You Never Forget Your First Trap- Especially If It’s an OK Three Wire
Today’s feature is Goshawk Ball, featuring the T-45C Goshawks of United States Navy (USN) Training Squadron 7 (VT-7) Eagles and VT-9 Tigers of Training Air Wing One (Tail code A– TW-1). TW-1 is based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Meridian north northeast of the town of Meridian in Mississippi. The video is a high-def look at the student naval aviators and their training in the air. A few laughs, a pounding soundtrack, great videography, some carrier qualification footage- this one has it all.
When the USN started looking for a replacement for its aging North American T-2 Buckeye intermediate trainers and Douglas TA-4 Skyhawk advanced trainers during the mid-1970s, McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace teamed up to propose what amounted to a navalized version of the very successful BAe Hawk Mark 60 trainer.
In order to make the Hawk suitable for operations around an aircraft carrier, the British aircraft received a beefier airframe, wing leading edge slats, after fuselage strakes, landing gear modifications to make them stronger and wider, a ventral fin to enhance directional stability, and modifications to the outer wing and tail shapes to enhance low-speed controllability. Somebody bolted on a nose gear launch bar and a tail hook too. Presto- meet the Goshawk. The T-45A went into service in 1991.
Today’s T-45C differs from the original variant primarily in the cockpit. The original analog gauges used in the initial T-45A variant have been replaced by multi-function displays (MFDs) and a head up display (HUD) has been added. When the last of the 221 T-45s built came out of the factory in November of 2009 like every other Goshawk it already had some miles on it. The rear fuselage (everything behind the cockpit), engine air inlets, vertical stabilizer, and wings of the jet were built in England and shipped to McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) for mating with the remainder of the airframe (built by McDonnell Douglas) and final assembly here in the States. Early-model Goshawks have all been reworked to bring them up to the T-45C specification.
In addition to TW-1, TW-2 (Tail code B– VT-21 Red Hawks and VT-22 Golden Eagles) at NAS Kingsville in South Texas also employs the T-45C for the Intermediate and Advanced portions of the Navy / Marine Corps Strike Pilot Training Program. When the T-45 finally began to replace the T-2C and TA-4 in service, there was an entire integrated training system package that came along with the jet, including high-fidelity operational and instrument flight simulators, computer-assisted training curriculum and academics, and McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) support for the entire training system.
TW-6 (Tail code F– VT-4 Warbucks, VT-10 Wildcats, and VT-86 Sabrehawks) based at NAS Pensacola in Florida began using T-45s to teach the Navy / Marine Corps Student Naval Flight Officer (NFO) Advanced Strike Aircraft Training Program during 2008. All three T-45C-equipped Training Air Wings were affected by what amounted to a strike by the Navy and Marine instructor pilots in April of 2017. The problem seems to have been caused by oxygen generation system malfunctions in both the T-45C and the McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet resulting in hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) among the crews. After grounding the entire fleet and much debate, it now appears the oxygen generation systems in both aircraft will be replaced by liquid oxygen reservoir systems.
Today prospective Naval Aviators use the T-45C to practice formation flight, weapons delivery, basic air combat maneuvering, and many more of the skills required to move on and fly fighters (strike fighters) in the fleet. One of the most important of these skills is carrier operations. A Naval Aviator who flies fighters (strike fighters), or anything else for that matter, has GOT to be able to operate safely around and from “the boat.” Prospective fighter pilots fly T-45Cs when they “trap” aboard a carrier for the first time.
In August of 2010 the Naval Air Training Command (NATC) celebrated the T-45’s one millionth flight hour during 26 years of service. With no replacement in sight it appears the Goshawks will be getting thrown around by student Naval Aviators for many more years, and perhaps even another million flight hours, to come.
BONUS VIDEO- T-45C carrier qualifications aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).