Staff Writer (Updated: 7/2/2014):
The original BAe Systems Hawk - debuting on August 21st, 1974 - is used by Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Finland, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe. These often retain their ground attack capabilities to serve as a cost-effective, dual-role performer. Finland became the first foreign recipient of the Hawk and the aircraft also forms the inventory of the famed British Royal Air Force's "Red Arrows" acrobatic team as well as acting as the primary jet trainer of the Royal Air Force proper. Switzerland at one point fielded Hawks beginning in 1992 but have since retired their fleet in 2002 and sold several to Finland in 2007.
In 1977, the United States Navy found itself probing for solutions to upgrade its existing fleet of aging North American T-2C "Buckeye" and Douglas TA-4J "Skyhawk II" jet-powered trainers with a modernized advanced carrier-based type. The next logical step became the formation of the "VTXTS" program in 1978 to oversee the requirement. British Aerospace seized the opportunity and forged an alliance with American-based McDonnell Douglas to promote the aircraft as a possible development. The USN took to the proposal and thusly awarded the joint venture a production contract in 1981 - this version of the Hawk to be a heavily modified form to fulfill the USN requirement for carrier-based operations.
While the base Hawk airframe was left relatively untouched, revisions were enacted to include a reinforced structure applicable to the rigors of carrier work. A tail arrestor hook and catapult provisions were installed and the landing gear spacing was revised. Improvements were made to the aircraft's low-speed qualities to be more in line with those as required by carrier landings. First flight of the revised Hawk occurred on April 16th, 1988 and formal introduction into USN service followed in 1991 under the nickname of "Goshawk". Component production was split between facilities in England and in the United States with the British handling the wings, main fuselage, intakes and the vertical tail fin while the Americans took to installation of the tail wings, cockpit and nose assembly, the undercarriage and engines as well as final assembly. British Aerospace became BAe Systems while McDonnell Douglas was eventually absorbed by aviation giant Boeing in the late 1990s - thusly changing the formal designation of the T-45 Goshawk only by brand name.