A FAMILIAR sight above North Yorkshire’s skies is set to go into an earlier than expected retirement.

Based at RAF Leeming, the black-painted BAE Hawk T1 aircraft are now to be withdrawn by March next year. Operated since 1995 on the base, they were originally due to be retired by 2025 as part of this year’s defence review, which also sees other aircraft including the Hercules retired prematurely.

Used by the resident 100 Squadron, the Hawk T1 aircraft is a fully-aerobatic, low-wing, transonic, two-seat training aircraft used in a number of roles. Simulating enemy forces, it provides essential training to the RAF’s front-line units. Additionally, 100 Squadron carries out close air support training to Army units, defence engagement tasks and participates in exercises throughout the year in the UK and abroad.

The Hawk T Mk1 will remain in service with the RAF’s Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows until 2030 as no replacement aircraft has been identified as yet. It is not known at this stage if the RAF will disband 100 Squadron or allocate it replacement aircraft.

Flying at the North Yorkshire base will still continue as a partnership between the UK and Qatar will see the establishment of a joint training venture between the respective air forces.

The RAF and Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) are to work together when a Hawk training squadron is created later this year at RAF Leeming. Due to be in place by September, the new squadron will deliver advanced jet training to both the QEAF and RAF pilots. The base will also be home to Qatar’s recently-acquired nine Hawk T2 aircraft, which are currently being built by in the UK by BAE Systems at Warton, Lancashire.

As the only operational airbase in Yorkshire, RAF Leeming is held in high esteem by the RAF; and hosts many high profile visits and exercises by UK and foreign military forces.