Skysim’s latest bird of prey.
For air show visitors there is nothing more exhilarating than seeing nine red aircraft flashing across the sky almost at ground level, trailing red, white and blue smoke. I am of course referring to the Red Arrows; the RAF display team that has thrilled and entertained us since 1964. They originally flew the Folland Gnat, the RAF’s jet trainer at that time. This was replaced in 1979 by the BAE Hawk which remains the Arrows’ steed to this day.
The Hawk was originally developed by Hawker Siddeley as a trainer and a low-cost combat fighter. It first flew in 1974 and entered service with the RAF in 1976, replacing the Gnat and Hawker Hunter as an advanced weapons trainer. Not long after its inception, Hawker Siddeley merged with a few other British companies to form BAe British Aerospace, which subsequently became BAE Systems, the current producer of the Hawk.
Designed under the designation of HS.1182, the Hawk is essentially an all-metal, low-wing, dual-seat, subsonic aircraft powered by a Rolls Royce /Turbomeca Adour Mk151 engine. Capable of carrying a range of munitions, it has been used to good effect in anti-shipping, air-denial, close air support and ground attack roles. Yet it has had most success as a trainer for prospective fast jet pilots.
Although the Hawk is a subsonic aircraft, it is quite capable of reaching Mach 1.2 in a dive. This provides essential trans-sonic experience for trainee pilots, without the considerable expense of a truly supersonic aircraft. The current Hawk 200 is one of 10 variants all derived from the original T.1 /T.1A. More than 900 have been produced so far, with worldwide sales. In fact, it is still in active service today with 18 different countries.
Skysim’s Hawk was designed by Rick Piper, a long-time member of the FS fraternity and over the years has been responsible for many fine freeware aircraft. You only need to type his name into the search dialogue of any FS freeware site to find dozens of examples of his work which includes a rather nice de Havilland Super Chipmunk, a Hawker Siddeley HS.748 and a BAC Jet Provost.
The aircraft in this package are based on the same airframe used by the Red Arrows, which is the T1-A variant. It is the first time that a Flight Simulator aircraft has been licensed by the Secretary of State for Defence, to appear in the livery of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic team.
So you have your own fleet of Red Arrows to fly – encompassing every aircraft in the team (Red 1 to Red 10) – from both the front and rear seat positions. In addition, the FSX aircraft selection dialogue box in the menu section shows the names of the current pilots of each aircraft.
The package is available as a direct download of 40 MB, or as a boxed set from the Skysim website. In either case, after installing you need to activate the aircraft, or the cockpit canopy will be opaque and from an external view the aircraft would look as if it was made from Lego. Activation is perfectly straightforward using the familiar exchange of emails containing the activation codes – instructions about which are provided.
At first glance
I decided to fly Red 1 on my inaugural flight, the mount of Wing Commander Jas Hawker. As you can see from the screen shots, the external modelling and textures are superb – every panel line and decal is perfectly represented in crisp sharp detail and able to stand up to the closest scrutiny. In fact the overall shape of the fuselage, wings and canopy frames are among the best 3D modelling I have seen on an FS aircraft. This extends to things such as the ejector seats, which are complete with straps. Then when the aircraft is shut down with the parking brake on, the chocks, engine covers and all the safety pins are inserted and the ladder appears ready for your flight.
Some people might say that the Skysim Hawk is too clean, yet it has to be said that the RAF ground crews strive to keep the real Hawks in pristine condition. So the stunning external views are a realistic reflection of the work they put in to keep the aircraft immaculate.
Animation is another important feature and here again Skysim has added a few subtle improvements to the norm. For example, when you close the canopy it doesn’t simply swing shut, there is a perceptible pause as the locking handle is engaged. The pilot’s head also turns in response to your joystick inputs. I know we often major on the modelling detail and external views, but it has become an important factor for FS pilots, particularly for those who like to fly from different perspectives or who perhaps want to produce realistic videos of their flight experiences.
When the Red Arrows are flying a display, the tricolour smoke trails are created by pumping different coloured diesel into the jet pipe. This is also modelled in the Skysim Hawk, and is activated with the use of three buttons (red, white and blue) located on the upper right portion of the main instrument panel. When pressed, they illuminate with the appropriate colour and the smoke is trailed behind the aircraft.
In most FS combat aircraft the designers provide a number of variants, usually with a selection of payloads to go with them. However, Skysim has taken a different and I think more realistic approach. If you want to see the Hawk with different munitions, you have to load them using the Payload dialogue. However, first you have to add the pylons themselves; after all you can’t have munitions without anything to hang them on! Payloads include an Aden Gun Pod, AIM-9L Sidewinders and SNEB rocket.
In the office
If you are a stickler for procedures and like to do things by the book, then the Hawk is for you, because it can be started from a cold dark condition, using the correct start-up sequence. This is because of the level of detail contained inside the cockpit, which includes 45 operational controls on the main panel, with a further 34 on the side consoles. Among them is a fully operational CWS (Central Warning System), which is basically a panel full of annunciators that illuminate when a failure or other impending condition arises. This is backed up by two red warning lights that illuminate each side of the main panel, together with an audible warning device.
The instrumentation is fully modelled and for the most part is fully operational as well. There is no 2D panel supplied, but to be honest if there was you probably wouldn’t use it because the representation of the 3D cockpit is of such high quality. Once again it doesn’t matter how close you get, the gauges and switches retain their crispness. Primary navigation is handled by an HSI (Horizontal Situation Instrument) located in the centre of the panel. This combines the compass and navigation radios, with the heading, ILS deviation and glide slope indicators. It also displays VOR bearings and range and has a navigation mode button to select between ILS and TACAN (Tactical Air Navigation).
In fact the Skysim Hawk is the first FS fighter aircraft to implement the TACAN system – although limited by the constraints of FSX itself. So it is not as accurate as the real instrument, but perfectly adequate for normal navigation. As you probably know the Hawk is a two-seat aircraft, and so it comes as no surprise to find that Rick has modelled the rear cockpit and panels to the same level of detail as the front one.
The real Hawk is without doubt a superb aircraft and a favourite with all the pilots who fly it. I have to admit to being another convert, because I haven’t had as much fun flying an FS aircraft for a long time. Without personal experience on the Hawk it is difficult to quantify how accurate the flight model is, however the developers have put the aircraft through extensive comparisons, even enlisting the opinions of current Hawk pilots. Having said that, it handles superbly – exhibiting instant responses exactly as you would expect of a jet fighter of this type. However, you need to keep the aircraft in trim in all phases of flight, particularly when coming in to land. Most of us will never get to fly the real aircraft, and there is even less chance of flying with the Red Arrows, but for Flight Simulator X users the Skysim Hawk gets you pretty close!
Price: Download £22.50, Boxed Set £25.00
Developer: Rick Piper
At a glance: Skysim’s Hawk is one of the most authentic jet fighter/trainers available for FSX
System Requirements: Flight Simulator FSX (SP2 and newer), 2.0GHz PC, 1Gb RAM, 64Mb+ 3D graphics card, Windows XP/Vista, 356Mb hard drive space
Recommended: 3.0GHz PC or comparable Dual or Quad core processor, 2Gb RAM, 512Mb+ 3D graphics card, Windows XP/Vista, TrackIR