In 1998, the Royal Saudi Air Force decided
to form an aerobatic team, mounted on the British Aerospace Hawk Mk.65
aircraft. Originally to be known as the "Saudi Hawks", the team was
subsequently renamed the "Green Falcons". However, a short while later (and for
reasons uknown), they reverted to their original name of Saudi
Here, we present an exclusive,
behind-the-scenes feature on the Birth of this team. All credit for the
information and photographs goes to Dennis Robinson, former BAe Superintendent
at King Abdul Aziz Air Base, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, who was in charge of the
BAe personnel responsible for the painting of the team's aircraft. The vast
majority of the content of this feature was made available to us from Dennis's
personal files. Some supplementary information was also provided by the Royal
Saudi Embassy, London.
information on these pages STRICTLY © The Aerobatic Display Teams S.I.G.
Since this article was first published here on our
website in 2000/2002, I have to say that some of the information/images it
contains has been used in several publictions and other websites... all without
asking our permission !
We know it came from here - this article
contains exclusive information, only made available to us, from
"the man himself" who designed and painted the team's aircraft ! Nobody else -
including the team members themselves - would know this information.
If anyone wishes to use any of the information
and/or photos contained in this article, please ask and give us credit - it's
only common courtesy !
Around 1988/89, BAe decided to modify (as a
gift to the RSAF), six Hawk Mk.65's from the initial Al Yamama contract that
were already in-Kingdom, to give them a smoke producing capability. The six
aircraft concerned were: 3760, 61, 62, 63, 64 and 3765. RSAF aircraft are
assigned serial numbers depending on which Squadron they are assigned to.
The 37th Squadron, to which these aircraft
should have belonged, never actually formed and all the "37" serialled
aircraft operated with the 21st Squadron, along with two Jetstream 31 Tornado
crew trainers. With the signing of the Al Yamama 2 contract, the last six Hawk
Mk.65A's (serialled 7915, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 7920), were all modified at BAe
Warton, again as a gift from BAe, to smoke capable status. It should be noted
that, although the aircraft were modified to be smoke-capable, they were still
delivered in standard RSAF camouflage markings.
The initial six Hawk Mk.65's can only carry and produce a single colour of
smoke, but the second batch of Hawk Mk.65A's can carry and produce three smoke
colours. The smoke pods which are fitted to the aircraft are externally
identical to those carried by the RAF Red Arrows. The Mk.65's
typically produce just white smoke, whereas the Mk.65A's can produce green,
white and red smoke (Islamic colours).
On 25th June 1998, Number 88 Squadron was
officially formed at King Abdul Aziz Air Base, as the RSAF Display Team.
Their stated purpose is "to represent the Royal Saudi Air Force in national and
international occasions". Three of the smoke-capable Hawk Mk.65's (3763, 3764
and 3765) and all of the smoke-capable Mk.65A's were transferred to the new
squadron, although it was in fact February/March 1999 before all the aircraft
were officially transferred.
In keeping with RSAF aircraft serial
numbering policy, the team's aircraft were all allocated new serial numbers
with their transfer to 88 Squadron - they were re-numbered as follows :-
So officially, the Squadron consisted of
nine aircraft. However, during a four-ship practice on 27th September 1998,
number 7915 (still in camouflage markings), was landed rather heavily at the
end of the sortie. The pilot ejected and the aircraft continued rolling slowly
down the runway after the other three. It drifted to the left, departed the
runway onto the desert floor, shedding various parts of the airframe as it did
so. It lost the landing gear, smoke pod and a flap before finally coming to
rest. Following a damage survey, the damage to the fuselage was classified as
Category 2, and the wing was written off. This aircraft was last seen sitting
forlornely on trestles in a Dhahran hangar. There were plans to move it by road
to Tabuk, but it is not known if this happened.
The team moved from King Abdul Aziz Air Base
to King Faisal Air Base, Tabuk, in February 1999, along with the other RSAF
Aircraft and Colour Scheme
The reason that the team use a mix of Hawk
65 and Hawk 65A aircraft, is basically that they were built at different times.
Technically, there are some 3000 detail differences between the two marques.
