The British Aerospace Hawk 200 was designed as a light attack fighter jet designed for export markets and as a trainer jet.
During the 1980s and then in the 1990s a new generation of fighter aircraft appeared on the market, they are known under the English term lead-in fighter. They are in fact jet trainers modified into single-seaters to become light fighters or low-cost attack aircraft. One of the first aircraft of this type, and undoubtedly one of the most successful, is the British Aerospace Hawk 200.
In 1984, British Aerospace engineers began to study the feasibility of a single-seat version of the Hawk advanced trainer jet. In fact, they wanted to apply the recipe that had made the Aermacchi MB-326 an air support and ground reconnaissance aircraft in the form of the MB-326K. However, the British aircraft manufacturer’s teams also wanted their future machine to be able to carry out fighter and interception missions.
In 1985, the Ministry of Defence decided to support the program and placed an order for a prototype, both for flight testing and for promotion in foreign markets. It was officially named British Aerospace Hawk 200. Development was based on a production Hawk taken from Royal Air Force stocks.
Externally, there is little to distinguish the Hawk 200 from the training Hawk, except of course for the single-seat cockpit. However, the fuselage has been shortened by about sixty centimeters and the nose redesigned to accommodate the American-made AN/APG-66H radar, a version derived from the one fitted to the General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcon fighter or the North American T-39N Sabreliner advanced trainer. The Hawk 200’s avionics include a head-up display, multi-function displays, and a joystick-type mini-handle. The pilot sits on a Martin Baker type 10L zero-zero ejection seat. The aircraft’s armament consists of a 25mm Aden gun mounted in a pod under the fuselage and has the capacity to fire several types of air-to-air missiles (AIM-9 Sidewinder, Magic, Sea Eagle, and Sky Flash), air-to-ground weapons (AGM-65 Maverick and AS-37 Martel missiles, Beluga bombs, smooth bombs, and rocket baskets) as well as some anti-ship missiles.
It is in this configuration that the first flight of this prototype took place on 19 May 1986. From that moment on, the Hawk 200 revealed good intrinsic qualities. However during a test flight on July 2, 1986 the plane was lost, the pilot succeeded however in ejecting. A second prototype was assembled, ab-initio this time. The tests could be resumed as of April 1987. They allowed in particular to check the capacities of carrying and shooting of the various weapons. During a test campaign carried out in the United States, it even had the luxury of shooting down a North American QF-86H, a target drone version of the famous Cold War fighter. This operation allowed to verify that the use of Sidewinder missiles was not only a commercial argument.
In June 1987, this second prototype was officially presented at Le Bourget. It caused a sensation. So much so that the manufacturer received a firm order for eight aircraft from the Sultanate of Oman. The first examples were delivered in 1993 under the designation Hawk 203. Later orders were placed by Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and the Sultanate of Brunei. However, the four aircraft acquired by this country were never delivered, following a diplomatic dispute between the latter and the United Kingdom. They were handed over to the Royal Air Force of Oman in 1994.
The most important user is however Indonesia. The thirty-two examples in question entered service in 1995 with an anti-ship and anti-tank missile capability. In 2009, the fourteen examples still in service were transformed to allow the carriage and firing of American GBU-12 laser-guided bombs.
Finally the assembly line was closed in the mid-1990s. As the first true lead-in fighter, the British Aerospace Hawk 200 was not entirely successful.
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