AeroResource’s Mark Forest and Paul Newbold get up close with the T-45 “Goshawks” of Training Air Wing two (TAW-2) at NAS Kingsville Texas and visit the heritage park on base.
History and Design
The McDonnell Douglas/Boeing T-45 Goshawk is based on the BAe Systems Hawk . This navalised and highly modified variant of the Hawk Mk.60 began service with the United States Navy (USN) and United States Marine Corps (USMC) in 1991. During the late 1970s the USN found itself looking for an alternative to replace its aging fleet of Rockwell T-2C “Buckeyes” and Douglas TA-4J “Skyhawk II” Jet trainers. In 1978,the Navy launched the VTX-TS (heavier than air Training aircraft Experimental Training System) program to find the modernized advanced carrier based type the sorely needed. An alliance was formed between British Aerospace (BAe) and McDonnell Douglas (who had already cooperated on the AV-8 program) to form a development aircraft for the Navy. On the 18th November 1981 the contract was awarded for the joint venture and the basic Hawk airframe was to be used, its designation was T-45. The prime contractor was McDonnell Douglas Corporation, whilst BAe Systems would be responsible for the airframe, and Rolls Royce for the engines. This was an unusual development for US procurement, which historically would always pick an indigenous company to fulfil requirements. Full scale development began in 1984 with four pre-production test models of the T-45.
For the airframe to withstand the the intensive forces transmitted by repeated carrier landings (and perhaps even substandard landings, given it would be student pilots flying, on their first introduction to a carrier) many structural alterations were required to the basic Hawk airframe to allow it to survive in service. Reinforcements of the fuselage were neccesaryfor the tail arrestor hook and catapult provision, the typically minimalist landing gear was also heavily revised to a heavier variant capable of connecting to a steam catapult launch, as well as a deeper forward fuselage, required in part to hold the larger landing gear, but also to provide enhanced fields of view for the rear cockpit (US naval trainers have a higher viewing angle requirement than US Air Force trainers). Improvements were also made in the aircraft’s low speed handling capabilities with twin lateral perforated airbrakes on either side of the rear fuselage for the slow approach needed to land aboard an aircraft carrier. Following seven years of modifications the first flight of the USN Hawk took place on 16th April 1988. On the 16th December 1991 the first production T-45A aircraft flew, leading up to the 23rd January 1992 when the newly named “Goshawk” was handed over to the USN. Shortly after the hand over the T-45A Goshawks started to join their first active unit – Training Squadron Two One (VT-21) based at NAS Kingsville Texas. During early February 1994 the first student flew a T-45A and the first graduation class to earn its wings passed through the unit in October 1994.
Production components for this joint Anglo-American venture were made in the facilities both in the UK and in the USA. Wings, main fuselage structure, intakes and tail fin were made at BAe Brough, BAe Samlesbury and Hamble Aerostructures UK, with the tailplanes, wings, cockpit and nose assembly at Boeing Military St Louis Missouri. Even during full production of the T-45A testing and modifications continued to ensure the latest technology could be incorporated into training. Indeed, one production aircraft (Bureau Number 163635) was fitted with an experimental digital glass cockpit, which involved most of the dials on the instrument panel being replaced by two multi-function displays (MFDs), additional avionics included a MIL-STD-1553B databus, Litton ring laser gyro INS and a Rockwell Collins GPS. During mid-March 1994, 163635 began flight trials with its new upgrades. Following successful testing the new upgrades were added to production line aircraft 73 (Bu. No 165081) and from this aircraft onwards the aircraft were designated T-45C. It was expected that all production T-45A models would be retrofitted to the C model standard by 2007.
A total of 236 aircraft were built:
1 x Fatigue testing 1984
1 x Drop testing 1984
2 x Pre production A model 1986-1988
2 x Test models A model 1988-1990
72 x Production A model 1990-1997
158 x Production C model 1997-2007
As per most military training aircraft the seating is arranged in a tandem formation with the student at the front and the instructor at the rear. A forward set cockpit providing the pilot/student with excellent visibility over the nose and either sides of the aircraft, the instructor also has a commanding view of the student with his elevated position behind. The training syllabus for student flying with Training Squadron Two-Two (VT-22) (stats from VT-22 website) consists of 131 sorties over a 162.1 flight hours course During these sorties all USN and USMC aviators will be required to learn all aspects of flight training, which include air combat manoeuvring, air to ground mission employment and (not surprisingly) landing on aircraft carriers – also known as carrier qualifications. This intense program will take a students that arrive from the T-6B and T-34B with only the basic aeronautical abilities and turn them into newly winged aviators, who will then move on to the Fleet Replacement Squadrons (FRS). From there, they will continue to be trained in front line aircraft preparing them for combat ready situations. For an instructor with the same unit he/she will fly at least 10 sorties per week and average between 300-400 flight hours per year. The T-45s are permanently based ashore but flown out to carriers for the student’s carrier qualifications, constantly landing and taking off from the flight deck. At present the T-45s average over 60 flight hours per month which is higher than any other airframe in the Fleet and also one of the highest utilisation rates around the world.
Training Bases and Squadrons
Naval Air Station Meridian Mississippi
Training Air Wing 1 (TAW-1)
Training Squadron Seven (VT-7) “Eagles” T-45C
Training Squadron Nine (VT-9) “Tigers” T-45C
Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville Texas
Training Air Wing 2 (TAW-2)
Training Squadron Two One (VT-21) “Fighting Red Hawks” T-45A/C
Training Squadron Two-Two (VT-22) “Golden Eagles” T-45A/C
Length : 39ft 3” (11.97 m)
Height : 14ft (4.27 m)
Wing span : 30ft 9” (9.39 m)
Empty: 9,399 Ib (4,263 kg)
Maximum take-off: 12,750 Ib (5,783 kg)
Rolls Royce/Turbomeca F405-RR-401 non afterburning turbofan 5,845 Ib of thrust
Max speed clean 625mph (997 kph) at 8,000ft (2,440m)
Max climb at sea level 6,982 ft/min (2,128m/min)
Service ceiling: 42,250 ft (12,875 m)
Ferry range internal fuel only 1,000 nm (1,853 km)
Endurance 3hr 10mins
One hard point under each wing for carriage of drop tanks, rocket pods or practice bombs
One under fuselage centre pylon for crew equipment storage pod, or for weapons training role
AeroResource would like to thank the USN Public Affairs Team and especially Lt John Supple for the friendly and relaxed tour around the Base also Ian French, John Astley who help to plan and organise the visit behind the scenes.