Fact file: BAE Systems Hawk Mk120


Part of the 1999 Strategic Defence Package, the Hawk Mk120 LIFT was selected over the Czech Aero Vodochody L39/59/139, the German/US Dasa/Boeing Ranger 2000, the Italian Aermacchi MB339 and the Russian MAPO MiG-AT and Russo-Italian Aermacchi/Yakovlev YAK130.

The basic design dates to 1968 when the then-Hawker-Siddeley aircraft company was asked to propose a successor to the Folland Gnat. The design, innovative for its time, was named the Hawk in 1973 and flew in 1974. It entered RAF service in 1976. The Hawk Mk120 LIFT and other “second generation” Hawks (Mks 127 and 128) only have 10% commonality with the original and feature new wings, forward and centre fuselage, fin and tailplane. The new variants are also said to have four times the fatigue life of the original.


BAE Systems Hawk Mk120


Lead-in fighter trainer and light fighter, fighter-attack and reconnaissance aircraft.

Country of origin:

United Kingdom.

First flight:

August 21, 1974.

Delivered to the SAAF:

First two (numbers 2511 and 252) delivered on May 24, 2006. Two delivered per week thereafter until 10 handed over to the SAAF. The remainder delivered by end August 2008, a delay on a mid-2007 figure previously given.

Associated project name(s):



24 (23 assembled in SA, one in UK).


Treasury in 1999 put the figure for the Hawk and Gripen combined at R15.772 billion. In 2007 the figure was for the Hawk was R7.2 billion and in 2008 it was the same. (The Gripen cost was R19.908 billion in the 2008 budget, making for a combined R27.01 billion, a considerable increase over the original figure)


1 pilot with/without navigator or 1 pilot-instructor with 1 pupil.

Major dimensions & weights

  • Wingspan:

  • Length:

  • Height:

  • Wing area:

  • Basic empty weight:

  • Max take-off weight:

  • Max internal fuel:

  • Max external fuel:

  • 9.94m (32ft 7in).

  • 12.43m (40ft 9in).

  • 3.98m (13ft 1in).

  • 16.7m2 (179.64ft).

  • 4.4mt (9700 lbs).

  • 9.1mt (20,062lbs).

  • 1.304mt (2875lbs).

  • 932kg (2055lbs) (2×591 litre tanks).


  • Take-off to clear 15m:

  • Landing from 15m:

  • Rate of climb:

  • Service ceiling:

  • Max operating speed:

  • Max cruise speed:

  • Max range at cruise speed:

  • Combat radius:

  • Stall speed:

  • G-loads:

  • Wing loading:.

  • Thrust:

  • Bypass ratio

  • Thrust/weight ratio:

  • 3597m/min.

  • 12,240m (50,000ft).

  • 575 knots (Mach 1.2, 1063km/h).

  • 3094km (1923 miles).

  • 998km with a 2.268mt war load.

  • 6500lbs

  • 0.8

Engine Specifications

  • Make:

  • Model:

  • Type:

  • Number:

  • Compression ratio:

  • Engine diameter:

  • Engine length:

  • Dry weight:

  • Power turbine rotor speed:

  • Shaft horsepower:

  • Rolls Royce/Turbomeca

  • Adour Mk951

  • Turbofan.

  • 1.

  • 12.2.

  • 22.7inches.

  • 77 inches.

  • 1345lbs.

Hard points:

7 (Centreline, two under each wing, wingtip), maximum load 3.085mt.


  • Bombs:

  • Missiles:

  • Rockets:

  • Cannon:

  • 120kg HE and 250kg HE ballistic bombs.

  • V3D (Denel U-Darter) Infrared-guided short-range air-to-air missile likely, or Diehl-BGT IRIS-T.

  • FZ70 70mm unguided.

  • Pod on centreline.

Other attachments:

  • Reconnaissance pod:

  • External fuel tanks:

  • Can be fitted.

  • 2 x 591 litre tanks.

