Upgraded Hawks, DA40 NGs and Aussie disposals


Hawk Mk127 A27-01 is one of 33 aircraft upgraded by BAE Systems Australia under the Lead-In Fighter Capability Assurance Programme. The final aircraft was handed over to the RAAF on March 7, 2019.
Skyline Aviation’s name and the helicopter’s fire-fighting capacity are the brightest titles ever seen on former RAN S-70B-2 Seahawk N24-016.

IN NEWS from Australia this month, BAE Systems Australia has completed the 33rd and last Hawk Mk127 upgrade for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), which has delivered a modernised training capability to better meet the training requirements for transition to fifth-generation fighters such as the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Air Force Cadets have begun receiving the powered DA40 light aircraft to supplement their fleet of gliders. One aircraft was displayed in public for the very first time at the recent Avalon Airshow. Finally, disposal of former

Australian Defence Force aircraft continues, with well-known types such as the Bell 206B-1 Kiowa and Pilatus PC-9/A falling under the auctioneer’s hammer and the first two F/A-18A classic Hornets have been delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Hawk upgrade complete

BAE Systems Australia formally handed over the last Hawk Mk127, A27-24, to be upgraded under the Lead-In Fighter Capability Assurance Programme (LIFCAP) during a ceremony at Newcastle Airport on March 7, 2019.

Under the aegis of Project Air 5438, the LIFCAP upgrade has been delivered by BAE Systems Australia, in partnership with BAE Systems UK, the RAAF and the Defence Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group and industry partners CAE and Cubic Defence Applications. The work began in 2014 and was carried out at BAE System’s facility at Newcastle Airport, across the runway from RAAF Williamtown – which is the home of the RAAF’s 78 Wing and one of the two Hawk operating units,

76 Squadron.

The upgrade delivered on-budget and the final aircraft was handed back a month earlier than originally scheduled. The modernised aircraft are broadly similar to the RAF’s Hawk T2 (Mk128) aircraft but retain their ability to employ live weapons. Royal Air Force Hawk T2s have only a simulated weapons capability. New software has been developed and certified in the Australian jets.

Director of Aerospace for BAE Systems Australia, Steve Drury, said: “The RAAF’s Hawk fleet is now among the most capable in the world following this major upgrade.

The modified aircraft provides the Air Force with a lead-in fighter that is comparable to the RAF’s Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer and ensures the Australian Hawk aircraft is suitable for a fifth-generation air force, preparing pilots for the F-35.”

Drury added: “The enduring partnership we have built in that time with 78 Wing, 76 Squadron (Williamtown), 79 Squadron (Pearce) and the Tactical Fighter Systems Programme Office 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.”

In related news, BAE Systems Australia announced at Avalon Airshow on February 27, 2019, that it has won an AUD 245 million contract for the continuation of Hawk sustainment at Williamtown and Pearce until at least 2022, with further extensions available depending on performance.

DA40 NGs for Air Force Cadets

Also, at Avalon 2019, Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester announced the arrival of eight Diamond DA40 NG training aircraft for use by the Australian Air Force Cadets. One aircraft (VH-UEZ/02, msn 40N390) was featured in the static display at the show.

The aircraft have been leased from Airflite Pty Ltd and have been acquired to support safer and more advanced flight training for Cadets. Chester said Airflite has also been awarded a ten-year contract for the provision of maintenance services for the fleet. The aircraft will be based at RAAF Bases Amberley (Queensland), Richmond (New South Wales) and Point Cook (Victoria), but will be regularly deployed to regional areas on weekends and during school holiday periods. Their acquisition was first announced by Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal ‘Leo’ Davies, in October 2018.

Announcement their delivery at Avalon on February 28, 2019, Minister Chester said: “I am pleased to announce the leasing of eight aircraft for exclusive use by the Australian Air Force Cadets. Over the next ten years these aircraft will provide a standardised flight training platform for aspiring young airmen and women, particularly those in regional areas.”

Kiowas for sale at Avalon.

Aussie disposals

The recent recapitalisation of the Australian Defence Force’s aircraft platforms has rendered several types redundant and several recent announcements have reported new homes for a number of aircraft.

Firstly, the initial two F/A-18A Hornets for the Royal Canadian Air Force were flown to Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake in Alberta on February 18, 2019, following their participation in Exercise Red Flag in the United States.

The two aircraft (A21-53 and A21-55) are the vanguard of 18 flyable aircraft purchased by Canada as a stop-gap strategy until a replacement fighter aircraft is selected. An additional seven aircraft are being acquired for spares.

To mark the occasion, Australian Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said: “These jets have served Australia very well and will now continue to make a positive contribution to the air combat capability of one of our closest allies.”

Disposal of former RAAF Pilatus PC-9/As, Army Bell 206B-1 Kiowas and Navy Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawks were also in the public’s view during Avalon 2019, with numerous aircraft in the static display.

Skyline Aviation Group has recently purchased 11 former Royal Australian Navy Seahawks and intends to convert them for firefighting operations. One helicopter (the former N24-016) was displayed in the static park to advertise the helicopter’s capabilities in the firefighting role.

Twenty-two former Army Kiowas and an initial batch of five former RAAF PC-9/As are being disposed of by Frontline Machinery and a number of each were on display at Avalon. The aircraft are the subject of an online auction process conducted by Gray’s Online Auction House.

The PC-9/A is now being replaced by the PC-21 in RAAF service and the Roulettes aerobatic team flew its final display with the older aircraft at Avalon 2019. At least eight of the PC-9/As were flown from Avalon to RAAF Pearce in Western Australia immediately after the show. The fleet will be consolidated at Pearce until the last advanced training course finishes in mid-year and they too will then be replaced by PC-21s. The PC-9/A will continue in service for a short period with the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) at RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia and with 4 Squadron at RAAF Williamtown (NSW).

Finally, Lockheed AP-3C Orion A9-659 was formally handed over to the Australian War Memorial (AWM) at Avalon on February 28, 2019. The aircraft has been stored at the Victorian airport since being retired from service in June 2018, after accruing over 17,000 flying hours.

A9-659 will remain in storage at Avalon until new facilities are constructed in Canberra, home of the AWM, to house the aircraft.

Former RAAF Pilatus PC-9/A A23-059 dismantled and ready for sale at Avalon.
Australian Air Force Cadets’ Diamond DA40 NG VH-UEZ/02 in the static display at Avalon.