Mark Menzies paid tribute to the impact British designers, builders and pilots of the Hawk aircraft have had on the UK’s aerospace industry.
During a debate in Parliament on the Combat Air Strategy, Mr Menzies highlighted the need for the UK to retain its aerospace capabilities and skillsets.
Mr Menzies spoke about the Hawk’s legacy before he spoke about the sixth generation fighter aircraft project which the Government is supporting.
He said: “Before I talk about Tempest, I want to mirror the words of Ruth Smeeth about the importance of Hawk. It is beloved by the nation because it is a symbol of the Red Arrows, but it is also unique because it is the one aerospace platform that is truly British.
“From design to final assembly, Hawk is not part of a large multinational pan-European consortium, but is 100 per cent British. We need to ensure not only that we retain the true sovereign capability demonstrated in Hawk, but that we think about what the future of Hawk looks like and what its successor aircraft will be.
“Hawk fills an incredibly important role. Not only is it a trainer aircraft, which every modern air force across the world requires — Hawk is the platform of choice in training for the Typhoon, the F-35 and similar types of aircraft — but it has other uses as light tactical support and, in many air forces around the world, as a display aircraft, which is a great way to represent a country’s air force.
“However, that will be the case only if we are now serious about investing in and developing a successor platform.
“Hawk has had many life extensions—I think we are on to its fourth or fifth mark. That is wonderful, but at some point we will need to look at investing in and developing a new platform. My request to the Minister is that that becomes a priority for the very clever people who work in Main Building, and that we start to identify what that looks like. It would be not a crying shame but criminal if the replacement for Hawk were something that we bought off the shelf, even if from our closest allies. We can, and must, do better than that.
“My big ask to the Minister is that, as part of a combat air strategy, we think of that trainer solution. In pounds, shillings and pence—without reverting to old money—let us also think about the export value that that kind of platform can generate. As I mentioned, every air force around the world requires that capability—not just as a trainer but, in countries with less advanced defence requirements, as light tactical support. If the Minister could take that away as a challenge, I would be truly grateful.”