Pilot training

ADF Pilot Training – a very slow take off

Byline: Geoff Slocombe // Victoria

Human piloted aircraft, both fixed and rotary wing, will continue to be the ADF’s most important aerial assets for the foreseeable future. Although the ISR requirements of Australia’s huge EEZ, the third largest maritime jurisdiction in the world, make it a natural for high altitude long endurance (HALE) remotely piloted drones (for more information see “Australia’s – and the Region’s – Grand Challenge: Situational Maritime Domain Awareness” APDR December-January 2013), these will coexist with airborne and seaborne force element groups who will undertake the necessary enforcement or relief operations.

Training ADF pilots who will fly their designated missions is a very important and ongoing task. Integrated training systems comprising aircraft, simulators and other synthetic training devices, computer-based learning and testing systems, maintaining the training aircraft and allied systems, together with ongoing support, is something of a moving target for those charged with capability development. At any point in time there is always some important new capability on the horizon, enabled by the latest technology.

Do nothing and the training system fails over time to deliver personnel trained for the platforms they are to operate from. Do the wrong thing and the result is sub-optimal, passing further training down the line to operational units, when it could and should be done more effectively within a planned and properly resourced training environment. Do the right thing and the result is timely delivery of capable pilots and other aircrew who progress naturally and efficiently to their next stage of operational readiness in their squadrons.

APDR has been tracking the glacially slow progress of both fixed wing and rotary wing pilot training, which follows on from basic screening and initial flying training, in recent years.

Longer term readers will be acquainted with the articles “Training for the future very much in the future” APDR April 2010, “Training pilots in the 21st century” APDR June 2011, “ADF Pilot Training System tender document still in the clouds” APDR April 2012, and “HATS on for a fierce competition” APDR May 2012.

In 2013 what is the current and prospective situation with ADF Pilot Training?


All prospective ADF pilots for both fixed and rotary wing aircraft undergo an initial screening and basic flying program at BAE Systems, Tamworth, who have an $86.6 million six year contract from January 2012, with options for six one year extensions.

Training sortie profiles are designed to investigate an applicant’s suitability for the airborne environment with particular emphasis on suitability for subsequent training as a military pilot. Instructors are looking for a demonstrated rate of learning; ability to respond to instruction; personal application; motivation and maturity.

The ADF website describes the progression of pilot training, with associated combat survival training, as follows:

“As an Air Force trainee pilot you will complete an Aviation Medicine (AVMED) course covering the physiological aspects of military aviation. You will receive your initial AVMED training at Tamworth before commencing flying. At the completion of ADF-Basic Flying Training School (ADFBFTS), and before starting the Advanced Flying Training phase at No 2 Flying Training School (2FTS) at RAAF Base Pearce (near Perth) in WA, you will undergo further AVMED training, including hypoxia training in a hyperbaric chamber, at the Institute of Aviation Medicine at RAAF Base Edinburgh (in Adelaide) SA.

“On completion of the initial part of the AVMED course candidates will commence with Basic Training at ADFBFTS. The course duration is 25 weeks and consists of two phases (Basic and Advanced) totalling 62.8 hours of flying. All flying is done on the CT-4B aircraft. The syllabus will include training in General Flying (GF), Instrument Flying (IF), Night Flying (NF), and Navigation (NAV).

“Phase 1- Instruction in GF includes manoeuvres such as basic aerobatics, spinning and emergency handling. IF instruction covers instrument interpretation skills with an emphasis on Non Directional Beacon (NDB) orientation and approaches. During IF, NF is conducted. The NAV component of the course introduces medium level cross-country navigation and the student is progressed to a safe solo standard.

“Phase 2 – This phase involves consolidation of basic GF, instruction in advanced aerobatics and further development of emergency handling skills.

“Ground training will also be conducted in Aerodynamics, Aircraft Systems, Airmanship, Air Power, Air Traffic Control, Aviation Medicine, Cockpit Systems, Meteorology, Morse Code, and Navigation.