When the RSAF decided to order more Hawks, they requested that they be the same
as the existing Mk.65's. It was explained to them that with the passage of
time, change of manufacturing venue and improvements incorporated into the
basic Hawk design, that the production of new-build Hawk Mk.65's would be
prohibitively expensive. So, they accepted the changes that had taken place
over the years. From a modelling point of view, the only external difference
between the 65 and 65A, is a trapezoidal plate which is bolted/riveted to the
rear fuselage below and just forward of the tailplane. Note also that both the
Mk.65 and the Mk.65A have retractable landing lights in the nose, an important
point to remember when modelling the subject. On the team aircraft, there are
minor changes to the cockpit layout - the front gunsight has been deleted and
replaced with a GPS installation and the Weapons panel has been replaced by a
radio frequency panel.
The special colour scheme for the team
aircraft was originally submitted by Dennis Robinson of the BAe staff at King
Abdul Aziz Air Base. Then, on September 8th 1998, a fax message from HQ RSAF
instructed them to take possession of Hawk 65 number 3763 for a trial paint
scheme. Accompanying the order were a set of written instructions and crude
drawings for the scheme, based on the BAe scheme.
Both the "drawings" and the written
instructions stated that the overall shade of green was to be FE102-C/5250,
which was the standard dark green used for Saudi roundels, fin flags and other
trim. This was the colour that the BAe staff had originally specified, and they
had plenty of it in stock.
Then, a few days later, a 1/24th scale model of a
Hawk arrived, which had been painted up in Riyadh in the proposed colour scheme
for the team, in accordance with the original sketches. However, the model was
in a lighter shade of green..... This lighter shade was confirmed by Riyadh and
also confirmed was the fact that Prince Sultan himself had approved the scheme
and the shade of green. This model had actually been painted with Humbrol
number 2 Green, and as it had now been approved by the Prince, this was the
colour the team aircraft had to be ! So began a frantic search to find gallons
of green paint that matched Humbrol number 2 !! In the meantime, aircraft
number 3763 had already been scuffed down to the first coat of primer, but now
there was no paint to paint it with.
There was a very tight timescale to keep -
the job had to be completed by 21st January 1999. Dennis Robinson was tasked to
find some lighter green paint on the basis that he "was a modeller and
obviously knew where to get some"!
After first checking Kalusguide No.1 together
with a set of FS595a/b colour cards, only two colours were near enough to
Humbrol no.2 : 14110 (BSC381C-221), as used in a matt form for the roundels of
Dubai Hawks - ("BAe Warton are bound to have some and we can always overcoat it
with gloss Poly varnish"- wrong on both counts !) : And FS595b 14092 as used by
the Pakistan AF on its roundels. A lot of this paint had been supplied by
McDonnell Douglas as the original roundel colour for the RSAF F-15's, but when
it was inspected, the "use-by" date was almost pre-history ! In desperation,
Dennis even tried contacting Trevor Snowden , through Dick Ward, to see if they
could persuade Humbrol to actually specially manufacture a few gallons of their
green no.2 to spec Skythane DTD5580A ! But for various reasons, that plan fell
through and eventually, Courtaulds were contracted to manufacture the paint,
specifically to match Humbrol no. 2 - which they did in record time.
Marking up and
painting the aircraft was difficult, as there were no real, formal drawings to
work from. So, the 1/24th scale model was used as the "master", and the
full-sized Hawk was carefully marked out with an interpretation of the scheme
on the model. The aircraft was marked out on the left side of the fuselage and
fin, and on both the upper and lower surfaces of the left wing and tailplane.
Once the crew were satisfied that it looked like a combination of the model and
their originally-submitted sketches, then templates for the white areas were
cut out from flexible polycarbonate sheet. Once all the white areas had been
marked out and masked on the left side of the aircraft, the templates were
simply reversed and the white areas marked out and masked on the right side.
The flaps, ailerons and rudder were all removed to access the otherwise hidden
parts of those controls - they would all have to be re-balanced once the
repainting was completed prior to re-installation anyway. Measurements were
taken along the fuselage, fin, tailplane, wing leading edge and at the cut-out
where the flaps and ailerons would normally be fitted, to ensure correct
alignment of the templates when applied to subsequent aircraft.
