Tornado GR4 Low Level

Current Military Aircraft using the United Kingdom Low Flying System

A brief description of the current military aircraft photographed in the United Kingdom Low Flying System.

Training Aircraft

Grob 115E Tutor T.1

The Grob 115E designated Tutor T.1 by the MoD entered service in September 1999. The aircraft are owned and maintained by a civilian company Babcock, which contract them out to the Ministry of Defence, equipping the Central Flying School and University Air Squadrons for Elementary Flying Training (EFT). The Grob which replaced the Scottish Aviation Bulldog in the EFT role is also operated by the Royal Navy and Army Air Corps for Flying Grading (a pre‑EFT course) and the Air Cadet organisation for Air Experience Flying (AEF).

Grob Tutor T.1 Low Level

Built in Germany by Grob Aircraft, (before January 2009 formerly known as Grob Aerospace) the Grob first flew in November 1985. The low fixed‑wing aircraft is constructed of carbon composite material with a semi‑monocoque fuselage design and fixed tricycle undercarriage. The crew are seated side‑by‑side with a large broad canopy giving good all‑around visibility. The instructor is seated on the left with the student on the right, the latter having the benefit of a normal right‑handed stick with left‑handed throttle control, making the transition to operational aircraft easier.

The Grob Tutor EA model introduced in 2009 incorporated modern digital instrument displays and an avionics suite, which included a Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) providing excellent navigational information.

The Grob is powered by a single 180hp Textron Lycoming AE‑360‑B piston engine, driving a MT three‑blade constant‑speed propellor. The aircraft has a cruise speed of 100 knots (115mph or 185km/h), service ceiling of 10,000ft (3,050m) and a range of 617 nautical miles (710 miles or 1,143km).

Under the U.K. Military Flying Training System (MFTS) construct, the Grob Tutor T.1 is still be used for some Elementary Flying Training, but is being phased out in favour of its replacement, the Grob Prefect T.1.

Grob 120TP Prefect T.1

The Grob 120TP which first flew in 2010 is a two‑seat turboprop aircraft built by Grob Aircraft (previously Grob Aerospace) of Germany for military and civil pilot training. The aircraft is known by the RAF as the ‘Prefect’ in honour of the Avro 626 Prefect biplane used by pilots before and during the Second World War.

In 2018 as part of the Military Flying Training System (MFTS) contract, RAF No. 57 Squadron, as part of No. 3 Flying Training School, Cranwell, converted from the Grob Tutor T.1 to the Grob Prefect T.1 for the Elementary Flying Training role.

For the student and instructor seated side‑by‑side, the aircraft provides digital avionics, a glass cockpit and a hands‑on throttle and Stick (HOTAS) control system, similar to systems found on frontline aircraft. Gentle handling characteristics make it suitable for ab‑initio pilots and for students progressing onto spinning, stalling and aerobatic manoeuvres.

Designed with a retractable tricycle undercarriage, an airframe made of fibreglass reinforced platic stressed to +6/-4G and wings made from carbon fibre composites, with winglets, the aircraft weighs less than 1,100kg (when empty). Coupled with a 456hp Rolls‑Royce M250‑B17F turboprop engine with a five‑blade MT propellor, the Prefect can achieve a top speed of 245 knots (282mph or 435km/h) and a maximum altitude of 25,000ft (7,600m).

Beechcraft T‑6C Texan II (Texan T.1)

The Beechcraft T‑6 Texan II is a tandem two‑seat single‑engine turboprop trainer aircraft developed by Raytheon Aircraft Company. (Raytheon became Hawker Beechcraft and later Beechcraft Defence Company which was bought by Textron‑Aviation in 2014).

The aircraft was developed from the Pilatus PC‑9 in responce to the United States Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) requirement to replace the United States Air Force (USAF) Cessna T‑37B Tweet and the United States Navy's (USN) T‑34C Turbo Mentor.

A production standard Texan II, then known as the beech Mk II, first flew in December 1992. In June 1995 the Texan was announced the winner of the JPATS competition and in May 2000 began to re‑equip USAF flying training squadrons.

