Designed to counteract the threat posed by advanced 1950s Soviet-built aircraft, the first HAWK unit became operational in 1959. At its peak, it saw frontline service in the Far East, Panama, Europe, and in the Middle East. Units were also used during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War, and Persian Gulf War. In the hands of other nations, HAWK proved its efficacy in combat during the Arab-Israeli Wars, Iran-Iraq War, Chadian-Libyan War, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Credited with shooting down more than 100 aircraft during its combat career, the HAWK system was respected for its lethality. Such was Soviet concern, that it developed electronic jammers, anti-radiation missiles, and other countermeasures specifically to degrade its effectiveness. The US retired its HAWK systems soon after the Cold War ended in 1991 when air defense priorities shifted from aircraft to ballistic missile defense, yet, a modernized version of the system remains in service to this day in many nations.