The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is upgrading and extending in-service support for the BAE Systems Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter Training System based in the Hunter region and Perth. The Australian Government Department of Defence’s $1.5 billion investment will directly support local jobs and bolster the RAAF’s aviation capability into the future. The 10-year contract with BAE Systems Australia will sustain 350 direct jobs, support opportunities for up to 900 direct and indirect jobs for Australian industry members and progressively update the performance of the fast-jet combat training aircraft until 2032.
The Lead-In Fighter Training System provides aircrew with the skills and experience to bridge the gap between initial training and the skills required to operate Air Combat fast jet aircraft. The update will include an engine replacement, to meet the emerging needs of pilots preparing to fly the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, the F/A-18F Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler. Rolls-Royce will deliver the Mk951 Adour Engine. The design work to integrate the upgraded Mk951 engine to the aircraft is progressing to schedule. The Department of Defence’s has already made significant investments at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Pearce.
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. Pilots complete a 14 week Introductory Fighter Course at RAAF Base Pearce with the Hawk, which includes general flying, instrument flying, formation flying, night flying and navigation. Graduates then progress to a 20 week course at RAAF Base Williamtown for air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons training with the Hawk. Only then can pilots progress to conversion to the F/A-18A/B Hornet or F/A-18F Super Hornet.
The Hawk has been designed to allow for system upgrades to reflect evolving training requirements. Students attend major exercises such as Exercise Pitch Black in the Northern Territory as part of their training. The Hawk is a low-wing, all-metal aircraft, fitted with a navigation and attack system, and powered by a single Adour Mk 871 turbofan engine. Avionics system integrated via a 1553 multiplex database; two display and mission computers which coordinate the display of information from the communications, navigation and attack sub-systems. The stores are carried on two wingtip missile stations, or mounted on four underwing and one centreline hardpoints. The Hawk 127 weapons and equipment system allows for the carriage, aiming and release, or firing of: practice weapons; conventional and laser-guided bombs; AIM-9M “Sidewinder” missiles; and a 30mm cannon.