The McDonnell Douglas/Boeing T-45 Goshawk is a navalized version of the land-based British Aerospace (now BAe Systems) Hawk - specifically the Hawk Mk.60 mark. Unlike the land-based Hawk, however, the Goshawk is utilized by the United States Navy as a carrier-borne trainer. BAe Systems and McDonnell Douglas, the latter now serving as a subsidiary of The Boeing Company, have jointly produced the Goshawk trainer which serves both the US Navy and USMC aviation training programs. Despite its 1990s pedigree, the T-45 is expected to serve the American military well into 2035. To date, over 200 Goshawk airframes have been delivered.
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 - thus changing the formal designation of the T-45 Goshawk only by brand name.
The Goshawk has existed in only two major variants beginning with the base T-45A two-seat advanced jet trainer. These were originally fielded with analog-based cockpits consistent with the time. The T-45C was later developed as an upgraded and improved version of the T-45A series. Improvements included the introduction of inertial navigation and a digital cockpit. As such, the T-45C model now represents the newest Goshawk standard to which all previous T-45A models are being upgraded to via the T-45 "RAMP" initiative ("Required Avionics Modernization Program"). The T-45C began deliveries in December of 1997.
It is of note that the designation of "T-45B" did exist. This was a proposed Goshawk development that would have produced a land-based variant of the T-45A sans the inherent carrier capabilities. The initiative began in 1994 though any fruitful development on the T-45B was eventually halted in favor of more cost effective alternatives.
Externally, the T-45 series features twin seating for student (front) and instructor (rear) in a tandem arrangement. Design of the aircraft is quite conventional by any standard and sports a forward-set cockpit with excellent visibility over the nose and to the sides. The instructor maintains a commanding view up and over the forward cockpit. The fuselage is relatively short and sports two small, oval intakes to each side, aspirating the single engine mounting buried within the middle-aft fuselage. Wings are low-mounted with sweep along the leading edge and a straight trailing edge. The fuselage spine tapers down to form the base of the single vertical tail fin which is further complemented by a pair of swept horizontal tail surfaces mounted higher than the main wing assemblies. The engine exhausts through a ring at the extreme aft of the fuselage. The undercarriage is fully retractable and is of a tricycle arrangement. The nose leg retracts upwards under the cockpit floor while the main legs fold towards centerline. All landing gear legs are single-wheeled. An arrestor hook for snatching deck cables is fitted to the rear underside under the empennage base.
The aircraft is powered by a British/French Rolls-Royce Turbomeca F405-RR-401 turbofan engine (also known as the "Adour") delivering up to 5,527 lbs of thrust. Maximum speed is listed at 645 miles per hour with a range out to 805 miles. Service ceiling is approximately 42,500 feet with a rate-of-climb nearing 8,000 feet per minute.
As a dedicated trainer aircraft, the Goshawk does not carry any official USN inventory armament but can be fitted with ordnance loads in the form of practice bombs or rocket pods as well as external fuel stores for increased ranges. Beyond this capability, cargo pods may also be carried as required.
Incidentally, the term "Goshawk" is related to a bird of prey species.