Hawk Upgrades

SHAH ALAM: At the recent Singapore Airshow 2016, Finmeccanica announced that it had secured a contract to provide radar warning receiver (RWR) to the Indonesian Air Force. The contract requires the company to install the SEER RWR on the BAE Systems Mk 209 Hawk of the Indonesian Air Force. It also includes an option to supply additional systems in the future.

Back in 2010, it was widely reported that Finmeccanica (then known as Selex Galileo) had expected to receive a contract to equip RMAF Hawks, both the 108s and 208s, with a new radar warning receiver (RWR) system, the SEER.

The SEER installation on the RMAF Hawk as envisioned by Finmeccanica back in 2010. It will be the same configuration if the Hawk upgrades is funded. Finmeccanica.
The SEER installation on the RMAF Hawk as envisioned by Finmeccanica back in 2010. It will be the same configuration if the Hawk upgrades is funded. Finmeccanica.

It was the same RWR as the Indonesian AF contract, which Finmeccanica described as the self-protection equipment that had been designed as a drop-in replacement for BAE’s Sky Guardian 200 RWR system, previously installed on platforms including the Hawk.

RMAF Hawk 208s tail number 36 and 34 in the dispersal shed at Labuan airbase.
RMAF Hawk 208s tail number 36 and 34 in the dispersal shed at Labuan airbase.

According to the release, the company was confident as getting the contract as it had supported flight trials of the new equipment (in 2010) with a Malaysian Hawk. “The RWR met all of the jointly agreed objectives, with Seer being able to detect radars at ranges that were an order of magnitude greater than those achieved by older-generation systems,” the company said at the time.

SEER LRUs and antennas. FInmeccanica.
SEER LRUs and antennas. FInmeccanica.

Comprising four wide band spiral antennas, two digital detectors, a signal processor and a cockpit display, Seer is “capable of identifying and prioritising complex RF signals in a hostile threat environment”, it added.

RMAF Hawk 208 M40-34 taking off during Eks Paradise 2/2015 at Labuan airbase.
RMAF Hawk 208 M40-34 taking off during Eks Paradise 2/2015 at Labuan airbase.

Fast forward to 2016, we know that the Hawk upgrade was not funded in RMK10 and even in RMK11, funding for the programme remained uncertain. By coincidence (ahead of the Finmeccanica announcement of the Indonesian AF contract) at the Singapore Airshow , I spent part of the day talking with industry sources on the Hawk upgrades. Once the announcement was made I knew I had my story already.

Those I spoke to at the airshow were optimistic that the RMAF own Hawk upgrades will be signed at DSA 2016 in April but cautioned the recent economic headwinds may well scuttled the deal – yet again. By all accounts the upgrades planned are limited mostly involving the cockpit displays, HUDs (of course the mission computers will be changed as part of the upgrades) and the RWR.

A RMAF Mk 108 armed with Sidewinders. BAE Systems.
A RMAF Mk 108 armed with Sidewinders. BAE Systems.

It was the same solution that went unfunded in RMK10 so in the current fiscally challenging situation the same thing could repeated. However as the Hawks especially the 208s are currently heavily involved in the operations to ensure the security of Sabah, the bean counters may well be persuaded to release the funds needed for the upgrade programme. Unfortunately, it may well be limited to the 208s only and not across the whole fleet as planned originally.

RMAF Hawk M40-25 which carries the Lahad Datu mission markings.
RMAF Hawk M40-25 which carries the Lahad Datu mission markings.

As had been reported before, RMAF is planning to base a Hawk squadron in Sabah as part of the plan to boost the security of Sabah following the Lahad Datu incursion. At least six Hawks are now based at Labuan airbase together with the occasional rotation of Hornets and Sukhoi squadrons.

RMAF Hawk and Sukhoi at Labuan airbase for Ek Paradise last year.
RMAF Hawk and Sukhoi at Labuan airbase for Ek Paradise last year.

Anyhow even with the limited upgrades, the 208s according to industry sources will get a much needed boost in capability similar to the latest generation Hawks. The upgrades will allow the 208s to carry and fire the new Aim-9X Sidewinders (ordered already) or ASRAAM (not ordered).

Hawk 208s fitted with LAU-51 rocket pods during trials for the FZ rockets last year. FZ
Hawk 208s fitted with LAU-51 rocket pods during trials for the FZ rockets last year. FZ

Apart from air-to-air weapons, the upgraded 208s will also be cleared to carry targeting pods to guide bombs, rockets and missiles like the Brimstone. Of course the guided ordnance could also be “buddy lased” by soldiers on the ground or another aircraft equipped with a targeting pod.

The antenna of the APG-66NZ fitted on the RNZAF A-4 Skyhawks.
The antenna of the APG-66NZ fitted on the RNZAF A-4 Skyhawks.

Unfortunately, unlike the cockpit and RWR upgrades – which had been done by others – replacing the APG-66H radar on 208s will be more problematic. This according to an industry source was due the small nose of the Hawk which will need a specialised solution for an upgrade and could incur higher costs.
The H version has a smaller antenna compared to the radar which was the standard on the F-16A.

RMAF Hawk 208
RMAF Hawk 208

Anyhow there is no need to fund the upgrades for the Hawks if we were to buy the Typhoon as I had posted recently. It will be done FOC.

— Malaysian Defence

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