project will deliver an upgraded Lead-In Fighter Training System which includes an upgrade to the fleet of 33 Hawk 127 aircraft; procurement of new full mission simulators; and procurement of additional Air Combat Manouevering Instrumentation pods. The upgrade is intended to retain the Hawk’s relevance as a Lead-In Fighter trainer as fast jet candidates graduate from the RAAF’s new Pilot Training System (PTS) flying the new glass-cockpit Pilatus PC-21, and prepare them for operational conversion to a fifth-generation platform such as the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II.
The RFI for a replacement capability is part of Air 6002 Phase 1 (Future Lead-In Fighter Training System) which, according to the 2016 Defence White Paper and associated Industry Investment Program, is a $4-5 billion project scheduled to run between 2022 and 2033. Air 6002 has two major requirements, the primary role being the means of providing training for RAAF pilots and Weapons Systems operators streamed for fast jet operations, between the undergraduate PC-21 and the F/A-18F, F-35A or EA-18G. The secondary requirement will be to support other ADF capabilities in both the friendly (Blue Air) or opposing (Red Air)forces.