Hawk production under way in South Africa

2nd July 2004 By: Keith Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The first BAE Systems Hawk lead-in fighter-trainers for the South African Air Force (SAAF) are now moving down the production line at Denel Aviation’s plant at Johannesburg International Airport.

“Four Hawks are on the Denel production line, at various stages of completion,” reports BAE Systems Executive VP for South Africa Jonathan Walton.

(The very first Hawk for the SAAF, which was built in the UK, is currently undertaking a flight-test programme at the Test Flight and Development Centre at Bredasdorp, in the Western Cape.) “The production line at Denel is very good, while the arrival of the Hawk kits from the UK is actually slightly ahead of schedule,” he reveals.

“The BAE and Denel teams are cooperating very well,” he states.

Not that Denel is merely assembling kits supplied from Britain.

The State-owned South African company is also manufacturing com-ponents for the Hawk, and not just for those destined for the SAAF.

“Denel is producing tailplanes, flaps and airbrakes and, as our relationship with them develops, we’d like to think that it will produce more Hawk com-ponents for us,” assures Walton.

And, as the Hawk is expected to remain in production for at least another decade, that could mean years of work ahead for the local company.

“On the back of two big orders for the Hawk – 66 for India and up to 44 for the UK – we’ve entered into a non-binding memorandum of understanding which will produce additional work for Denel,” he points out.

“This will be a significant boost for Hawk work in Denel,” he adds.

One task that needs to be undertaken rapidly is the production of a new set of tooling, such as jigs and frames, for the manufacture of the new aircraft.

“We’re working with Denel to have it produce some of them,” says Walton.

“This follows our positive experience with Denel in producing some tooling for the Eurofighter,” he explains.

“Production of tooling requires a high standard of engineering, and Denel is highly capable in this area,” he elucidates.

Not that Denel is the only South African company to produce parts of the Hawk. Private-sector AMS makes the Health and Usage Monitoring System (better known as Hums) for the aircraft.

Originally selected for the SAAF Hawks, AMS’s Hums so impressed BAE Systems that it has been adopted as the ‘standard fit’ for all new production Hawks: customers must explicity specify that they do not want the South African system, otherwise they get it.

In addition to the production of the Hawk, there is need to support the aircraft once in service and, in due course, to upgrade it.

“We are required to use South African industry as much as pos-sible for these tasks, and support of the SAAF Hawks will have three elements: an SAAF element, a local industry element, and the original-equipment manufacturer element,” discloses Walton.

The Hawks and their systems do have a guarantee period, but experience here and abroad indicates that the aircraft will remain in service for years, even decades, after the guarantees have expired.

“Eventually, the support of the aircraft will be bigger business than the original acquisition,” he states.

“But we’re just beginning to look at this,” concludes Walton.