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Teaching Tomorrow's "Drivers".

Budgetary pressure is obliging air forces to acknowledge that they can justify their high costs only in using weaponry. The majority are furthermore too small to run pilot training programmes effectively. The logical outcome is multi-national flying training by civilian contractors.

The intention is that military pilot training should become less expensive and more effective, but in some fundamentals it will continue unaltered. Students' training will still be phased, using different aircraft types of increasing performance and cost. However, economics are forcing operators to extract more value from less expensive aircraft, and to divide students into separate streams (according to the aircraft they will fly operationally) at the earliest possible point.

High-powered turboprop aircraft are now providing some training previously done on more expensive jets. With single-lever powerplant control and (for the Raytheon T-6A) an auto-trim device to minimise torque effects, current turboprops have virtually eliminated the demand for (more costly) basic jet trainers. "Lead-in" jet trainers are meanwhile being developed to simulate fighters, and reduce the expensive hours spent in conversion-to-type.

Illustrating the trend to early streaming, the US Air Force used to train all student pilots as if they were to fly fast jets. At the end of the first phase of specialised undergraduate pilot training (SUPT) on the T-6A, the service now assigns students to one of four streams. Students designated for the fighter/bomber stream proceed to the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon, while those destined for jet-airlift and tankers go to the Raytheon T-1A (Beechjet 400) business jet, helicopter pilots train on the Army-operated Bell TH-67 Creek (JetRanger III), and those chosen for the C-130 go to the Navy-operated Raytheon T-44A (King Air) twin-turboprop.

First Phase

The student pilot must first pass through a short primary/elementary flying training phase (also known as grading/flight screening) to assess whether he/she has the aptitude to become a military pilot in a reasonably short time.

This process can take as little as 20 hours, but US Air Force student pilots are currently given 40 hours of introductory flight training (IF-F) at civil flight schools. For economy reasons, Britain's RAF now streams student pilots before they reach a turbine-engined aircraft. Direct entrants are given 62 hours of elementary training on the Slingsby T67M Firefly, operated by Hunting Contract Services. Those who have flown with the fifteen University Air Squadrons have had 90 hours of flying on Grob G115E Tutors, which are the responsibility of Bombardier Contract Services.

In Australia, the course run on behalf of the RAAF by BAE Systems (which also maintains the Hawk 127) begins with fifteen hours of flight screening on the Pacific Aerospace CT/4 and Akro-Tech CAP-10, followed by 99 hours of ab initio training on the CT/4.

A typical first-phase military trainer has a 150 kW reciprocating engine, a fixed tricycle undercarriage, and a cockpit with side-by-side seating and sufficient headroom for bone-domes. The principal examples are currently the Grob G115 series and the Slingsby T67M Firefly, both powered by Textron Lycoming engines.

Following sales of 370 of the G115 series, Grob has developed the 195 kW G120A, which first flew last year. The first customer is Lufthansa Flight Training, which will use the G120A to provide first-phase training in Phoenix, Arizona, for student pilots from the German armed forces.

The retractable-gear Aermacchi SF260 has sold in large numbers, but is felt by some to have too high a wing loading for screening. The fixed-gear Moravan Zlin Z-242L is the latest version of the highly successful Z-142/242 series. Israel is also considering the Pacific Aerospace CT/4E and the tandem-seat ENAER T-35, which was developed on the basis of Piper airframe components. In view of Israel's trade with Chile, the T-35 may be the political favourite.

Second Phase

Those students who survive proceed to basic flying training. This aims to develop fundamental piloting skills and attitudes, and situation awareness. It is increasingly performed by tandem-seat turboprop aircraft with retractable undercarriages. The student learns such basic skills as stalls, spins, aerobatics, night flying, formation flying, low-level cross-country navigation, traffic patterns and emergency procedures.

It has been argued that side-by-side seating gives the student more confidence, and allows the instructor to keep a closer watch on the student's actions. However, these arguments are now generally accepted to be outweighed by the improved performance of tandem-seat aircraft.

After 50 to 100 hours of basic flying training, students are ready to be streamed. The most capable are assigned to the fast jets, while others are designated for multi-engine (transport/tanker) or helicopter training.

