Since ordering the BAE Systems Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter (LIF) in June 1997, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has undergone some major changes to its combat aircraft fleets. These changes have seen a transition from the F/A-18A/B Hornet to the F/A-18F Super Hornet, E/A-18G Growler and from later this year, to the F-35 Lightning II.
In preparation for these new combat aircraft, the RAAF decided to upgrade its fleet of 33 Hawk 127 LIF aircraft to close the technology gap between the trainer and its new modern frontline aircraft.
“In essence, the LIFCAP project was designed to address obsolescence, enhance safety and maintain or increase [training] output,” said Group Captain Chris Hake, Officer Commanding 78 Wing.
Awarded to BAE Systems Australia in 2014, Project Air 5438 LIF Capability Assurance Programme (LIFCAP) has not only provided enhanced capabilities to the aircraft but also added three CAE Full Mission Simulators (FMS) and sees the integration of Cubic Defense’s P5 Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) live training system.
The third major element of the LIFCAP upgrade is the creation of an Operational Support System (OSS) that provides a mission planning tool as well as a mission and ACMI debriefing capability.
A joint team of BAE Systems and RAAF technicians has already completed the upgrade of 20 of the 33 Hawk 127 aircraft at BAE Australia’s engineering facility at RAAF Base Williamtown. “The time taken for each upgrade is around 15 weeks and all aircraft will have been completed in early 2019,” explained Nick Rawlings, BAE Systems Australia operations manager at Williamtown.
The RAAF has two Hawk 127 squadrons; 79 Squadron located at RAAF Base Pearce undertakes type conversion and then pilots are sent to Williamtown to undertake the Introductory Fighter Course (IFC) with 76 Squadron.
In terms of major aircraft modifications, the LIFCAP upgrade adds a Traffic Collision and Avoidance System (TCAS), Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS), a new mission computer, a Mission Data Loading and Recording System (MDLRS), a new IFF system, Communications Audio Management Unit (CAMU) and datalink.
The latter enables the aircraft to undertake embedded training through the use of simulated radar, weapons and counter-measures systems.
One FMS is located at RAAF Base Pearce and the remaining two, at Williamtown. The devices feature CAE’s Medallion 6000 image generator and Boeing’s Constant Resolution Visual System (CRVS) display.
by Trevor Nash