Then, they just had to wait for the paint.
By this time it was the end of September
1998. As mentioned above, aircraft number 7915 had recently crashed after a
practice session, which therefore reduced the total number to be repainted to
eight - but they all had to be completed - including flying control
re-balancing, landing gear retraction tests, assembly, weighing and a test
flight - in the space of twelve weeks, in order to meet the deadline.
programme called for one aircraft (3763) to be repainted in the new colours
during the first weeks of September, after which a formal inspection would take
place and authority given to repaint the remaining aircraft, incorporating any
changes decreed during the inspection. This programme had already slipped by
three weeks and looked like slipping further. The situation was worsened by the
Dhahran climate at that time of year - although the mean temperature drops from
the summer highs of around 49°C to the high 30's or low 40's, the humidity
increases to around 95% - 98%, making working conditions intolerable. Personnel
are regularly soaked in perspiration and can, during one shift, go through as
many as four complete changes of clothing ! To add to these difficulties, the
air conditioning in the Hawk Paint Shop finally broke down for good, and so the
operation was moved to the Tornado/F-15 paint shop next door. In order to
attempt to catch up on lost time, Hawk number 7917 was acquired and also
stripped down for painting.
The new green paint finally arrived at the
end of the third week in October, and aircraft 3763 was completed during the
last week of that month. The flying controls were painted white, offered up to
the wing to confirm the alignment of the trim, and then removed again before
the green was sprayed. As each stage was completed, measurements were taken for
use on subsequent aircraft. Most external markings (ejection seat triangles,
rescue arrows etc.) were applied by eye to give the most aesthetically pleasing
appearance, and then their measurements taken to make the positioning
"official". Effectively, the final design of the team's colour scheme was
actually carried out on the aircraft. Such was the speed of the programme that
additional instructions often arrived from Riyadh days after those
stages had actually been completed. It eventually got to the point that Riyadh
was so far behind that they gave up issuing instructions and began asking the
paint team what they had done, so they could just issue the
authorisation for the work !
On the 31st October 1998, the formal
inspection took place and apart from the addition of the white outline to the
National Flag on the fin, the RSAF seemed perfectly satisfied. All the
dimensions were then sent to Riyadh so that formal drawings could be prepared.
On the original scheme submitted by Dennis
and the BAe staff, the underside markings consisted of two white inverted "V"'s
on the green background. An inverted "V" is the Arabic for the numeral "8" and
so the undersurface should have read, in Arabic, "88", ie. 88th Squadron (as
can be seen in the team badge). However, in late December 1998, after four
aircraft had already been completed, this was changed by the Logistics Wing
Commander, Saad bin Fahad (who is one of King Fahad's sons). He indicated that
he didn't like the large area of green on the centre and rear fuselage and
"suggested" that changes were made. So, a third inverted white "V" was added to
the scheme, inboard of the existing ones (now, in Arabic, reading "888" !).
The first four aircraft had also left the
paint shop with the fin flag in the same green as the rest of the airframe and
it was around this time that all the 88th Squadron Hawks were assigned their
88-series serial numbers. Saad bin Fahad also wanted the fin flag to be more
prominent, so the first four completed Hawks were recalled to the paint shop to
have the additional white inverted "V" added, the fin flag enhanced with a
darker green background and the serials changed from the 37 & 79 series, to
the 88 series they now wear.
The official paints and colours used on the
Saudi Hawks aircraft are :-
GREEN : Desthone HS Base CA8000/C5696 Batch
K1904UR, Def Stan 80-209/1
WHITE: Desothane HS Topcoat CA8000/B7067, Batch
FIN FLAG : Green FE102-C/5250 Pinchin-Johnson DTD5580
Note also that the team badge was not present
on the aircraft when they were first painted and flown in the very early days -
it was added to either side of the rear fuselage some time later. Exactly when
this happened is unknown, but *perhaps* it coincided with the team name being
changed from "Green Falcons" to Saudi Hawks....?
information on these pages STRICTLY © The Aerobatic Display Teams S.I.G.