Royal Air Force today formally disbanded its No. 100 Squadron at its Leeming base after its BAE Systems Hawk T.Mk 1 training aircraft made their final flights earlier this week. During the same period, the Royal Navy’s 736 Naval Air Squadron at Culdrose also undertook its last flights in the Hawk. The events brought an end to the iconic advanced jet trainer’s 45-year career in military roles in the UK, leaving just the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team—better known as the ”Red Arrows”—flying the first-generation Hawk.
The phase-out of the Hawk T.Mk 1 had originally been planned for 2030, but in July 2021 the UK Ministry of Defence announced that it would be retired by the end of March 2022. The “Red Arrows” will continue to fly the aircraft—which they have operated since 1979—indefinitely, the retirement of squadron aircraft swelling the stocks of aircraft that can help keep the team flying.
Hawker Siddeley’s HS.1182 design was selected as the RAF’s new advanced trainer in 1971, and the first of 175 Hawk T.Mk 1s entered service in late 1976. A number were supplied as armed T.Mk 1As for tactical weapons instruction, and in the mid-1980s they were modified with the ability to carry two AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles for use as emergency air defenders. The Mk 50 and Mk 60 series aircraft were versions for overseas customers, and the Hawk achieved great success in the export market. First-generation Hawks continue to serve with a dwindling number of export users, notably Finland and Saudi Arabia.
Continued overseas success was achieved with the second-generation Mk 100 series and later Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT), increasingly advanced versions with improved avionics, modern cockpits, redesigned wings, and uprated versions of the Adour turbofan. The Hawk also spawned the Mk 200 single-seat light fighter, which was sold to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Oman, and the T-45 Goshawk, developed by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) to fulfill the U.S. Navy’s needs for an advanced carrier trainer.
In 2004 the RAF selected the Hawk Mk 128 AJT—known in service as the Hawk T.Mk 2—to assume its advanced training needs, with the T.Mk 1 retiring from the pilot training role in 2016. However, No. 100 Squadron—which had acquired Hawks in 1991—continued to fly the type in a variety of front-line support roles, notably including aggressor training. The Navy’s 736 NAS also flew the type on target facilities duties, including the mimicking of anti-ship missiles to train naval air defense operators.