The final Hawk Mk.127 aircraft to be upgraded under the Lead-In Fighter Capability Assurance Program (LIFCAP) was handed back to Air Force in a ceremony at BAE Systems Australia’s Williamtown facility on March 7.
Performed under Project Air 5438, the LIFCAP program was delivered by BAE Systems Australia, in partnership with BAE Systems (UK), the RAAF, CASG and industry partners including CAE and Cubic Defence Applications.
The upgrade is intended to retain the Hawk’s relevance as a Lead-In Fighter trainer as fast jet candidates graduate from the RAAF’s new Pilot Training System (PTS) flying the new glass-cockpit Pilatus PC-21, and prepare them for operational conversion to a fifth-generation platform such as the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II.
The upgrade is very similar to the Hawk T.2 (Mk.128) now in service with the Royal Air Force and includes simulated radar, electronic warfare systems, digital mapping, enhanced ground proximity warning (EGPWS) and traffic collision and avoidance (TCAS). Also included in the LIFCAP program was the replacement of legacy simulators and training aids by three full mission simulators (FMS) supplied by CAE.
One difference between the RAAF’s Hawk LIFCAP baseline aircraft and its RAF equivalent is that the Australian jets retain the original aircraft’s ability to employ live weapons. British Hawk T.2s have a simulated weapons capability only and additional software development and certification had to be undertaken under Air 5438, therefore adding complexity and risk to the programme.
Work began on the LIFCAP program at Williamtown in September 2014 and the 33rd and last aircraft was handed back to the RAAF one month earlier than originally scheduled and within budget, according to BAE Systems Australia.
“The RAAF’s fleet is now among the most capable in the world following this major capability upgrade. The modified aircraft provides Air Force with a Lead-In Fighter that is comparable to the RAF’s Hawk T.2 Advanced Jet Trainer and ensures the Australian Hawk aircraft is suitable for a fifth-generation air force, preparing pilots for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter,” Steve Drury, Director of Aerospace, BAE Systems Australia said.
“The enduring partnership we have built in that time with 78 Wing, 76 Squadron, 79 Squadron and the Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office (TFSPO) is one we are extremely proud of and has helped deliver milestones for the air force like the completion of over 100,000 accident-free flying hours on the Hawk.”
An in-depth study of the LIFCAP program will appear in the May issue of ADM.