On 13th March Paul Hopkins came down from the ‘North’ specially to talk to the Association about what BAES hopes will be the next big Hawk development - to meet the new USAF training requirement. For the winner of the competition for this aircraft the prize is the sale of 350 - 500 aircraft with a future USN buy not out of the question.

Ambrose Barber introduced Paul who was already well known to many present. Paul completed three RAF Harrier tours then attended the US Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River after which he was posted to the A&AEE at Boscombe Down where he contributed to the Harrier, Sea Harrier and Tornado service clearance programmes.

In 1985 he retired from the RAF and joined the test pilot team at BAe Dunsfold on Harrier GR5 and Hawk development. In 1990 he went North when BAe moved the Hawk programme from Kingston and Dunsfold to Brough and Warton. Flying Hawk, Tornado, Gripen and Typhoon he rose to be Chief Test Pilot Warton in 1998. Retiring from flying in 2005 he moved into project management as Project Director Advanced Jet Trainer (the current T2). He also marketed the Typhoon in Japan and India spending two years in Delhi. Seeking retirement Paul was asked to stay on for one year to support BAES Inc as the Hawk T-X competition was imminent. He finally retired in 2012. Paul added that as a small boy he lived on Ham Common.

Hawk T-X For The United States Air Force.

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Paul started by explaining the precarious position of the US defence budget which has suffered a 10% cut plus the current sequestration cuts of an additional 10% for defence ($500 billion over 10 years) so all programmes are under great strain. The T-X budget is ‘flat lining’ at present with no hope of an increase until 2016.

Meanwhile USAF training is in trouble. The fighter students start on the Beech T-6 Texan II (essentially a Pilatus PC9) then move to the Northrop T-38 and the two-seat F-16D leading to the F-22. F-16Ds are in short supply and the T-38 of F-4/F-104 vintage is rapidly running out of life and suffering structural problems, with the potential for surprise structural problems that could ground the fleet. The T-38 has been in service since the 1960s, is not sustainable long term, is difficult to fly and not fit for purpose as an F-22/F-35 trainer - but the USAF loves them. The T-X is needed by 2018 with a full operational clearance in 2025 (but these dates are being continually squeezed by the budget cuts), must have a life of 30 years, and be easy to fly like the F-22/F-35. The T-X must be low cost and low risk and be part of a fully integrated air and ground training system (maximum ground time, minimum flight time for economy) with full mission simulation.

The Hawk T-X partners are BAES, L3 Simulation and Northrop-Grumman (N-G). As the programme must be seen to be American, BAES Inc will be responsible for delivery of the overall programme, ground and air. The wings and front fuselage will be built at Samlesbury while N-G will build the back end, undertake installation, final assembly and flight test. Considerable effort has been taken to source US equipments to maximise US content so the product is seen as being American.

Competitors are: the Alenia-Aermachi T 100 which is a twin engined (giving high life costs), fly-by-wire (FBW), high thrust-weight ratio, LERX equipped advanced trainer derived from the current production M-346; and the Lockheed-Martin/ Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 which is a big, expensive reheated single engined, high performance, supersonic F-16-based advanced trainer derived from the aircraft in production in Korea for the RoKAF. Also, Boeing is offering a brand new, supersonic, big engined, ‘paper’ aircraft designed specifically to meet every aspect of the T-X requirement. This will be a higher risk, expensive development project that the USAF wants to avoid but the product will no doubt look attractive and will be 100% US.

Compared with competitors the Hawk T-X would be cheaper to buy and run, has proven reliability, and will be low risk, attributes that the USAF is looking for. The T2 sustained g is marginal and it does not have fly-by-wire controls. In reality the RAF and the RAAF (Australian) achieve all their Hawk training objectives for Typhoon and the F18 at what they regard is an adequate g level and are more than satisfied that students can experience demanding g levels for combat engagements. For the Hawk T-X improved combat/ manoeuvre flaps will increase instantaneous g to satisfy USAF requirements. The Hawk is easy to fly and is very forgiving despite conventional controls and gives the advantage that actual aerodynamic behaviour can be experienced at limiting conditions, whereas FBW does not allow envelope boundaries to be explored.

In the current marketing campaign the Hawk 128/T2 is being promoted. It features: provision for RWR (radar warning receiver), chaff and flares, OBOGS (on-board oxygen generating system), HUMS (health & usage monitoring system), RVSM (reduced vertical separation minimum) compliance, autopilot, digital map, integrated IN/GPS (inertial navigator/global positioning system), NVG (night vision goggles) compatibility, sensor simulation, TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system), centre line external fuel tank, AAR (air-to-air refuelling), data link, FLIR (forward looking infra-red) provision, nose-wheel steering,10,000 + hrs airframe life and the Adour 951 which features: 6500lb sea level static thrust, automatic surge detection and recovery, optimised full flight envelope handling, automatic start/relight, modular design for easy maintenance and 4000 hrs mean time between overhaul. However, there are a significant number of T2 cockpit components that are long overdue for upgrade, for example analogue standby gauges, so there is plenty of scope to make significant upgrades to reduce cost and improve training value for the next generation of Hawk. As the T-X programme has now slipped by a few years these changes may be incorporated into other export variants in the meantime so reducing development costs for T-X in due course.

The T2 already incorporates significant virtual world flight training by the use of the mission system and data link. The mission system can model radar, electronic warfare and warnings, weapon release and firing, chaff and flare deployment as well as ground based electronic warfare systems and hostile missiles. This information can be shared between up to 10 aircraft and a ground station allowing target acquisition, air combat, ground attack and so on to be realistically practised and observed by airborne and ground based instructors. Students’ displays will be contained within the relevant sensor field of view but instructors can see the whole battle area scene. The RAF no longer use practice live weapons on the T2 and the weapon system essentially models Typhoon attributes to deliver realistic multi-role training to a very high and demanding standard. The Hawk T-X will take this concept a stage further.

So ended Paul’s most interesting talk to a large, appreciative audience. The vote of thanks was given by Chris Roberts who pointed out that at the time of the VTX negotiations the USAF was required to agree that the Hawk VTX would at some future date be suitable for that service!