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Anticipated fatigue life of RAAF's Hawk lead-in fighter trainers extended to late 2040s

A major structural test programme has subjected a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Hawk BAE Systems Hawk Mk127 lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) to the equivalent of 50,000 ‘flying’ hours: more than 10 times the actual flying hours currently accrued by most of the RAAF’s 33-strong Hawk fleet.

Based on current usage, the fatigue life remaining in the Hawk airframe would allow the aircraft to continue operations well into the late 2040s, BAE Systems Australia pointed out in a 10 August statement.

The statement follows the 31 July deadline for responses to a request for information (RFI) issued by the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) that could lead to the replacement of the Hawks in RAAF service under Project Air 6002 Phase 1. The type entered service with the RAAF in 2001.

A RAAF Hawk Mk127 LIFT aircraft. (BAE Systems)

A RAAF Hawk Mk127 LIFT aircraft. (BAE Systems)

The test programme involved a Hawk airframe being subjected since 2006 to 14 years of fatigue testing under a joint activity with the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group in Melbourne, said BAE Systems.

While the RAAF’s Hawks have a planned fatigue life of 10,000 hours each, the tested airframe was subjected for 50,000 hours to the range of loads that it would experience in actual flight, based on projected operational requirements.


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