The fast jet stream may well then undergo 40 to 50 hours of advanced turboprop training. In this phase the student is exposed to basic fighter manoeuvres, and has to plan and perform more complex sorties, including a relatively long-range cross-country flight.

The lower turboprop range is represented by the Aermacchi SF-260TP and M-290TP, which have side-by-side seating and Rolls-Royce Model 250 engines, rated at 260 and 335 kW respectively. The attraction of the SF-260TP is that it is a re-engined SF-260. The downside is that, since the aircraft is unchanged aft of the firewall, it is short of fuel. The larger and more expensive M-290TP is probably a better trainer, though it appears to lack the performance for advanced turboprop training.

The widespread acceptance of turboprop trainers began following development of the Pilatus PC-7 and the Embraer EMB-312 Tucano, using Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) PT6A engines of 410 and 560 kW respectively. The Tucano is a larger and heavier air-craft than the PC-7, hence the two have very similar performance attributes. There is now strong support for using even more powerful turboprops, one reason being to shorten the advanced jet training syllabus.

This philosophy led first to the Pilatus PC-9 with a P&WC PT6A flat-rated at 708 kW, and then to the Shorts Tucano with an 820 kW Honeywell (GE) TPE331. The PC-9 served as the basis for the Raytheon T-6A Texan II, which was adopted by the US Air Force and US Navy, but Pilatus is currently working on yet another, more powerful trainer designated PC-21 (The Pilatus PC-7 MK II and -9 are now designated with an M suffix, which stands for `modular', but for sake of clarity are here still referred to under their original designations).

With its eyes on the potential US military market, Embraer developed a stretched, more powerful Tucano, designated EMB-312H. This in turn served as the basis for the EMB-314 Super Tucano, which is being developed to meet Brazilian Air Force basic flying training and light attack requirements.

Third Phase

The third phase of the fast jet syllabus is advanced jet flying training of 100 to 150 hours. This repeats the exercises of the second, with speeds and systems more appropriate to a combat aircraft.

The leader was the supersonic, twin-engined Northrop Grumman T-38, which can reach Mach 1.3 at altitude. Deliveries began in 1959. Some 509 T-38A/Bs are being given an avionics upgrade by Boeing, and the resulting T-38C is expected to remain in service until around 2040.

Europe adopted a further generation of subsonic trainers, with a stepped tandem cockpit to improve the instructor's field of view. The principal examples are the turbojet-powered Aermacchi MB339, and the turbofan-engined Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet and BAE Systems Hawk (and its Boeing T-45 Goshawk derivative). The Alpha Jet and the Saab Sk60 are both twin-engined. The latter, which is being re-engined with Williams-Rolls FJ44 turbofans, has side-by-side seating, which facilitates air-to-ground weapons training.

Turbofans provide better range and endurance than turbojets, but also cost more (the Hawk is around 50 per cent more expensive than the MB-339) and are more difficult to relight in flight. The principal new trainer engine is the Honeywell (GE) F124 turbofan, which has dual-fadec (full-authority digital engine control) and an integrated engine health-monitoring system. The F124 has been selected for the Aero L-159 and the twin-engined Aermacchi M-346.

It is significant that the MB339CD/FD, Hawk Lift (lead-in fighter trainer) and T-45C all have glass cockpits to facilitate conversion to the latest operational aircraft and thus reduce overall training costs.

The advanced jet trainers so far discussed are capable of low level speeds of at least 900 km/hr. Lower down the scale, Aermacchi markets the S-211, which has been adopted by Singapore and the Philippines. The S-211 has better performance than any of the turboprop range, but it is unsuitable for advanced jet training. The same could be said for the Aero L-39/139, Casa/Eads C-101 and China's Catic K-8, all of which have high-bypass turbofans.

Fourth Phase

Between advanced jet flying training and operational conversion, some air forces carry out a tactics and weapons training phase, to teach the pilot how to plan and perform air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties. It generally includes basic fighter manoeuvres, air combat exercises with one or more participating aircraft, gunnery and the use of rocket projectiles and practice bombs. This phase normally makes use of the same aircraft type as is employed in advanced jet training and lasts about 50 hours.


