The BAE Systems Hawk is a British single-engine, jet-powered advanced trainer aircraft. It was first flown at Dunsfold, Surrey, in 1974 as the Hawker Siddeley Hawk, and subsequently produced by its successor companies, British Aerospace and BAE Systems, respectively. It has been used in a training capacity and as a low-cost combat aircraft.

Operators of the Hawk include the Royal Air Force (notably the Red Arrows display team) and a considerable number of foreign military operators. The Hawk is still in production in the UK and under licence in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with over 900 Hawks sold to 18 operators around the world.

The prototype aircraft XX154 first flew on 21 August 1974 from Dunsfold piloted by Duncan Simpson, Chief Test Pilot of HSA (Kingston), reaching 20,000 ft in a flight lasting 53 minutes. All development aircraft were built on production jigs; the program remained on time and to budget throughout. The Hawk T1 entered RAF service in late 1976.  The first export Hawk 50 flew on 17 May 1976. This variant had been specifically designed for the dual role of lightweight fighter and advanced trainer; it had a greater weapons capacity than the T.1.

XX154 now based at Qinetiq Boscombe Down.  photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nelc/
Hawk at Dunsfold. Photo Andy Lawson, BAe Systems
RAF Red Arrows Hawks at Dunsfold 2009 ©Jonny White

More variants of the Hawk followed, and common improvements to the base design typically included increased range, more powerful engines, redesigned wing and undercarriage, the addition of radar and forward-looking infrared, GPS navigation, and night-vision compatibility.  Later models were manufactured with a great variety in terms of avionics fittings and system compatibility to suit the individual customer nation; cockpit functionality was often rearranged and programmed to be common to an operator’s main fighter fleet to increase the Hawk’s training value.

In 1981, a derivative of the Hawk was selected by the United States Navy as their new trainer aircraft. Designated the McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk, the design was adapted to naval service and strengthened to withstand operating directly from the decks of carriers, in addition to typical land-based duties.  This T-45 entered service in 1994; initial aircraft had analogue cockpits, while later deliveries featured a digital glass cockpit. All airframes were planned to undergo avionics upgrades to a common standard.

The end

March 2022: The UK announced that the Hawk will no longer have a role in the services and from March 2022 all Hawks will be withdrawn from service (with the exception of the Red Arrows). Four Hawk jets from RNAS Culdrose made a farewell flight over Cornwall. RNAS Culdrose says it is saying goodbye to the “veteran aircraft”, which have been in service for 40 years. The jets will make its way over the Plymouth before heading over RNAS Yeovilton, Bournemouth Airport, and Portsmouth, before heading to Prestwick. An RNAS Culdrose statement says: “The Hawks have played a significant role in defence for 40 years, playing the role of hostile aircraft or incoming missiles to train ships’ companies and Royal Navy fighter controllers in air defence. Now we bid farewell to these veteran aircraft.”

Hawk Trainers are withdrawn from service, March 2022 Photo: Royal Navy


Hawk 200

In 1984, British Aerospace  decided to pursue development of a combat-orientated variant of the Hawk aircraft, designated as Hawk 200; up to this point the Hawk family had been typically employed by operators as an advanced trainer with secondary combat capabilities. A single flying demonstrator aircraft was produced to support the development process. This made its first flight on 19 May 1986.

Less than two months after first taking flight, the Hawk 200 demonstrator was lost in a fatal accident, killing BAe test pilot Jim Hawkins; Hawkins is alleged to have either became disoriented or to have fallen unconscious, due to g-LOC (g induced loss of consciousness), while executing high-g manoeuvres to explore the aircraft’s agility.

Despite the loss of the demonstrator, the company decided to proceed with the Hawk 200; by 1987, the first pre-production samples were being manufactured.  In 1990, the Hawk 200 received its first order when Oman opted to procure a batch of twelve Hawk 203s, all of which were delivered by 1993.

Hawk 200 mockup at Dunsfold Photo: Andy Lawson, BAe Systems
Hawk 200 mockup at Dunsfold Photo: Andy Lawson, BAe Systems
1st Hawk 200 ZG200 Photo: Andy Lawson, BAe Systems
Hawk 200 in engine test pen at Dunsfold. ZG200 Photo: Andy Lawson, BAe Systems
Hawk 200 ZG200 in the black paint scheme. Photo taken prior to the fateful demonstration flight and crash
Hawk 200 at Dunsfold ZG200. Photo: Andy Lawson, BAe Systems

Hawk 200 Variants

Hawk 203 – Export version for the Royal Air Force of Oman
Hawk 205 – Proposed export version for the Royal Saudi Air Force
Hawk 208 – Export version for the Royal Malaysian Air Force
Hawk 209 – Export version for the Indonesian Air Force


The legacy of the Hawk design lives on in the US.  The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) T-45 Goshawk is a highly modified version of the BAE Hawk. Manufactured by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) and British Aerospace (now BAE Systems), the T-45 is used by the United States Navy as an aircraft carrier-capable trainer.

T-45A Goshawk: 080604-N-2798I-002
KINGSVILLE, Texas (June 4, 2008) A T-45A Goshawk executes a turning rejoin during a recent formation flight over South Texas. The T-45 is a twin-seat, single-engine jet trainer and is the only aircraft in the Navy’s inventory used specifically for training pilots to land aboard aircraft carriers. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. John A. Ivancic (Released)

Banner image: RAF Hawk at RAF Valley, credit www.steviebeats.co.uk

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2 Replies to “Hawk”

  1. The shot of the first Hawk 200 – ZG200 was in the afternoon before its first flight in the hands of Chief Test Pilot Mike ‘ Snagger ‘ Snelling, the final checks were being made by Rolls Royce Engineer Keith Wardle, in the cockpit here.

    The second Hawk 200 was ZH200, I like to think in memory of Jim Hawkins, none of us will forget his thrilling displays including stall turns, tail-slides and sustained – 4G turns inside the airfield boundary with the lower wingtip about 100’ Above Ground Level.

    Just before the accident it had been painted black; after that there was a decree ‘ no Hawker aircraft will ever be black again ‘ – so when CTP Heinz Frick took the GR5 Harrier ZD402 with a souped up Pegasus 1161 engine for ‘ time to height ‘ records the paint scheme was called ‘ Midnight Blue ‘…

    The ‘ Pilot ‘ in the shots of the mockup Hawk 200 was Flight Test Engineer Steve Potton, he autographed the photo’s for the Flight Test secretaries, ” Love and kisses from the Airfix Project Pilot “.

  2. Hi,
    I was a serving member of the 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment. On the fateful day that Jim Hawkins crashed we were due to do a demonstration of airfield defence for representatives from several countries/organisations who were due to attend Dunsfold for a demonstration of the Hawk. As we arrived we could see the aircraft carrying out some manoeuvres above a tree line which I believe was on the opposite side of the airfield. Unfortunately at this moment we witnessed the fatal crash of the Hawk piloted by Jim Hawkins. We were asked to proceed to the crash site and cordon the area until the relevant authorities arrived. The crash site wash a scene of utter devastation as you can imagine. After we were relieved from our duties we were asked to stay and had a great evening (under the circumstances) with some of the engineers and design team and had a drink or two to the memory of Jim Hawkins. This incident has stayed with me and will do for the rest of my life.

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