The Commonwealth has announced that BAE Systems Australia will perform an upgrade for the Royal Australian Air Force’s fleet of 33 BAE Systems Hawk 127 lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) aircraft.
The $1.5 billion program will see the fleet upgraded and sustained through in-service support providing maintenance, engineering, and supply chain services at RAAF bases Williamtown and Pearce through to a revised planned withdrawal date of 2031. The upgrade will be performed at BAE Systems’ Williamtown facility with support from BAE Systems UK staff.
The new upgrade follows a previous one completed in 2019 on the aircraft and its simulators and other training devices through the Project AIR 5438 Lead-in Fighter Capability Upgrade (LIFCAP) program.
The aircraft will now receive an engine upgrade to the latest Rolls-Royce Adour Mk951 standard common to the UK RAF’s Hawk T2 which should alleviate some of the engine issues and poor availability the fleet has suffered in recent years.
Other enhancements will include new mission systems with improved software and new hardware that more closely simulates the pilot interfaces and functionality of those systems used on new generation capabilities such as the F-35A, F/A-18F, and EA-18G.
Following the release of a Request for Information (RFI) to industry in June 2020, BAE responded with the proposed Hawk upgrade. Other respondents were believed to be Boeing with its T-7A Redhawk, Korean Aircraft Industries (KAI) with the T-50, Lockheed Martin with the T-50A version of the T-50, Leonardo with the M-346 Master, and several other turboprop-powered offerings.
Rather than seeking specific solutions, the RFI stated at the time was seeking “information about these technologies while providing industry an opportunity to engage early on the capability lifecycle as it considers options that may contribute towards the next generation of LIF capability”.
“The contract extension reflects the world class capability of this aircraft, the teams which support the Hawk fleet at Williamtown and Pearce and our highly capable Australian supply chain,” BAE Systems Australia Chief Executive, Gabby Costigan, said in a 21 February release.
“The Hawk Lead-In Fighter has a proven capability of providing high calibre aircrew to the Royal Australian Air Force,” she added. “Together with RAAF, Defence, and the program’s supply chain, we are proud to be contributing to the delivery of the transformational training requirements for a fifth-generation air force for the next decade.”