Industrial partners:

  • Fuselage:

  • Wings:

  • Engine:

  • Tailplane:

  • Air brake:

  • Flaps:

  • Avionics & navigation suite:

  • Radios:

  • Electronic warfare:

  • Identification Friend or Foe:

  • Health & Usage Management Systems:

  • Flight data recorders:

  • Cockpit voice recorders:

  • Flight Test Support:

  • BAE Systems

  • BAE Systems

  • Rolls Royce/Turbomeca Africa

  • Denel

  • Denel

  • Denel

  • Advanced Technologies & Engineering

  • Reutech Defence Industries ACR500 U/VHF

  • Saab (formerly Grintek) Avitronics

  • Tellumat

  • Aerospace Monitoring Systems (Now part of Saab Avitronics)

  • Aerospace Monitoring Systems

  • Aerospace Monitoring Systems

  • Denel Overberg Test Range


Part of the 1999 Strategic Defence Package, the Hawk Mk120 LIFT was selected over the Czech Aero Vodochody L39/59/139, the German/US Dasa/Boeing Ranger 2000, the Italian Aermacchi MB339 and the Russian MAPO MiG-AT and Russo-Italian Aermacchi/Yakovlev YAK130.

The basic design dates to 1968 when the then-Hawker-Siddeley aircraft company was asked to propose a successor to the Folland Gnat. The design, innovative for its time, was named the Hawk in 1973 and flew in 1974. It entered RAF service in 1976. The Hawk Mk120 LIFT and other “second generation” Hawks (Mks 127 and 128) only have 10% commonality with the original and feature new wings, forward and centre fuselage, fin and tailplane. The new variants are also said to have four times the fatigue life of the original.

The South African purchase includes ground based training systems, mission planning and ground support systems, logistical support equipment and in-country support. All 24 LIFTs are dual seat aircraft. They will be optimised for fast-jet training as well as weapon delivery instruction. Judging by publicity materiel, the normal operating speed in SAAF service will probably be 400 knots in a typical training configuration. The Hawk is said to enjoy an exceptionally low maintenance requirement (in 1995 the lowest per flight hour of any jet aircraft in the world) as well as a remarkably low accident rate and outstanding fuel consumption.

Besides modernising the SAAF’s jet trainer capability, the Hawk has also been portrayed as a catalyst for “the reorientation and significant rejuvenation of South Africa’s aerospace and defence industry”2, with several local partners participating as sub-contractors and suppliers to the programme under the Defence Industrial Participation programme emanating from South Africa’s Hawk, Gripen and other defence system acquisitions.

“BAE Systems is thrilled that the Hawk should be the first jet aircraft to be built in the democratic South Africa,” said Mike Rennardson, the Project Director, Hawk South Africa at BAE Systems at the handover ceremony of the first two aircraft on May 24, 2006. “These aircraft represent the labours, capacity and expertise of a new generation of South Africans across industry and government with whom we have enjoyed several years of close collaboration. With Hawk, the training of South Africa’s future fighter pilots is in safe hands and we look forward to supporting the SA Air Force as it operates the aircraft,” he added.

With the exception of South Africa’s initial Hawk (SA 250) flight test and development aircraft3, which was built in the United Kingdom, all of its other Hawks were assembled at Denel’s aircraft factory at Johannesburg International Airport in Kempton Park near Johannesburg, a BAE Systems press release noted.

Under a reciprocal industrial participation agreement, Denel has become the exclusive manufacturer of tailplanes, airbrakes and flaps for the Hawk programme, with these components already being incorporated onto aircraft operated by or being built for South Africa, India, Bahrain and the UK’s Royal Air Force.

“South African systems integrator, Advanced Technologies & Engineering (ATE), has been responsible for the design, development and integration of the Hawk’s combat avionics and navigation suite [aka a navigation and weapons system, NWS], ensuring that the cockpits and systems on South Africa’s Hawks closely resemble those which student fighter pilots will work with when they operate the Gripen fighter,” a BAE Systems briefing note adds.

“This ability to customise the cockpits and systems to match those of various front-line fighters is a feature unique to Hawk and a major factor in its selection as the trainer of choice by 19 customers worldwide,” the note expanded. The NWS was developed under a R500 million (US$73 million) prime avionics subcontract from BAE Systems, the first time that the latter has placed such a contract with a foreign company. Rennardson said the order, when placed in April 2000, was the “biggest ever contract placed on a South African private sector aerospace firm.”