“Upon completion of the Pilot Basic course, candidates proceed to 2FTS for Advanced Training. Flying at 2FTS is done on the PC9/A. The course is approximately 37 weeks duration with 119 hours of flying. The curriculum is similar to that of BFTS with an emphasis on transferring basic flying skills, as obtained at ADFBFTS, onto a higher performance aircraft. 2FTS also introduces more advanced military flying skills including low-level navigation to a time-on-target and formation flying. Ultimately, these are combined into mission-oriented profiles that demand a high degree of flexibility and adaptability in both flying skills and mental processes.”

Following on from Advanced Training pilots transfer either to squadrons for fixed wing pilots or in future HATS for helicopter pilots.

Currently Army rotary wing pilots train on aged Bell 206 Kiowas at Oakey, while Navy pilots move to Nowra to train on Eurocopter AS 350 Squirrels.

On completion of basic helicopter pilot training these pilots move to squadrons for conversion and follow-on training within their squadrons.


Defence have written in the Defence Capability Plan (DCP) that: “The project will introduce new basic and advanced training systems to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the ADF’s fixed wing Pilot Training System (PTS). The system will enable an increase in graduation numbers; generate pilot skills consistent with advanced 4th/5th generation aircraft; enable the withdrawal of current training media; and provide solutions for the integration of synthetic training systems.”

Further they indicate that: “The system will provide platforms for flight screening and all phases of undergraduate pilot training from basic flying up to entry into Air Force Lead-in Fighter and Operational Conversion Units. The system will also provide Navy and Army candidates for the Helicopter Aircrew Training System to be delivered under Project AIR 9000 Phase 7.”

The Year-of-Decision has slipped two years from FY2012-13 to FY2014-15 now to the period FY2014-15 to FY2015-16 between the 2011 and 2012 DCPs (Public Version).

Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is to be reached 3 years after the contract decision.

Why has it taken so long?

A Defence spokesperson explained: “Defining and agreeing on requirements for pilot training is a complex endeavour, and it is important to make sure all aspects of the system to be procured will satisfy the range of end user needs. Government approval of a number of minor, but important proposed changes to the first pass scope was required prior to issuing the draft RFT. Project staff have continued to support this process and to review and refine the tender documentation to ensure that it remains fully aligned with end user needs”.

“Defence Budget reductions have not impacted on project schedule. Project AIR 5428 is a complex project seeking to procure, establish and support new basic and advanced training systems to enable an increase in pilot graduation numbers, generate pilot skills consistent with advanced “4th and 5th generation” fighter aircraft, enable the withdrawal of current training media, and provide solutions for the integration of synthetic training systems. The project continues to work to the project timeline published in the Defence Capability Plan 2012“.

In response to a query from APDR about progress on the RFT the same Defence spokesperson answered “A draft request for tender (RFT) was released for industry comment on 9 January 2013. An Industry Brief on the draft RFT will be conducted at RAAF Williams at 1330 hours on 24 January 2013. Release of a draft RFT offers industry an opportunity to provide strategic feedback to Defence on improving the RFT prior to final RFT release later this year.“

So tenders to be submitted late 2013, with a decision sometime later in FY 2014-15, hopefully. This implies IOC will be reached FY2017-18.

As already noted, the BAE Systems basic flying screening and training contract runs until at least 2018, implying a decision on this billion dollar project is unlikely before 2015.

What does this mean in terms of Life-of-Type (LOT) for the existing CT-4 and PC-9 training aircraft?

CT4B’s were in use for initial RAAF flight training from the early 1990’s, before a number of them transferred either from the RAAF or private ownership to BAE Systems, Tamworth in 2011. Therefore, although reliable, they are getting old. The ADF required that these aircraft be brought up to current crashworthiness standards by incorporating the latest FAR 23 amendments. This was done before BAE commenced flying them. They are rugged aircraft which can probably continue to operate, despite their age, until replaced.

The last of 67 PC9/A aircraft was delivered in March 1992, which means that by 2018 it will be 26 years old, while earlier delivered aircraft are even older. Is this pushing planned Life-of-Type too far, or is it a tribute to skilled preventative maintenance?

When Defence was asked: “In what year(s) is the existing fleet of PC-9 pilot training aircraft expected to reach Life-of-Type?” a spokesperson responded “The PC-9 planned withdrawal date currently is 2016. Technical risk, resource and cost analyses continue to be conducted to determine the most effective means of managing the transition from the PC-9 to the new Project AIR 5428 capability.”

