Here’s an excerpt from the ‘Lincoln Advertiser’ that may be of interest:
Red Arrows to Relinquish Hawks
As a result of a shortage of training aircraft, the Royal Air Force’s aerobatic team, The Red Arrows, are likely to give up their Hawk aircraft at the end of this year. The Red Arrows, based locally at RAF Cranwell, fly nine red-painted Hawks at air displays throughout the country. Many of the RAF’s fleet of Hawk aircraft are currently suffering from a gradual structural weakening, known as fatigue, due to age and the stresses induced during pilot training. The Hawk aircraft were originally built by British Aerospace in the 1970s, and each aircraft will now have to be rebuilt by the manufacturer, a process that takes several months. Taking several aircraft out of service at a time will cause a severe reduction in the number of Hawks available for pilot training. The RAF is thus planning to send the Hawks presently flown by the Red Arrows to training units, to replace those temporarily withdrawn for rebuild. The Red Arrows will continue flying, but with a new aircraft type.
The aircraft type that will replace the Hawk has not yet been officially announced. Potential contenders are the propeller driven Shorts Tucano trainer, already flown by the RAF, or the Franco-German Alpha Jet, which is similar to the Hawk and there are a number in storage with the French and German air forces. However, sources at Cranwell indicate that another all-British type is the current favourite, the Gnat. The Red Arrows flew Gnat trainers between 1965 and 1979 and made the diminutive trainer famous. After their retirement in 1980, the RAF sold off it’s Gnats to enthusiasts and private collectors, and many are still flying today. Sources indicate that the RAF is currently negotiating with a number of private owners to lease ten Gnats for the 2000 and 2001 display seasons. Apart from repainting in Red Arrows colours the aircraft shouldn’t need any extra work – they are already equipped with smoke generators for example. The RAF was reportedly impressed by the condition of the Gnats it has inspected so far.
While the contractual aspects are still waiting to be finalised, Red Arrows team members are excited by the possibility of displaying the famous British trainer to the public next year, and they are likely to be the highlight of the Farnborough 2000 Millennium Airshow. When contacted, an official spokesperson for the Red Arrows, F/O O.L. April, was unable to comment on the report.