British firm Aeralis to win deal to build replacement for RAF Red Arrows Hawk T1 Trainers

The decision has been made to fund 12 new aircraft – nine for the Red Arrows and three operational spares.

British firm Aeralis is almost certain to win a contract to replace the Red Arrows’ ageing Hawk T1 trainers. The Royal Air Force (RAF) aerobatic display team have been using the Hawk T1 for more than 40 years to perform in almost 5,000 public displays at home and abroad.

The decision has been made to fund 12 new aircraft – nine for the team and three operational spares.

As reported by the Daily Express, on Sep. 11, 2021 an RAF source said: “The Red Arrows promote British industry and the plane needs to be made in the UK. Aeralis will design, develop and deliver the Hawk T1 replacement.

“Though officially the order date is being played down, given that it will take at least 5 years or longer before the plane is in operational service, there’s an acute awareness that the decision has to be made soon.

“An announcement is pending and will be made before Christmas.”

The variants have the same fuselage, but by fitting different engines and wings it can be transformed

Though the company would not confirm the news, a spokesman said: “Obviously with the retirement date being announced for the Hawk T1 there is speculation around how that important UK capability is preserved and that Aeralis is the only prospect of a British successor. The RAF has publicly said it doesn’t need to make a decision yet; we continue to ensure they are fully aware of the options we can provide.”

As already reported, in March the ‘Defence in a Competitive Age‘, the Defence Command Paper axed the RAF entire fleet of 76 Hawk T1 trainer aircraft, leaving only 28 Hawk aircraft in British service, the T2 variant.

No. 100 Squadron flies Hawk T1 jets in the aggressor role and the Red Arrows use the T1 as display aircraft. Although the famous aerobatic team has been saved from the axe concerns about the safety of the aircraft have forced senior staff to push ahead with replacing the planes.

Last February Aeralis, which has already designed the first British jet-fighter since the 1970s, announced that has been awarded a three-year research and development contract with the RAF.

The Royal Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) will support the requirements and design review process to gain an understanding of how AERALIS defines the ways in which agile, modular, commercially-driven aircraft design can develop and certify a broad range of future aircraft systems that could support the RAF’s ambition to rationalise its future fleet.

Aeralis is building five variants of the aircraft, the first of which has completed phase one and phase two development and is due to fly in 2024.

In February the Royal Air Force backed the British firm to develop a new aircraft that could be converted from basic trainer to aggressive fighter by swapping engines and wings

The new aircraft that could be converted from basic trainer to aggressive fighter by swapping engines and wings earlier this year.

The unique modular system means that each variant will share a common core fuselage and avionics, but everything else, from the tail to the wings and engines, can be customised to suit the client.

“Aeralis is focused on re-inventing how future military aircraft are developed and operated, and we’re delighted to help set the pace and vision for future RAF systems with the Rapid Capabilities Office.,” said Tristan Crawford, Aeralis Chief Executive Officer. “As well as helping to enable rapid, digitally-driven development and the certification of flexible, open-architecture aircraft systems, this supports UK prosperity and the Government goal to champion British innovation. We are creating a significant export and global relationship development opportunity for the UK.”

Air Marshal Richard Knighton, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, commented, “I’m delighted to hear of the RCO contract with Aeralis. This private aircraft company is adopting an innovative approach that I have not seen before in the combat air sector. Its ingenious and innovative use of modularity, together with applying lessons learnt from the commercial sector offers the potential to break the capability cost curve that has dogged military fast jet programmes for many generations. The design philosophy could be disruptive, providing a means to improve international competitiveness and shift away from expensive bespoke platforms.”

This year Aeralis said the flexible design for the new aircraft could allow RAF training teams to have fewer aircraft available

Photo credit: Aeralis

For more interesting news and info about RAF Red Arrows check out Aerobatic Display Teams website

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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