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XX263's initial service history

Hawker-Siddeley Hawk T.1 XX263 was delivered to the Royal Air Force (RAF) on 11th April 1979. Painted in wraparound camouflage, the aeroplane entered service with No.1 Tactical Weapons Unit (1TWU) at RAF Brawdy, and had the last three digits of its serial applied underneath the cockpit. Its stay in Wales was brief, as it was one of six airframes transferred to RAF Chivenor in late 1980s to form the basis of 2TWU. It was issued to the shadow squadron RAF 63(R) Squadron (Sqn) gaining the Unit's black and yellow checkerboards on the fuselage in the process, and was operated on training duties.

The aeroplane was withdrawn from service temporarily in the summer of 1983, as it was sent to British Aerospace for modifications to allow it to carry AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and be used in an air defence role should the need arise. It was returned to Chivenor on 3rd November 1983, and subsequently received a refinish into the air defence grey colour scheme, that became standard with the RAF 63(R) Sqn fleet.
2TWU itself was disbanded on 1st April 1992, when it was re-designated No.7 Flying Training School (7FTS), but RAF 63(R) Sqn remained active as one of its 'shadow' units, as did XX263 as one of its aeroplanes. It continued to be operated from Chivenor until September 1994, when the Unit's role was permanently transferred to RAF Valley with 4FTS and RAF 19(R) Squadron. Now redundant, XX263 was placed in store at Chivenor.

XX263's FRADU career

XX263 was placed on loan to the Royal Navy, and it was sent to RNAS Yeovilton to commence Fleet Air Arm service with the Fleet Requirements & Air Direction Unit (FRADU), arriving there on 16th February 1995. The airframe was subsequently applied with ROYAL NAVY lettering on the rear fuselage. It became a part of the FRADU fleet, and was operated on Unit taskings from the Somerset base until it became one of the last Hawks to leave for FRADU's new base at RNAS Culdrose on 30th November 1995. Four further months of steady service followed, before the airframe was moved to RAF St Athan for a full refinish in April 1996, returning to FRADU on 27th August 1996 minus its ROYAL NAVY titles. It remained with FRADU, aside from a period of maintenance at St Athan (July-November 1998) until it was withdrawn from service on 9th June 2000, prior to the airframe entering the Fuselage Replacement Programme (FRP) at RAF St Athan.

Return to the RAF

The process was completed in May 2001, and following a short period in store XX263 returned to RAF service at Valley with 4FTS. Subsequently issued to RAF 208(R) Sqn, XX263 was employed on advanced flying training duties. It has remained in use, aside from periods of maintenance with the Unit ever since, and was most recently chosen as the RAF 2010 Hawk display airframe, which involved a full refinish into unique colours in preparation for the display season.

During early 2011, it entered a period with the Hawk Servicing Flight at RAF Valley, and following a short spell back in use on the Hawk training syllabus was transferred to the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (RAFAT) The Red Arrows in February 2012. It was given a full refinish into the display colours and departed for its new home the following month, and became a core aeroplane in its 2013 and 2014 display fleets, but went into store at RAF Shawbury at the end of that season.

[ Brian Johnstone]

[ Dave Burrow]

[ Geoff Wakeham]
XX263's civilian life

During mid-2018, XX263 was reportedly moved to Cardiff University for use as an instructional airframe.

- December 2020

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