On 28th November 2019 flying with No. 72 Squadron based at RAF Valley, Anglesey, the Texan T.1 took over the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy's (RN) basic fast‑jet training role from the Shorts Tucano T.1. (On the 13th November 2020, No. 72 Squadron became known as No. 72 (Fighter) Squadron).

The Texan T.1 has a low‑wing cantilever monoplane design with a retractable tricycle landing gear. The crew are seated on Martin‑Baker Mk 16 ejection seats with a canopy fracturing system. With a head‑up display (HUD), modern avionics, digital glass cockpit and mission simulation systems, the Texan T.1 is an ideal training aircraft over the analogue cockpit of the Tucano T.1 for students progressing onto the Advanced Fast Jet (AFJT) course and the Hawk T.2.

Powered by a 1,100shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprop engine with a four‑blade Hartzell propellor, the Texan T.1 has a cruise speed of 280 knots (320mph or 510kn/h), maximum speed of 316 knots (364mph or 585km/h) and a service ceiling of 31,000ft (9,400m). The aircraft has a ferry range of 884 nautical miles (1,017 miles or 1,637km) and g limits of +7.0g to -3.5g.

BAE Hawk T.1/T.1A

The Hawk T.1 (HS-1182) first flew in 1974 and entered service with the RAF in 1976. Originally designed and manufactured by Hawker Siddeley, over one thousand Hawk aircraft of differing variants have been produced to‑date under the successive companies of British Aerospace and BAE Systems respectively. The aircraft has been exported to numerous air forces around the world, as a training and low‑cost combat aircraft.

BAE Hawk T.1 XX327 Low Level

Designed specifically as a training aircraft, the Hawk T.1 took on the role of an avanced flying trainer in the RAF and the T.1A (modified T.1) as a weapons training aircraft, replacing the Folland Gnat and Hawker Hunter respectively.

Constructed of an all-metal airframe, with a low mounted cantilever wing and one-piece all moving tailplane, the Hawk is a highly manoeuvrable and agile aircraft. Powered by a Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Ardour 151 turbofan engine, an un‑reheated version of the engine that powered the Sepecat Jaguar GR.3, the Hawk can achieve Mach 0.88 in level flight and Mach 1.15 in a dive. The crew are seated on Martin‑Baker zero‑zero ejection seats in a tandem cockpit, with the instructor in the rear having good forward visibility (unlike in the Gnat), due to the rear section of the cockpit being elevated over the student in the front.

The Hawk T.1A was used in the RAF for weapons and tactical training, being modified to carry two underwing AIM‑9L Sidewinder air‑to‑air missiles and a 30mm Aden cannon on a centreline pod, but this role has since been transferred to the T.2. The T.1A is currently used by the RAF Red Arrows aerobatic display team based at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire and RAF No. 100 Squadron based at RAF Leeming, Yorkshire. The main task of the latter amongst many, is to provide operational support for frontline squadrons flying Typhoon and support‑flying for the Joint Forward Air Controllers Training and Standards Unit (JFACTSU) and Close Air Support (CAS) missions.
The Hawk T.1 is expected to remain in service with RAF No. 100 Squadron till 2027.

BAE Hawk T.2

The Hawk 128 (T.2) an advanced model of the Hawk T.1/T.1A, took to the air on its maiden flight in July 2005.
In mid-2009 the T.2 was introduced into service with the RAF, with training operations begining in April 2012 with RAF No. IV Squadron at Valley. The aircraft though similar in appearance to the T.1, is basically a new design. On the outside a re‑designed wing has seven hardpoints and a longer nose housing additional avionics. The tail fin incorporates a radar warning receiver and the tail section is able to house a brake parachute. On the inside a Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Ardour 951 turbofan engine has Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC).

BAE Hawk T.2 ZK036 Low Level

The aircraft has a digital glass cockpit with multi-function displays, which have replaced the analogue instrumentation of the T.1/T.1A. An updated head-up display (HUD), the introduction of hands‑on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controls with a full IN/GPS navigation system and moving map display, are just some of the new cockpit displays, mission avionics and systems that have been incorporated, to prepare the student for a frontline fast‑jet, such as Typhoon or F-35.

Embraer Phenom 100 (Phenom T.1)

The Embraer EMB‑500 Phenom 100 is an entry level business jet, or Very Light Jet (VLJ) developed by the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. The aircraft which first flew in July 2007 is operated in the private, commercial and military sector.