2016? Potentially two years before IOC of the replacement aircraft. There will be some interesting work done to cover the capability gap.


These days when defence contractors are about to receive documents like RFTs, or even draft RFTs, they commit themselves not to disclose the contents to any third party other than potential sub-contractors and are on no account to make public comment about their potential offer for the project.

Therefore APDR has been unable to see the draft RFT, although our experience gives us some insight into what should be there, as a minimum.

It will be to the Australian Standard for Defence Contracting (ASDEFCON) Volume 2. That is after a cover page it will provide general information for users and a covering letter. The normal Defence tender requirements of confidentiality, compliance, governance, timeline, glossary and definition sections, as well as other tender conditions will be included.

A Conditions of Contract and any annexes to those conditions will form Part 2.

The Statement of Work and annexes to it can be expected to include as a minimum a PTS statement of requirements (SOR); aircraft SOR; aircraft integrated logistics system (ILS) requirements; synthetic training system (simulator) SOR and synthetic training system ILS requirements. Courseware and the other components of a complete training package will need to be specified.

There will be a requirement to commit to how through life support (TLS) is to be delivered.

Of these various stated requirements, the most interesting to the reader is probably the aircraft SOR.

Aircraft sourced will be expected to be already in service, apart possibly for the Traffic Collision and Avoidance System (TCAS) instrumentation (also required in the simulator) which will need to be certified to meet Australian conditions by contract signature time. Aircraft numbers, including spares, for a life-of-type (LOT) of at least 20 years and typical annual flying hours will be specified.

Capability requirements will be nominated for the various aspects of training to be delivered.

Airworthiness and certification requirements will be stringent – including fatigue analysis reports; crash analysis reports; stress analysis reports; design usage spectrum data; electrical loads analyses; thermal load analyses; hazard analysis; and failure modes, effects and criticality analyses.

Proposed testing and acceptance schemes will be thorough and comprehensive.

There will be a Statement of Operating Intent which will describe in great detail how the aircraft will be used throughout the training cycles.

All up it will be a clear and precise definition of what the ADF will be looking for in its PTS aircraft. Similarly thorough requirements will be stated for the synthetic training devices (simulators) and the rest of the training package.


When the HATS RFT closed in April 2012 there were expectations that Raytheon/Bell Helicopter, KBR/Elbit/QDS, AgustaWestland/CAE/BAE Systems, Australian Aerospace and Boeing/Thales would all be tendering. They did, all with modern twin-engine, digital cockpit IFR capable helicopters and sophisticated training systems, as a complete package.

HATS will also train helicopter aircrew, readying pilots and other crew members for transfer to operational squadrons.

Lockheed Martin/Bristow Helicopter did not pursue the opportunity after having earlier indicated they would. Lockheed Martin are probably too involved with JSF and other ADF projects to be diverted by competing for HATS.

A down-select decision should be due any time now to short list two, or maybe three, contenders. When asked, a Defence spokesperson said: “The AIR 9000 Phase 7 tender down selection is due to be finalised during the first quarter 2013.”

The down selected groupings will then compete to satisfy Defence that they should be recommended to the Government as the preferred tenderer. Currently the Year-of-Decision is forecast as FY2013-14 to FY2014-15 in the 2012 DCP (Public Version.)

Although Defence has made it clear that HATS will be based at Nowra, there will certainly be a continuing role for Oakey in helicopter conversion aircrew training.


Probably more waiting! The PTS RFT will hopefully emerge later this year, but will there be a rapid down select decision, particularly in this time of financial stringency and strategic reform for Defence?

HATS is more likely to get up first because the old analogue cockpit technology of Kiowas and Squirrels simply does not equip pilots and other aircrew for the sophisticated operation of the modern helicopters now populating the ADF’s air assets.

Let us hope that this key ADF airborne capability enabler comes into use smoothly and effectively, whenever that is, with no more Seasprite-type scandals to dog Defence.

Raytheon’s Retention and Motivation Initiative 2 (RMI 2) engagement with the RAN at Nowra, using Bell 429 helicopters, shows that these things can be done smoothly on time and within budget.

Next articleAnti-Ship Missile Defence impressive progress


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