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XX346's initial service history

One of the last Hawk airframes built for the Royal Air Force (RAF), XX346 was delivered on 13th October 1981.
Painted in wraparound RAF camouflage, XX346 commenced service with No.2 Tactical Weapons Unit (2TWU) at RAF Chivenor, as a part of its shadow unit; RAF 151(R) Squadron (Sqn). It was allocated the fleet code 'T', which was applied on its tail fin. During 1983, it was sent to British Aerospace to receive airframe modifications that would allow it to carry AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and adopt an air defence role if required. A few years later, it was refinished into air defence grey colours, and was transferred to the second Chivenor ‘shadow’ squadron; RAF 63(R) Sqn, maintaining its training role.
XX346 remained a part of the 2TWU fleet, until the Unit itself was re-designated No 7 Flying Training School (7FTS) on 1st April 1992. Subsequently, 63(R) Sqn was disbanded six months later and resurrected immediately as RAF 19(R) Squadron.
The RAF Chivenor airfield closed in September 1994, with most of its airframes moving onto RAF Valley. XX346 did make the move, but it is unknown at the time of writing whether it saw further service, or was just placed in store/maintenance.

XX346's FRADU career

XX346 was ferried to RNAS Yeovilton on 23rd February 1995, entering service with the Fleet Air Arm whilst on loan from the RAF. Painted black, ROYAL NAVY lettering and a Fleet Air Arm wings emblem were applied to the rear fuselage and tail fin respectively shortly after XX346 began service with the Fleet Requirements & Air Direction Unit (FRADU). Part of the static display at both RNAS Yeovilton and RAF Fairford airshows during that summer, XX346 was ferried to RNAS Culdrose on 30th November 1995, prior to the FRADU's move to the airfield officially taking place the following day.
XX346 continued to give steady service to the FRADU until it was withdrawn and ferried to RAF St Athan for a major overhaul on 29th July 1997.

Return to the RAF

The airframe did not return to FRADU following the completion of the maintenance process, as it was instead sent to British Aerospace at Brough for a short time, prior to entering the Hawk Fuselage Replacement Programme (FRP) in July 2000. On completion, it was returned to RAF service with RAF 19(R) Sqn, now part of 4FTS at Valley. Adopting the Unit's blue/white checkerboard markings on the rear fuselage, XX346's service role had gone full circle, as it was employed on tactical weapons training, the same role it carried out prior to its move to FRADU in 1995.

During the spring of 2008, XX346 was transferred to RAF 100 Sqn at RAF Leeming and employed on target facilities work along with exercise and training support duties. It adopted the Squadron's Unit chequerboard markings on the fuselage, and Skull and crossbones emblem on the fin. It also was allocated the fleet code 'CH' - a code it kept until June 2017, when it was changed to 'CP' - an identity it keeps today with the Squadron.

- December 2020

[© Richard Parkhurst]

[© Dave Burrow]

[© Geoff Wakeham]
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