The Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows could be taking to the skies and wowing crowds in non-UK built jet planes unless the UK government steps in and backs the advanced Hawk trainer jet programme, Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union representing aerospace workers, said today (Friday 12 July).

The warning comes after it emerged that the Kuwaiti government would be terminating its interest in purchasing type 2 Hawk trainer jets, but continuing with the deal for jet pilot training.

It is a move which Unite fears could put aerospace manufacturing at BAE Systems’ Brough plant in Humberside at risk and spell the end to Hawk trainer jet production, risking hundreds of additional jobs at Warton and Samlesbury in the North West, because of a loss of scale.

Unite is pressing the government to bring forward the replacement of the Red Arrows’ Hawk jets and invest in the advanced Hawk trainer programme to retain skills and jobs at Brough and BAE’s aerospace manufacturing facilities in Warton and Samlesbury.

Commenting Unite national officer for aerospace Rhys McCarthy said: “There is a real risk that the iconic Red Arrows could end up flying in foreign built aircraft and that vital aerospace skills and jobs could disappear because of a loss of scale following this decision.

“The UK government must bring forward the replacement order of Hawk jets for the Red Arrows who are currently flying planes over 40 years old, and invest in the advanced Hawk programme to ensure the RAF’s pilots of tomorrow are trained in the most up to date cutting edge aircraft available.

“The Hawk programme has not only been vital for the UK's sovereign defence capability but it has been a successful and profitable export, and can continue to be so. By continuing to invest in the programme and by establishing an international training school here in the UK, the government can ensure the UK remains at the forefront of jet pilot training globally.

“Unite is in continuing dialogue with BAE Systems and will be doing everything in its power to secure any jobs at risk because of this announcement.

“Ministers must also get answers from the Kuwaiti government on why it is terminating interest in the order and what planes, if any, and from whom, it will be purchasing.”


For more information please contact Alex Flynn Unite head of media and campaigns on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869 

Notes to editors:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.