BAE Systems Australia has completed the upgrade of the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) Hawk Mk127 advanced trainer aircraft fleet.

The company commenced the capability upgrade work on the last aircraft at its Williamtown maintenance facility in October.

The development marks the conclusion of the RAAF’s strategically important lead-in fighter capability assurance programme.

Engineers in the UK and Australia, as well as RAAF technicians, have been involved in the upgrade of the 33 aircraft since 2014. Other partners include CAE and Cubic Defence Applications.

BAE Systems Australia chief executive Gabby Costigan said: “With this extremely capable upgraded Hawk aircraft, the RAAF has a world-class lead-in fighter that is ready to deliver high calibre pilots for the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.

“The work undertaken on these aircraft demonstrates the important sovereign capability that we have developed in Australia and which will underpin our sustainment of the F-35 aircraft.”

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“Additionally, the upgraded aircraft can be used to prepare qualified pilots for the next generation of fighter jets, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

Completion of the Hawk fleet upgrade offers new training capabilities, including simulated radar, electronic warfare, digital mapping, ground proximity warning system and traffic collision avoidance to RAAF.

The Hawk Mk127 fleet has been an integral part of the RAAF’s fast jet training system since 2001 and is operated by 76 and 79 squadrons at Williamtown and Pearce bases.

Over the years, the fleet has delivered trained aircrew to operate combat aircraft such as F/A-18 A/B Classic Hornets, F/A-18F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers.

Additionally, the upgraded aircraft can be used to prepare qualified pilots for the next generation of fighter jets, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Australia Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said: “Completion of the aircraft modification programme means the lead-in fighter training capability is well positioned to support airforce’s fast-jet pilots for transition to the next generation of fighter aircraft including the Joint Strike Fighter, Super Hornet and Growler capabilities.”

Last month, BAE Systems was awarded a contract extension to continue to sustain the RAAF Hawk fleet until at least 2022.