BAE Systems Australia has released a statement emphasising the remaining fatigue life the RAAF’s fleet of 33 Hawk 127 lead in fighters has before it needs to be retired.
The release follows the July 31 deadline for responses to a request for information (RFI) that was released by the Commonwealth on June 3. The RFI called for information on technologies that could lead to the replacement of the Hawk in RAAF service under project AIR 6002 Phase 1.
BAE Systems says a Hawk full scale fatigue test airframe has been subjected to 14 years of fatigue testing since 2006 under a joint program with the Defence Science & Technology (DST) Group at DST’s Fisherman’s Bend facility in Melbourne. It says that, while the RAAF’s Hawks have a planned fatigue life of 10,000 flying hours each, the test article has been subjected to 50,000 hours of loads that simulate flight and real-life airframe use in service.
“The full scale fatigue test is a hugely important achievement for the Australian Lead-In Fighter program and was made possible by the collaboration of a small dedicated team across many thousands of kilometres,” BAE Systems Australia Director Aircraft Sustainment and Training, Andrew Chapman said in the statement.
The company says the RAAF’s Hawk fleet has recorded a total of 122,000 hours in service, an average of less than 4,000 hours each, meaning the now 20-year old fleet has a theoretical life-of-type extending into the 2040s.
But ADBR understands that, despite the Hawk being known for its rugged construction, the RAAF’s aircraft are suffering from cracking in the Rolls-Royce Adour 871 engine has resulted in a number of fleet-wide groundings.
BAE Systems did not confirm whether it has responded to the RFI with further upgrades to the Hawk beyond those conducted under the AIR 5438 Lead in Fighter Capability Assurance Program (LIFCAP) which was completed in 2019, although ADBR has sought clarification on this. We understand informal discussions about a possible re-engine of the aircraft with the latest Adour 951 have been held.
Boeing confirmed on July 30 that it had responded to the RFI with information on its new T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer it is developing for the USAF to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon. ADBR understands Korean Aircraft Industries (KAI) also responded with its T-50, as has Leonardo with the M346 Master, while other responses based on less obvious solutions have reportedly also been received.