First Flight of Hawk Mk 66 with Upgraded Cockpit
(Source: Finnish Air Force; issued May 6, 2011)

The Finnish Air Force is making good progress with the service introduction of its ex-Swiss BAE Systems Hawk 66 jet trainers. A red-and-white Hawk with a new glass cockpit fitted in Finland made its first flight on Thursday 5 May.

On the first flight from the Finnish Air Force Flight Test Center's base at Halli, the crew verified that the aircraft had safe flight characteristics and checked the engine and other systems for normal operation. Airborne time was 1 hour and 1 minute.

The aircraft's original Swiss tail number U-1267 had been replaced by the Finnish military registration HW-374. The aircraft was purchased from Switzerland in 2007 in conjunction with seventeen other pre-owned Hawk Mk 66s. The Finnish Air Force has operated the Mk 51 and Mk 51A versions of the Hawk since 1980. These aircraft retain their original gray or green camouflage.

The Hawk Mk 66 fleet will be assigned to the Training Air Wing at Kauhava in 2011 and 2012 for fast jet and tactical flight training. All Mk 66s will undergo a cockpit upgrade which replaces conventional analog instruments with digital multi-function displays. The aircraft will also be fitted with a new digital mission planning and recording system.

The Mk 66 upgrade program is a joint effort of Patria Aviation and the Finnish Air Force. The Flight Test Center will continue test flights with HW-374 throughout the spring and well into the summer.

The Finnish Air Force will introduce into service 18 upgraded Hawk Mk 66s in 2011–12.

The next aircraft out of the upgrade line will be HW-376. It is scheduled to make its first post-upgrade flight during May. The Finnish Air Force plan calls for the upgrade of 26 Hawk Mk 66s, Mk 51s, and Mk 51As by 2015. At the time of writing, nine aircraft have been upgraded.

So far just one Hawk Mk 66s has flown in Finland. The Flight Test Center carried out a small number of test flights with the aircraft – that still bore its ex-Swiss tail number U-1261 and had not yet been upgraded – from its base at Halli in 2009 and 2010.

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