The Phenom's destined for the RAF are built in Melbourne, Florida, USA, but delivered through Embraer's military facility in Brazil.

In July 2017 the first Phenom's arrived at Cranwell, equipping RAF No. 45 Squadron (part of No. 3 Flying Training School) replacing the King Air B200 and B200GT in the multi‑engine aircrew training role. Official training started in 2018.

With a touchscreen cockpit and comprehensive navigation, communications and flight safety suite, the Phenom is an ideal training aircraft to prepare students selected to fly multi‑engine aircraft for frontline service, such as the Boeing C‑17A Globemaster III and the Airbus A400M Atlas C.1. It provides training in the complexities of flying with a second engine, operating at high altitude, multi‑aircraft formations, asymmetric flying, crew resource management, emergency and airways procedures.

The Phenom is powered by two rear‑mounted Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F turbofan engines developing 3,640lbs thrust with dual Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC). The aircraft can high speed cruise at 405 knots (466mph or 750km/h) and reach an altitude of 41,000ft (12,497m).

Transport Aircraft

Airbus A400M Atlas C.1

The Airbus A400M is a four‑engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities to replace the older transport aircraft, such as the Transall C‑160 and Lockheed C‑130 Hercules.

Designed by Airbus Military (now Airbus Defence and Space) the A400M's maiden flight took place on 11th December 2009 and first entered service with the French Air and Space Force in September 2013. Along with the U.K. other operators include: Germany, Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Luxembourg and Malaysia.

The A400M was nicknamed ‘Grizzly’ by the Airbus test crews, but when the aircraft entered service with the RAF in 2014 with No.'s 24, 70 & 206 Squadrons, all at Brize Norton, the RAF adopted the name ‘Atlas’.

With a crew of two pilots and a loadmaster, the Atlas features a full glass cockpit, a fly‑by‑wire flight control system with side‑stick controllers and a flight envelope protection system, the latter which prevents the pilot from making control commands which could exceed the aircrafts structural and aerodynamic operating limits.

The Atlas has the ability to carry 37,000kg (81,600lb) payload over 2000 nautical miles (2,302 miles or 3,704km) to established and remote airfields or short unprepared/semi‑prepared strips. It can operate in many configurations from carrying troops and/or cargo to medical evacuation. Cargo can be delivered by landing, or parachute extraction from the aircrafts rear ramp. Paratroopers can be despatched from the ramp or from dedicated exit doors.

The Atlas is powered by four 11,000shp Europrop International TP400‑D6 turboprops with a pair of eight‑blade propellors on each wing which turn in opposite directions. This design feature creates more lift, lessens torque and prop wash on each wing and also reduces yaw in the event of an outboard engine failure. The TP400‑D6 being the most powerful turboprop engine on a military aircraft in the West, gives the Atlas a maximum speed of 400 knots (460mph or 740km/h), maximum altitude of 40,000ft (12,200m) and a cruise speed of 422 knots (486mph or 782km/h) at an altitude of 31,000ft (9,450m).

The Atlas for its size is a highly manoeuvrable aircraft which can refuel air‑to‑air, cruise at high altitude but also offer a good low‑level capability which makes it an ideal companion to work alongside the RAF's existing C‑17 Globemaster III and C‑130 Hercules fleet, with the intention of eventually replacing the latter.

Lockheed C‑130 Hercules

The Hercules is a four‑engine turboprop, designed and built by Lockheed (now Lockheed Martin) as a troop, medevac and cargo/transport aircraft. Its rugged design and short take‑off and landing capabilities, allows it to be operated from unprepared/semi‑prepared surfaces by day or night.

Hercules Low Level

The strength of the aircrafts basic design allowed it to be adapted for alternative roles, such as air‑to‑air refuelling, weather recconaissance, fire fighting, scientific research, military gunship, airborne assault and search and rescue roles.

The first production C‑130A Hercules entered service with the USAF in December 1956. The first RAF Hercules entered service in 1967, as a replacement for its ageing piston engine fleet of Blackburn Beverley and Handley Page Hastings. Sixty six aircraft were ordered and designated as C‑130K C1 models, which were based on the American C‑130E model. A 15ft stretched fuselage version of the C‑130K Mk 1 Hercues was introduced in 1979. This allowed twenty six extra parachutists or two extra cargo pallets to be carried and was designated as the C‑130K Mk 3.

