Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2006-05-25 Reporter: Sapa

SA Gets Its First Two Hawk Jet Trainers



Business Day

Date 2006-05-25




The South African air force took delivery of its first two Hawk Mark 120 lead-in fighter trainers yesterday. They will be used to train pilots how to fly the new jets that the South African National Defence Force has bought in the multibillion-rand arms deal.

Air force acquisitions chief Brig-Gen Phillip Willcock said the aircraft would be used to prepare and teach fighter pilots to handle complicated dogfight and other manoeuvres while using the Hawk's weapons.

Pilots had to fly the Hawk for about 300 hours and pass a number of courses before graduating to the Saab Gripen, the advanced fighter the air force will receive from 2008. The Hawk has a cockpit similar to the Gripen's. In many ways, it performs that same functions, but at a lower cost.

The air force will receive another two Hawk aircraft next week from Denel and BAE Systems and others every week until all 10 are delivered. The aircraft's fuselage and wings are imported from Britain, while the tail assembly and an airbrake are locally built. These parts are integrated and the fighters assembled at Denel's aircraft factory, next to the Johannesburg International Airport.

All 24 Hawks, ordered in 1999, will be delivered by late next year.

Speaking at a delivery ceremony at the factory, BAE Systems' Hawk manager Mike Rennardson said that in taking delivery of the two aircraft, SA joined 19 other countries that had chosen the Hawk to train their fighter pilots.

"Some significant progress has been made on the programme. The first aircraft have been completed, inspected by the air force and Armscor, and will be delivered to their new home at the Makhado air force base (formerly Louis Trichardt)."

With acknowledgement to Sapa and Business Day.