UK Skies
Your guide to the UK's Aircraft Past & Present

UK Fighter Jets


Many companies within the United Kingdom are heavily involved in the manufacture of many modern military aircraft. These are not only used in the United Kingdom, but in theatres throughout the world, both in offensive military operations, training and home defence.

BAE Hawk

A trainer aircraft has become an essential part of all modern air forces. Here, new pilots are trained in radar operation, weapons systems and air defence systems amongst others before they graduate to top-level fighter or attack aircraft.

This is not a new concept, however. From as early as the 1920’s, pilots of the Royal Air Force received training on specialised aircraft such as the Avro 504 or the Tiger Moth. And who can forget the North American T-6 Texan, probably the most iconic trainer ever built? 

Since the late 1970’s, British pilots have been trained on the BAE Hawk, a single engine, two-seat jet perhaps most famous due to it being the aircraft used by the display team, the Red Arrows. This aircraft replaced the equally successful Folland Gnat which served from the late 1950’s. The Hawk was first manufactured by Hawker Siddeley from 1974 to 1977. British Aerospace took over production from 1977 to 1999 and finally BAE System manufactured the aircraft from 1999 to present day.

BAe Hawk T-1A Flight Display in Malta 2012

The Hawk is manufactured in Britain and exported to a number of other countries for use as a trainer in their air forces. These include Finland, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The United States Navy use a T-45 Goshawk as a training aircraft. This is a heavily modified, carrier capable version of the aircraft built by McDonnell Douglas and BAE Systems. Over 900 units of the Hawk have been sold to the above-mentioned operators, which in turn has generated billions of pounds in revenue.

Lockheed Martin F35 Lightning II

The Lockheed Martin F35 Lightning II at the Royal Netherlands Air Force Day

The photo above was taken on the 10th June 2016 at The Royal Netherlands Airforce Day held in Leeuwarden.

Although the Lockheed Martin F35 Lightning II will be the primary fighter in service in the United States, BAE systems are heavily involved in the manufacture of certain parts as well as numerous systems used on the aircraft.

The F35 is a multirole fighter aircraft that will come into service in the next couple of years after having undergone extensive testing over the past decade. The aircraft itself was designed and built by Lockheed Martin together with a number of other contributors including the United Kingdom’s BAE Systems as well as Rolls Royce.

As a technology partner in the programme, BAE has provided a number of key systems as well as software to the F-35 Lightning II. This includes important flight control software, a number of crucial electronic warfare systems, active interceptor systems as well as the building of many structural components for the aircraft such as both horizontal tails as well as the aft fuselage, which is much of the rear section of the aircraft. 

Estimates put BAE contribution at around 15% towards each F35 Lightning II that is built. In fact, the programme has generated over £1 billion for the UK economy while creating 25 000 jobs. It will continue to do so in the future, both in terms of aircraft built and the maintenance needed to keep them in flying condition worldwide.

Find Out More About the F-35 Lightning II

Eurofighter Typhoon

Eurofighter Typhoon at The Royal International Air Tatoo

The photo above was taken on the 7th July 2016 at The Royal International Air Tatoo held at RAF Fairfored.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a cutting-edge fourth generation multi-role fighter operated by a number of air forces throughout Europe. It was designed and built as a multinational collaboration including the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain who all worked towards its development and continue to contribute towards its construction.

BAE Systems are particularly involved in the construction of the aircraft as well as many of the systems and software used on it.  These include the aft fuselage (stage 1), vertical stabiliser, canards, inboard flaperons, forward fuselage cockpit assembly as well as the E-scan radar systems.

BAE also designed and produced the Striker Helmet system used by Typhoon pilots. This features a ‘Helmet Mounted Symbology System’. It effectively lets a pilot see right through the body of the aircraft, giving him unequal views, vital during combat. It also allows him to look at multiple targets and lock onto each of them in a prioritized manner. Effectively, this means that wherever a pilot looks and spots a threat, he can then send a weapon towards it. This rules out the need for constant manoeuvring.

BAE estimates that the Typhoon programme will bring in about £2.7 billion revenue in terms of construction, sales and maintenance of the aircraft. This will increase as new systems are introduced and installed on current machines as they are upgraded.

Find Out More About the Eurofighter Typhoon