Mat Potulski, founder and managing director of Hawker Hunter Aviation (HHA), spoke to the Association on 11th May about his business.
After university Mat followed a career of management consultancy and City banking following which he moved into the ownership, management and operation of former military aircraft, founding the HHA in 2000.
He runs this ‘lean’ company with just three other full-time staff: a chief engineer, a deputy chief engineer and an operations director, the latter being Simon Hargreaves (remembered by some of us as a Dunsfold and X35B test pilot). A consulting financial director completes the management team.
All other staff are contracted and consist of twelve engineers and five pilots, all of whom are very experienced ex RAF or RN officers and NCOs.
The aircraft fleet consists of 17 fast jets: 12 Hunter Mk58 single seaters, two Mk8 and one Mk7 two seaters, a Buccaneer S2B and a Sukhoi SU22 M-4. Five Hunters are kept ready for use at all times but the Buccaneer and Sukhoi are kept non-flying but at short term readiness pending suitable contracts.
The Hunters are based at RAF Scampton and RNAS Yeovilton. Being ex Swiss Air Force the Mk58 aircraft have been beautifully maintained with low utilisation so have remaining lives of some 20 years. HHA has access to enough spares to support 100 Hunters for 10 years!
Mat explained the business model of HHA. Governments are hard-up and
need to balance defence costs with budgetary constraint, and, in the
UK, following the defence review cuts, there is a severe shortage of
aircraft for support tasks - no Harriers, no ADV Tornadoes, GR4
Tornadoes and Hawks severely reduced, with Hawk T1s to be retired in
There are just not enough fast jets in NATO to meet the training
support requirements. Outsourcing is one answer, successfully pioneered
in the USA, and HHA can provide fast jets to augment current MoD
training and support assets at a fraction of the cost of using Service
resources. For example the HHA price for Hunters, which can meet most
foreseeable training demands, is some £4,000 per flight hour compared
with £10,000 for a Hawk and £70,000 for a Typhoon.
HHA provides aircraft, aircrew, maintenance, training and regulatory approvals for a variety of tasks which can be grouped under the acronym ASJTR; Aerial Support to Joint Training Readiness. HHA does not train aircrew to fly but undertakes many of the support functions previously performed by NATO air forces themselves including threat simulation (acting as an aerial enemy to support army, navy and air force training), R&D support to government and contractor military trials, systems calibration and evaluation for equipment such as new radars, and support services generally.
In more detail HHA provides agile targets both air-air and
ground-air, photo chase, test pilot training, radar profiling, airborne
electronic warfare threats, simulations and jamming, as well as fighter
controller, forward air controller and air traffic controller training.
Uniquely, HHA aircraft operate on the military register which allows seamless integration with NATO units, and HHA is the only European fast jet contractor that is audited, regulated and approved by both the MoD and the CAA. Contractors and government organisations for whom HHA have provided services include Cobham, MBDA, Embraer, Britten Norman, the RN and the ETPS. HHA has no direct UK competitor.
Why choose the 50 year old Hunter? Well, its performance is more than adequate at 600 kn IAS and .95 IMN, 7g, and 45,000 ft, with a 1,200 nm range, and 1hr 15min on task at 150 nm. HHA’s well maintained ex-Swiss Mk58s have low hours, low fatigue index and generous spares support, and are very reliable and easily fixed. Also they have 6 pylons and are equipped with radar altimeters permitting very low altitude operation, chaff and flare dispensers and radar warning receivers, all useful in the training roles.
HHA has installed their HITS (Hunter integrated threats system) and DRFM (digital radio frequency memory) jammer, a travelling wave tube based I-band threat simulator and emulator with cockpit selectable frequency, PRI/PRF (pulse repetition interval/frequency) and scan pattern.
The aircraft can also be equipped to carry RAIDS (rangeless airborne instrumentation debriefing system) RTMS pods (real time management system) which, on cockpit screens, displays the location of other aircraft so equipped. What is not to like about this?!
After a lengthy question and answer session, indicating the interest aroused by the talk, Chris Farara gave the vote of thanks to Mat for his detailed and thorough presentation which explained that HHA is successfully operating Kingston’s classic in vital roles for the defence of the UK and her allies.