How these multiple phases are brought together is illustrated through the examination of the NFTC (Nato Flying Training in Canada) syllabus, which is being used by student pilots from Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy and Singapore. Prior to joining the programme, all students have gone through flight screening (Phase I). Students spend the 95 hours of basic flying training (Phase II) on the Raytheon T-6 at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, after which they are streamed. Those selected for multiengine or helicopter training go to Portage La Prairie, where Bombardier employs the Raytheon King Air or Bell JetRanger respectively.

The fighter stream then flies 46 more hours on the T-6 (Phase IIB), prior to 73 hours of advanced jet training (Phase III) on the BAE Systems Hawk 115, also at Moose Jaw. On completing this stage, the student is eligible for Canadian Forces "Wings".

Fighter lead-in tactical training (Phase IV) involves 52 hours on the Hawk 115 at Cold Lake, Alberta, where the training range covers an area of 700 000 square kilometres. On completion of this phase, the pilot is ready for conversion to operational type by his/her own service.

Future Trainers

Various attempts have been made to predict future advanced trainer requirements. For example, in 1993 the Russian Air Force (VVS), having cancelled orders for the Aero L-59, issued a Technical-Tactical Requirement for a new jet trainer. This specified a twin-engined high-subsonic aircraft with excellent airfield performance, a sustained turning load factor better than the L-39 and range/endurance figures that were difficult to achieve.

More interestingly, the Russian requirement asked for high angle of attack capability and a programmable flight control system, so that it could simulate any operational aircraft from the Su-25 to the MiG-29. This led to the manufacture and testing of prototypes of the MiG-AT and Yak-130. Despite various claims, no winner has been selected by the VVS.

Britain is making a fundamental reassessment of its military flying training system (UK-MFFS).

The foundations for the UK-MFDS programme were laid by the Project 08 study, which concluded that there would be availability problems with the Tucano from 2004, with the Hawk from 2006 and with the Jetstream (multiengine training) from 2007. The Tucano and Hawk were seen as deficient, not in performance, but in cockpit instrumentation and avionics fit.

Faced with a substandard and deteriorating aircrew training situation, the British Ministry of Defence has concluded that (ideally) a civil contractor should take over from 2003, but that -- due to its own lengthy procurement procedure -- a contract cannot be awarded until April 2006. The RAF hopes that, subject to Treasury approval, new equipment and training methods will be in use by around 2010.

The service nonetheless retains aspirations that contract signature can be brought forward to late 2003.

Potential contractors for the British-MFTS are believed to be BAE Systems, Boeing, Bombardier, FR Aviation, Hunting and Serco. Whereas most of these companies might be expected to acquire new-build Tucanos and Hawk 100s, Boeing may well propose a training system based on the T-6 and T-45, using airfields in North America.

Pushed by the Belgian representative, in 1997 the Eurac (European Air Chiefs) conference, with representatives from 17 nations, took up the matter of aircrew training. An Outline European StaffTarget was agreed in 1999, and a 30company European Industry Working Group provided their reactions in August 2000. It is now envisaged that this new Eurotrainer (an informal designation that may have to be changed) will be in service in 2010+.

An interesting feature is that (as in the RAF case) there is no demand for training with real weapons.

Twelve of the 17 Eurac nations (the United Kingdom having only observer status) have now indicated willingness to contribute funds for the next Euro-trainer feasibility study. On-going mergers seem likely to result in the contest being reduced to Eads deciding whether to promote the supersonic Dasa Mako project or the partly-developed subsonic Aermacchi M-346.

In parallel with efforts on a new aircraft, an air forces working group is studying an Advanced European Jet Pilot Training or Eurotraining programme.

In short

* "Screening and initial flight training are increasingly provided by civilian contractors, as are trainer servicing and maintenance"

* "The second phase mainly employs high-powered turboprops, rather than jet aircraft"

* "New advanced jet trainers will need modern cockpits and avionics, and possibly high angle of attack capability"

* The need for exports may lead to new jet trainers also having an operational capability, implying heavy warload or supersonics."
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Author:Biass, E. H.
Publication:Armada International
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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