The South African Air Force could dedicate some of its BAE Systems Mk120 Hawk aircraft to operational, rather than training duties, says Air Force chief Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano.
Twenty four of the type is now serving with 85 Combat Flying School at Air Force Base Makhado in Limpopo province.
“You have to agree with me that it would be short-sighted to use an aircraft with the capability of the Hawk just for training.
“So we will definitely, once the project is complete, see how we can optimise the aircraft, not at huge cost, but with different application, and use the aircraft operationally as well.”
The Hawk was acquired under the programme name “Project Winchester” for R7.2 billion as part of the 1999 Strategic Defence Package. Deliveries of the doughty fighter-trainer ended earlier this year.
Gagiano says plans for an operational Hawk are still in the early stages. “It is possible that we will split [the fleet] because having your operational and training fleet [together] is not a good thing… idea.”
He says some of the aircraft may in time be allocated to an operational squadron at Makhado, the SAAF`s “centre of fighter excellence,” and home to 2 Squadron that operates the Saab JAS39 C & D Gripen as well as 3 Air Servicing Unit, the organisation responsible for Hawk and Gripen maintenance.
“But at the moment we still have to do some growing to accommodate that,” Gagiano says.