British Aerospace Hawk

Flying close, in tight formation, wing-tip to wing-tip, the Hawk aircraft of the Red Arrows Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, produce breath-taking flying displays for airshow spectators. These precision flying routines, involving up to nine Hawk aircraft in a series of spectacular display sequences, showcase the manoeuvrability and capabilities of the Hawk aircraft.

What type of aircraft is the Hawk?

The BAE Hawk is a military aircraft that met an Air Staff Target requirement from the Royal Air Force to replace the Folland Gnat T1 and the Hawker Hunter T7. The specification called for an advanced, two-seat subsonic jet trainer, with front-line fighting capabilities.

Who designed and manufactured the Hawk?

The Hawk was developed, beginning in 1968, by Hawker Siddeley Aviation. In 1977 Hawker Siddeley would merge with the British Aircraft Corporation and Scottish Aviation to form British Aerospace, who continued the development and production of the Hawk. Hawker Siddeley was established in 1935, itself a merger between Hawker Aviation and Armstrong Whitworth. Hawker's most famous aircraft was the Hurricane fighter. The Hawk was developed by a design team led Gordon Hudson, who joined the company when, in 1959, Folland Aircraft was acquired by Hawker Siddeley. Production took place at Kingston Upon Thames and Folland's site at Hamble with final assembly at Dunsfold in Surrey. Later production was transferred to Warton in Lancashire when the Hamble and Dunsfold sites were closed. Production continues at British Aerospace's factory at Brough in East Yorkshire.

What is the specification of the Hawk?

The Hawk is single-engined advanced training aircraft, powered by a Rolls Royce/Turbomeca Adour Mark 951 turbofan engine. The design features a low, swept wing configuration with engine air intakes set above the wings, an all-moving tailplane and tricycle undercarriage. The Hawk is a two-seat fighter with a large glass canopy, enabling the instructor in the higher, rear cockpit to see over the front cockpit. Both cockpit seats are fitted with Martin-Baker Mark 10B rocket boosted ejection seats. The Hawk is a highly capable and manoeuvrable aicraft, with a maximum speed of capable of 638 mph (Mach 0.84) in level flight, and 915 mph (Mach 1.2) in a dive.

What is the operational history of the Hawk?

Following the flight of the prototype Hawk in August 1974 the first Hawk aircraft were delivered to the Royal Air Force in 1976. On 15 November 1979 the Red Arrows team for the 1980 display season was unveiled at Bitteswell in Leicestershire with the new Hawk aircraft. This replaced the Folland Gnat, which had been with the Red Arrows since its inception in 1964. The Red Arrows are currently based at RAF Scampton in Licolnshire, also home to 617 Squadron, famous for the Dambusters raid in May 1943. Other Royal Air Force squadrons using the Hawk are No 208(R) Squadron for fast-jet pilot training and No 19(R) for weapons training, both based at RAF Valley on Anglesey. The Hawk is also flowing by No 100 Squadron at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire. Elsewhere in the UK the aircraft is used by the Royal Navy. The Hawk has a large export market and has been sold to 18 air forces around the world. The earliest exports, begun in December 1977, were to Finland. The type is operated in countries including Australia, Canada, India and South Africa. However, it is the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, that is the most famous operator of the Hawk. Currently the Red Arrows has ten Hawk aircraft for display, along with two spare aircraft. Like any squadron, new aircraft have joined at different times to replace previous airframes. Four of the ten Hawk aircraft have been with the Red Arrows since its conversion to the Hawk. Another two aircraft date from 1985, a single Hawk from both 2002 and 2003, and two more from 2010.

Why is the Hawk an aviation icon?

The Royal Air Force's Aerobatic Team has flown the Hawk since 1979. Each year, at airshows across the country, the nine Hawk aircraft of the Red Arrows - named from Red 1 to Red 9 - produce the most stunning and exciting display routines. In doing so, not only do they delight the crowds of spectators with their precision flying sequences, but they continue to demonstrate the highest skill and professionalism of the Royal Air Force.

Where can I see a Hawk aircraft?

The best way to see the Hawk in flight is to see one of the displays by the Red Arrows, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. The Red Arrows display season runs from May to September. They perform at upwards of 80 airshows and events each year. The official website of the Red Arrows is regularly updated with the team's display calendar. The Red Arrows fly at displays in the United Kingdom and abroad. In addition to airshows such as the RAF Cosford Airshow and the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford in Gloucester the Red Arrows fly at prestigious events such as the British Grand Prix, Cowes Week and the Great North Run.


ManufacturerHawker Siddeley/B A E Systems (United Kingdom)
DesignerGordon Hudson
Aircraft typeMilitary trainer
Length38ft 11in
Wingspan30ft 10in
Height13ft 1in
Weight8,040lb (empty)/11,100lb (loaded)
Ceiling height50,000ft
Engines1 x Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca Adour Mk151-01 producing 5,200lb
Range1,509 miles
Crew1 pilot

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  • The Red Arrows, BAE Hawk
  • The Red Arrows, BAE Hawk
  • The Red Arrows, BAE Hawk

Facts and Figures

  • 900 Hawk aircraft have been manufactured since production began in 1976
  • The Hawk is the first British aircraft manufactured entirely using the metric measurements
  • The Hawk has been sold to 18 air forces around the world
  • More than 2.5 million flying hours have been completed by Hawk aircraft
  • The Hawk is still manufactured, after 35 years of production
  • The T-45 Goshawk is a naval version built for US Navy aircraft carrier use
  • The Red Arrows Hawk aircraft are called Red 1, through to Red 9
  • Hawk aircraft serve with the Fleet Requirements Air Direction Unit at RNAS Culdrose

Further Reading