The RAF Hercules served in the 1982 Falklands War and due to the distances involved with flying from Ascension Island to the Falklands, in‑flight refuelling probes were fitted. The aircraft were designated as C‑130K Mk 1P models. Some aircraft were later converted into tankers, by installing hose and drum units (HDU‘s) and refuelling probes, to support Harriers and Phantoms in the islands air defence role.

The Hercules ‘K’ model had a crew of five (Pilot, Co‑Pilot, Navigator, Flight Engineer and Loadmaster) and was powered by four Allison T‑56‑A‑15 four‑blade turboprops, providing a cruising speed of 325 knots (374mph or 602km/h) and a full payload range of 2,047 nautical miles (2,356 miles or 3,791km) and an empty range of 4,522 nautical miles (5,204 miles or 8,375km).

In November 1999 the RAF received its first batch of a new generation Hercules, the C‑130J, which came with refueling probes fitted as standard and a reduced aircrew of two Pilots and one Weapons Systems Operator/Loadmaster.
C‑130J Mk C5 is the standard length model (97ft 9in/34.24m).
C‑130J Mk C4 a stretched version (112ft 9in/34.34m).

New more powerful Allison engines with six‑blade composite propellors gave improved engine performance, with the aircraft requiring shorter take‑off runs and better fuel efficiency, negating the need for external underwing fuel tanks as on the K‑models. Other improvements apart from lower operating and maintenance costs, include a new digital glass cockpit with head‑up display (HUD) and 4 x multifunction LCD displays, traffic collision avoidance system and compatible night vision goggles (NVG‑s).

The C‑130J has a crusing speed of 320 knots (368mph or 593km/h).
Ferry range for the C.Mk4: is 2,650 nautical miles (3,050 miles or 4,908km),
Ferry range for the C.Mk 5: is 2,850nm (3,280 miles or 5,078km),
Both models have a cruising altitude of 28,000ft (8,534m) and maximum altitude of 40,000ft (12,192m).

The Hercules since entering service with the RAF has been involved in ongoing World conflicts, such as the Gulf Wars, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The RAF ‘K’ model aircraft were retired in October 2013 after over 50 years of continuous service. The ‘J’ model is destined for withdrawal in 2022, apart from fourteen aircraft which will remain in service till 2030 working alongside the A400M Atlas.

Multirole Aircraft

BAE Eurofighter Typhoon

A twin-engine canard-delta wing multirole fighter aircraft which has been in service with the RAF since 2003. The aircraft has also entered operational service with air forces in Austria, Italy, Germany, Spain and Saudi Arabia.

Typhoon FGR4 ZJ926 Low Level

Developed from the British Aerospace EAP, the Typhoon first flew in March 1994 and is manufactured by a consortium of Alenia Aermacchi (Leonardo since 2017), Airbus and BAE Systems. The consortium works through a holding company, Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH, which was formed in 1986. NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) manages the project on behalf of the partner nations and is the prime customer.

The Typhoon is a highly agile aircraft designed as an effective dogfighter, both at supersonic and subsonic speeds. This is achieved by designing an aircraft which is inherently unstable and without the quadruplex digital fly‑by‑wire control system, would be imposssible to be flown manually.

With a lightweight airframe, constructed of carbon fibre composites and light alloys, coupled with two digitally controlled Eurojet EJ200 turbojets, with each engine providing up to 13,500lbs of dry thrust and 20,230lbs with afterburner, the aircraft can achieve a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 and is capable of Mach 1.1 in supercruise (supersonic cruise without using afterburners).

In October 2006 and March 2011, the Typhoon took over the UK Southern and Northern QRA role respectively, from the retired Panavia Tornado F3. Though initially introduced as a fighter aircraft, the Typhoon has matured in the air‑to‑ground capability and has taken over the role carried out by the retired Panavia Tornado GR4.

To see a brief description of former military aircraft photographed in the United Kingdom Low Flying System from 2009 to 2019 please go to page 2.

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