Australia May Replace BAE Hawk Advanced Trainers

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Australia has issued a Request for Information (RFI) looking to acquire Lead-in Fighter Training System (LIFTS) capabilities that could include replacing Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)’s BAE Hawk 127 LIFs.

The RFI issued on June 3 by CASG’s Aerospace Systems Division through AUSTENDER says it is considering “options that may contribute towards the next generation of LIF capability.” Submissions are due to be received by 1600 AEST on 31 July 2020.

The document stresses that the RFI “does not form any part of any Commonwealth procurement process.”

The LIFTS replacement program will be known as Project AIR 6002.

Possible contender systems to replace the Hawk include the new Boeing-Saab T-7A Red Hawk, the Korean Aerospace (KAI) T-50, the Leonardo M346, and the Textron Scorpion.

The RAAF ordered 33 Hawk 127s in 1997 to replace the Macchi MB.326 in service. The first plane entered service in 1999. Between 2016-18, RAAF Hawk aircraft underwent comprehensive upgrade of many of its aircraft and training systems. The Hawk 127 lead-in fighter prepares qualified Air Force pilots for conversion to F/A-18A and F/A-18B Hornets and F/A-18F Super Hornets.

According to a report by ADBR, the RAAF is also looking at an option to replace the aircraft’s Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour Mk 871 engine with new R-R Adour 951 engine. The proposal was made because cracking in the engine’s low bypass turbine was observed. Engine problems and a persistent wing fatigue issue have led to a couple of groundings of the fleet, the last one in 2019.

“The program could accelerate once the RFI responses are received. Planned life-of-type of the Hawk could be brought forward due to the engine and fatigue issue,” industry sources were quoted as saying by the report.