An élite unit made up by nine pilots currently flying BAE Hawk advanced jet trainers, the Scampton based Red Arrows are the aerobatics team of the Royal Air Force, having made hitherto more than 4,700 air exhibitions all over the world in 56 countries throughout its 52 years of existence.
Originally, it included seven pilots who flew the Folland Gnat T1 jet trainer within the first team led by Squadron Leader Lee Jones in 1965, until 1968 when the then team leader Ray Hanna increased the team from seven to nine jets aiming at expanding the Red Arrows capabilities, and eleven years later, in 1979, the Folland Gnats were superseded by the BAE Hawk aircraft.
The Red Arrows pilots are volunteers and they´re asked in advance to have fulfilled one or more operational tours on fast jets such as Panavia Tornado, Hawker Siddeley Harrier or Eurofighter Typhoon and having amassed a minimum of 1,500 flight hours, as well as having proved their excellence and skills reaching a very high standard.
Moreover, there´s a highly experienced and knowledgeable engineering team, known as " The Blues ", consisting of 85 persons technically supporting the Red Arrows in an individual way (to such an extent that each one of the nine members of the Blues chosen every season only works with one airplane and pilot), regarding maintenance and overhaul of each aircraft, tuning up of the Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Mk. 951 turbofan with FADEC engines of the BAE Hawk jet trainers and so forth.
Along with the Dassault Dornier Alpha Jet, the CASA C-101 Aviojet and the Aermacchi MB-339, the two-seat BAE Hawk T1 belongs to the extraordinary and very beayitifully designed generation of advanced jet trainers launched into market during the second half of seventies and whose quality and reliability makes that roughly forty years after their introduction a significant percentage of them are still in service within a number of worldwide air forces.
The BAE Hawk T1 went on the market in 1976, features a length of 11.9 m, a wingspan of 9.4 m, height of 4 m and is able to reach a top speed of 1,482 km/h, being driven by a Rolls-Royce Adour turbofan engine delivering a thrust of 5,200 lbf.
Its maximum take-off weight is 5,700 kg, with a service ceiling of 14630 m and a range of 1852 km.
It was specifically designed for advanced training with high maneouvrability and boasts high agility and ability for aerobatics, particularly during rolls and turns, as well as having shown throughout decades a very high level of security in flight, side for which it was optimized thanks to a close collaboration between Hawker and Rolls-Royce, a symbiosis which also resulted in a remarkable reduction in fuel consumption and the subsequent energetic efficiency, it all being complemented by the fact that the aircraft sports two Martin-Baker Mk 10B zero-zero rocket-assisted ejection seats.
Its airframe is exceedingly resistant and able to endure +9G.
The BAE Hawk T1 aircraft used by the Red Arrows in their exhibitions are very similar to the BAE Hawk T2 flown by the pupils in advanced training stage at the RAF base in the Island of Anglesey (Wales), but with the added bonus of an updated and slightly more powerful engine enabling the pilots to get faster response times, together with a smoke generating system which pumps a mixture of diesel and adequately coloured dye into the airplane exhaust pipe to yield the vapour trails of different tonalities greatly relished by the audiences.
Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. Farnborough International Airshow (England).
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