T-45A Goshawks training aircraft cruise together during a recent training flight over the skies of South Texas (US Navy photo)

T-45A Goshawks training aircraft cruise together during a recent training flight over the skies of South Texas (US Navy photo)

When naval aviators are learning how to be naval aviators, they fly the T-45 Goshawk. The subsonic jet is described by instructors as “eminently forgiving,” and it is the only trainer able to withstand the rigors of repeated aircraft carrier takeoffs and landings.

As of 2009, the T-45 prepares U.S. Navy and Marine Corps pilots for the F/A-18A-D Hornet, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the EA-18G Growler, the AV-8B Harrier and the EA-6B Prowler. Since 1992, T-45s have logged over 800,000 flight-hours and made over 50,000 carrier landings. Some 3,500 student aviators earned their wings in the T-45, according to Boeing.

The T-45 is actually a heavily modified British Aerospace Systems Hawk and was originally modified by McDonnell Douglas before its merger with Boeing. The Hawk is an amazing success in its own right, having been in service in the RAF since 1975. More than 900 Hawks have been built and many have been exported to more than a dozen countries as trainers and inexpensive fighters.

The Hawk, while a proven trainer, was not designed for carrier operations, so McDonnell Douglas had to heavily modify it for naval use. Improvements included getting low-speed handling, reduced approach speed, strengthened airframe, wider landing gear, catapult equipment, and an arresting hook.

The Goshawk is used for intermediate and advanced strike pilot training. It replaced the T-2C Buckeye as the intermediate jet trainer and the TA-4J Skyhawk II advanced trainer.

The newer T-45C was delivered in 1997 and features a glass cockpit. The sturdy, trustworthy trainer will be in use until at least 2035, according to the military. As of 2009, Boeing had delivered 214 out of an order of 221 T-45s.



Crew: Two (student, instructor)
Length: 39 ft 4 in
Wingspan: 30 ft 10 in
Height: 13 ft 5 in
Empty weight: 10,403 lb
Max. takeoff weight: 14,081 lb
Engine: One Rolls-Royce Turbomeca F405-RR-401 (Adour) turbofan, 5,527 lbf


Maximum speed: 560 knots
Range: 700 nmi
Ceiling: 42,500 ft


Not usually armed, but can be equipped with practice bombs, rockets, and external fuel tanks.

Essential Reading

The Aviation Factfile’s “Modern Military Aircraft” has some good reference material on the T-45.

If naval aviation is a passion, pick up “To Be a U.S. Naval Aviator” by Jay A. Stout is a great choice. Stout, an accomplished fighter pilot, walks you through what it takes to make it in the 21st century. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a naval aviator and profiles the men and women who fly today’s carrier planes.

Online Resources:

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