Finland celebrates 40 years of Hawk operations

To celebrate the 40th anniversary since it received its first BAE Systems Hawk Mk.51 advanced jet trainer, the Finnish Air Force unveiled a stunning special scheme for one of its aircraft on December 16.

The aircraft, serial HW-340, was revealed sporting a new blue and white livery during a small ceremony at the Finnish Air Force Academy at Jyväskylä Airport in Tikkakoski. The Hawk Mk.51 also features the words “HW 40 vuotta (Hawk 40 years)” in white lettering on the sides of the platform’s two air intakes, along with “HW 40v 1980-2020” on its belly. Helsinki-based aerospace and defence firm, Patria Group, applied the scheme to the aircraft.

Finnish AF Hawk 40th Anniversary Scheme [Finnish Air Force]
Painted in the colours of the Finnish national flag, British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) Hawk Mk.51, serial HW-340, is pictured flying with its new special scheme to celebrate the 40th anniversary since the first Hawk arrived in Finland. Finnish Air Force 

The 40th anniversary ceremony was opened by Colonel Henrik Elo, commandant of the Finnish Air Force Academy. During which, he said: “Hawk is clearly the longest-used type of jet in the air force. None of the training requirements have been compromised, even though the machine has already reached this age. The success story will continue for a long time.”

The air arm released some superb air-to-air images of the special-schemed Hawk on its social media accounts, which you can see in the gallery below.

History of the Hawk in Finnish service

Finland became the first export customer for the advanced jet trainer when it placed an initial order for 50 British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) Hawk Mk.51s in the late-1970s. The first four aircraft were manufactured in Dunsfold in Surrey, UK, with the remaining 46 examples being produced and tested in Finland. The first Mk.51, serial HW-302, was flown to Pori – located on Finland’s west coast – from Dunsfold by Maj Paavo Janhunen and engineer, Keijo Koko, on December 16, 1980.

The final example, serial HW-350, was handed over to the Finnish Air Force in October 1985. In operational service, the Hawk replaced the Fouga CM.170 Magister in providing tactical flight training to the air arm’s student fast-jet pilots.

Finnish AF Hawk Mk.51 [Finnish Air Force via Facebook]
British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) Hawk Mk.51, serial HW-302, was the first example of the advanced jet trainer to arrive in Finland on December 16, 1980. Finnish Air Force via Facebook

In 1990, Finland ordered seven new-build Hawk Mk.51A aircraft to supplement its existing Mk.51 fleet. The first of which, serial HW-351, was delivered to the air force in October 1993. In 2007, the nation acquired 18 second-hand examples of the Hawk Mk.66 variant from Switzerland.

The Finnish Air Force states that there are “currently 32 fully modernised Hawks in use”, which have been modernised to remain operational until the late 2030s. This fleet comprises 16 Hawk Mk.66s, seven Mk.51A aircraft and nine examples of the original Mk.51 variant.

Over the last decade, the remaining Hawks have undergone a structural reinforcement programme to enhance the durability of their hulls and wing structures, allowing them to operate until the late 2030s. Alongside this, the aircraft’s avionics were upgraded, and a modern, digital glass cockpit was integrated to replace the outdated analog system.

In a news story on its website, the Finnish Air Force added that the development of data transfer, situational awareness and networking capabilities has been the most recent step in the Hawk’s modernisation. “This allows the Hawk equipment to train more effectively and realistically beyond-visual-range (BVR), which is central to modern air warfare and challenges the pilot’s situational awareness,” the service said.

Finnish Hawks [Finnish Air Force/Ville Tuokko]
A trio of BAE Systems Hawk advanced jet trainers operated by the Finnish Air Force showed off the individual operational schemes worn by the aircraft in 2012. The camouflaged Hawk is a Mk.51, the grey-schemed aircraft is a Mk.51A and the red/white example is a Mk.66. Finnish Air Force/Ville Tuokko

The Finnish Air Force has also developed the Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC) training environment in collaboration with Patria. This system allows ground simulators to network for the same operation as airborne aircraft and lets student fast-jet pilots train for large and versatile air operations during their Hawk training. Going forward, the Finnish Air Force will work closely with Patria to further develop the advanced jet trainer, allowing it to be compatible with the winner of the nation’s HX fighter competition.

“The importance of the aircraft type is indicated by the fact that all air force F/A-18 Hornet pilots have received and will receive their tactical flight training in the cockpit of [the] Hawk… Following the HX selection decision, [Hawk cockpits] will be modernised to be as compatible as possible with Hornet’s successor. The aim is to ensure a smooth and upward transition for flight students to the HX fleet from Hawk,” the Finnish Air Force added.