ATE has previous experience in this field, having developed the avionics for the Rooivalk attack helicopter, the Pilatus Astra primary trainer and the NWS and mission computer for the Spanish Air Force’s Mirage F-1 upgrade. The company also modernised a number of Algerian Air Force Mi-24 attack helicopters. ATE’s NWS is a fully configurable “glass cockpit” integrated with an advanced navigation and mission computer system and an `intelligent’ stores management and weapons-delivery system.

The integrated avionics are managed by dual-redundant mission computers developed by ATE, and the system runs on a dual-redundant MIL-STD-1553 databus,” the IDR explained. The aircraft has to date had three software releases. Operational Clearance Software Standard 1 (OC1) was released in June 2006 and allowed the commencement of flight operations on the 5th of that month. OC2 followed in September 2006 and made the Hawk fully operational for fighter-pilot training. OC3 followed in 2007 and allows the aircraft to drop ordnance, as it did during the SA Army’s Exercise Seboka in October 2008.

The September 2006 International Defence Review (IDR) noted that the NWS Stores Management Unit was to be certified to RTCA 178B Level A and the overall operational flight programme and individual hardware items such as the mission computers, displays and audio-management unit to Level B4. ATE has subsequently confirmed that this has taken place.

“A particular feature of the Hawk Mk 120 NWS is its radar-simulation function,” the IDR said. “This approach was selected as the most cost-effective way to provide in-flight radar training, which is vastly cheaper than installing and maintaining a suitable radar in the LIFT or conducting that training on the Gripen itself. The radar simulation will be used to give future Gripen pilots their initial training in the use of radar in air-to-air combat, and has been designed to give the trainees a close approximation of the capabilities and data that will be provided in that role by the Gripen’s actual Ericsson PS-05/A radar.”

ATE explains that the radar simulation air-to-air target generation has two modes: Virtual formations can be generated within the system itself and simulated as radar targets. This function allows for single-aircraft radar simulation exercises. Secondly, up to eight co-operating aircraft can acquire each other as radar targets through Link ZA, a digital network protocol that uses one of the Hawk’s three Reutech Defence Industries ACR500 U/VHF radios and is managed by an ATE-developed audio-management system.. Link ZA ensures that every aircraft continuously transfers positional data to every other. This data is then processed by the mission computer on the co-operating aircraft in the network to render a real-time radar page.

Displayable on any of the six multi-function displays (MFDs) in the LIFT’s tandem glass cockpit, the radar page provides the pilot with radar target information, as if the aircraft were fitted with a real fire control radar system.

Link ZA was developed by Thales Advanced Engineering5, a South African company that should not be confused with Thales, the French defence multinational. The British publication further adds that the ersatz6 radar uses a range-while-scan format as primary mode and a single target track of the highest priority target as a secondary mode. “The pilot can also select up to five priority targets,” the IDR said. “The display will provide action volumes for both an intercept missile and a self-defence missile. Radar targets may also be acquired by searching the HUD [head-up display] field of view, with four radar combat modes available: HUD Search, HUD Slewable Box, HUD Boresight and HUD Vertical Scan.”

The Radar Simulation System was tested at the SAAF’s Test Flight Development Centre, located near Bredasdorp in the Western Cape in early 2006. Initial results indicated that the system was extremely stable up to ranges well outside the required specification. “The test pilot stated that the tracked radar targets were displayed with acceptable accuracy in the HUD,” ATE said in a report on the tests. “The RF data-link was tested down to ranges of 200 meters and performed extremely well at close range. All parties involved in the flight-testing were extremely impressed with the performance of the radar simulation, in particular BAE Systems the prime contractor, who stated that the LIFT Radar Simulation System surpassed all existing radar simulations systems in performance and function in existence on their aircraft.”

The primary objective of the 2006 flight tests was to check the stability and robustness of the RF datalink between two networked aircraft. Flight-testing included monitoring the RF datalink stability for non-manoeuvring aircraft and for manoeuvring aircraft.

“The navigation element of the NWS combines a laser-gyro inertial navigation system with a GPS unit to achieve an optimal mix of accuracy (GPS) and continuity (INS),” the IDR added. “It provides the pilot with steering, time and fuel guidance. That can be in relation to a pre-planned mission downloaded by means of a portable data store, in relation to routes planned in flight or in relation to points selected by the pilot. The portable data store can also be used for post-mission avionic data downloading for debriefing and analysis purposes. The NWS includes an integral photo-reconnaissance function.

