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The British designed and built BAE Systems Hawk is one of the world's most successful advanced jet trainers. Originally designed by Hawker Siddeley, the Hawk first flew in 1974 and entered service with the RAF in 1976 to replace the Folland Gnat T.1. They also went on to have superb export success where they were utilised by a further 19 nations. Whilst the original Hawk is no longer used by the RAF outside of the Red Arrows, the heavily updated Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer is currently operated by 4 and 25 Squadrons at RAF Valley as the Hawk T.2, where they are used to train the next generation of fighter pilot. Since 2008, the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer has been licence built in India and flown by the Indian Air Force display team, the Surya Kiran.
Deliveries of the Hawk T.1 first began to the RAF in 1976 as the forces advanced flight and weapons training aircraft. The type proved to be so successful that 175 examples were eventually procured. In addition to training pilots or being flown as an aggressor aircraft, 89 airframes were converted to the T.1A standard which allowed the aircraft to be used as short-range interceptors carrying a pair of Aim-9 Sidewinders and an under-belly gun pod. The RAF retired the Hawk T.1 from operational use during March 2022.
The Red Arrows re-equipped from the Folland Gnat T.1 to the Hawk T.1A between 1979 and 1980, using specially modified aircraft that carry a diesel smoke pod in place of the gun pod. The Red Arrows are now the only unit flying the Hawk T.1A in the RAF and the long-term future of the team is unknown due to too few Hawk T.2s being acquired to allow the team to re-equip once the Hawk T.1A is eventually retired.
The Red Arrows are a family favourite and a source of nation pride, they will once again be performing in the flying display at this year's show. Photo Credit: Glenn Stanley