The Hawk features a Saab Avitronics electronic-warfare system, comprising a radar-warning receiver (RWR) and a countermeasures dispenser subsystem. “It has been developed on the basis of the multisensor system developed for the SAAF’s fighters, and can later be expanded or upgraded if that is required,” the IDR added.

The communications system is fully redundant with three ACR 500 radios, as previously noted, and can be used for voice and data communications and relay, “telebriefing” and as hardware host for Link ZA. “The audio-management system also provides an intercom function, the ground-crew interface and various caution and warning functions, and manages aspects of the radio navigation function (TACAN, VOR, ILS),” the IDR said.

Other system elements include:
• a Selex Sensor and Airborne Systems forward-looking infrared (FLIR) system, incorporating a camera developed jointly with Denel;|
• a laser rangefinder;
• a Tellumat PT-2000 IFF (identification friend-or-foe)/Mode S transponder and crypto unit;
• crew actions, flight parameters, events and configuration logging;
• time-stamped HUD video and cockpit audio and voice recording;

• system status monitoring providing real-time recording of system failures and of avionics and aircraft system events, which can be displayed on an MFD and recorded for later retrieval. Both this health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) and the cockpit voice recorders were developed by Aerospace Monitoring Systems (AMS), now part of Saab Avitronics.

“The AMS-designed cockpit voice recorders, flight data recorders and HUMS are offered as standard on all new Hawks. They are already fitted to the Australian Hawk fleet and those operated by the NATO Flight Training Centre in Canada,” the IDR continued.

Gripen and Hawk pilots will be trained at a Centralised Training Centre (CTC) at AFB Makhado also established under Project Winchester and handed over to the SAAF in late 2005.7 “As the ‘Fighter Centre of Excellence’ of the SA Air Force, it is appropriate that Makhado Air Force Base provides the teaching and learning environment to match the intricacies of the aircraft systems,” the SA Soldier enthused in its November 2005 edition.

In keeping with the latest pedagogic principles, the CTC provides a comprehensive computer based instruction system (CBIS) and a Virtual Aircraft Training System (VATS) for ground and aircrews at 85 Combat Flying School. “While the CBIS provides basic and advanced knowledge of aircraft systems for aircrew using instructor lead and self-paced learning strategies, an Integrated Training Management System (ITMS) manages student activities and provides access to student records,” SA Soldier added.

“…VATS provides students with the capability to practice the operation, maintenance and diagnosis of faults in complex aircraft systems,” SA Soldier continued. “The training device responds in exactly the same manner as the real aircraft in normal and fault modes, allowing for the free-flow execution of maintenance procedures and fault diagnostic training.

“VATS is designed to reinforce and consolidate the knowledge gained through the CBIS courses by facilitating the ‘practical’ experience of interacting with the aircraft and its systems in a benign, glass screen environment. The VATS courseware is accessed through the same high-resolution twin-screen units of the CBIS classrooms, the student interacting via mouse and stick and throttle units.”

The Operational Flight Trainer soft- and hardware was developed by BAE Systems Australia and installed by ThoroughTec. Pilots have to fly the Hawk about 430 hours and pass a number of courses before graduating to the Saab Gripen.

1 Number 250 is the test platform. See below.

2 BAE Systems News Release, BAE Systems Delivers First Hawk Mk120 Lead-In Fighter Trainers To South Africa, Ref SA 1/05/06, May 24, 2005.

3 A fully instrumented test aircraft that will spend its life at the SAAF’s Test Flight and Development Centre in the southern Cape, near Bredasdorp.

4 Helmoed-Römer Heitman, Jane’s International Defence Review, Hawk software release will open flight path for South African Air Force’s Gripen training, September 2006, p24, as reprinted at www.saairforce.co.za

5 The company has since changed its name to Protoclea and sold the division that developed Link ZA to Saab Grintek.

6 Ersatz – German, meaning “replacement”, not “instant” as often stated.

7 Flight Sgt H. Denkewitz, New facilities for the Hawk and Gripen, SA Soldier, November 2005.