AIR 5428

ADF Pilot Training System tender still in the clouds

Byline: Geoff Slocombe / Victoria

What is delaying the release of a draft of this Request for Tender (RFT), soliciting industry comment on the project’s requirements? Planned to be out by now, the official Defence position given to APDR in March is:

“Until recently, the draft was intended for release in the first part of 2012 but this did not occur as some important aspects of the draft RFT are still in work. There is no firm schedule for the release of the draft RFT at this time.”

APDR continues to examine progress on the AIR 5428 Pilot Training System (PTS) project – see also ‘Training for the future very much in the future’ APDR April 2010 and ‘Training pilots in the 21st century’ APDR June 2011.

The probable contenders for this important billion dollar project are finding it impossible to say much about their offerings until they see the detail of the RFT, which is frustrating for them and the defence media.

But it must be even more trying for the senior ADF officers and Defence’s civilian management who are charged with bringing this and related capabilities into full operation by 2015-2017, for a PTS to last until around 2040.

AIR 5428 Pilot Training System (PTS)

Defence write 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 RFT for HATS (AIR 9000 Phase 7) was issued on 6 January 2012 and closes on 19 April 2012. Since HATS is due to reach Initial Operating Capability in the period 2014-2016, possibly a year or more before AIR 5428, there is a serious chance of a timing disconnect.

Local industry requirements have not yet been published, but are anticipated to include teaming arrangements for development of curriculum, training media and supporting software for the PTS; provision of training aircraft with overseas OEMs and the synthetic training environment; cost-effective participation in the aircraft OEMs global supply chain; and development and support of PTS-related infrastructure. These requirements will extend into Through Life Support (TLS) although precisely what these will be have not yet been defined.

Although not in the project’s current public description, the PTS will represent a change in focus from simply flying aircraft competently, challenging as that is, to include mission system training in the curriculum by covering warfighting planning, task navigation, 3D situational awareness in space and time, correctly utilising sensor outputs, threat mapping, and weapon systems management.

Defence is believed to prefer a single aircraft solution, but how this is expressed by the RFT writers and how bidding organisations respond will reflect a quandary. If only one aircraft type is tendered, then it has to be chosen to cover the gamut from flight screening/ab-initio training all the way through to the high performance required to prepare pilots for their next career steps. This will create challenges for those potential OEMs whose aircraft sit ‘in the middle’ i.e. not ideal for flight screening and not having enough performance to reach the levels required for the advanced stages. If two aircraft types are chosen, then a less costly trainer optimised for initial stages will be tendered, with a higher performance aircraft selected for the more advanced stages of flying and mission training

Raytheon/BAE Systems/Hawker Beechcraft team a certain contender

When interviewed by APDR for this article Michael Ward, Managing Director, Raytheon Australia, said of this team:

“Raytheon Australia and BAE Systems have a strong pedigree in relation to the ADF’s aircrew training systems. BAE is well known for its undergraduate and post graduate flying training presence and has provided flight screening and basic flying training services to the ADF for more than 15 years. The company also maintains its association with the more advanced capabilities of the Lead-in Fighter.

“Similarly, Raytheon Australia has established its training credentials through its work on the Hornet Aircrew Training System, Super Hornet Training Support Services Contract, Electronic Warfare Training Services Aircraft as well as the RAN’s Retention and Motivation Initiative (RMI) and RMI 2 contracts.

“The team’s credentials are strengthened by Hawker Beechcraft Corporation’s extensive experience operating the US Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS), which is the training capability for the world’s two largest Air Forces, the US Air Force and the US Navy.”

The Raytheon/BAE Systems/Hawker Beechcraft team is strongly promoting the T-6C Texan II turboprop training aircraft for the PTS. They claim the T-6 is the safest and lowest risk proposition for Australia as the T-6 family of aircraft has already amassed over 1.6 million hours, training thousands of pilots from more than 20 countries. The overall T-6 fleet size is now in excess of 700 and Hawker Beechcraft has provided an assurance of aircraft supportability to the USAF and USN out to 2050.

“Notwithstanding the T-6C’s already proven capability to train pilots across the full spectrum of basic and advanced flight training, Raytheon will await further direction from the RFT before refining its solution” commented Michael Ward.

“In addition to aircraft, the completeness of the Raytheon team’s training system for AIR 5428 will be supported by simulators, training devices, instructors, facilities and courseware.“

Pilatus is expected to promote a single aircraft, the PC-21, for all PTS requirements

When previously asked during an interview by APDR about possible teaming arrangements, Rob Oliver, Director Defence Australia for Pilatus said:

“We want to make sure that we have the best training model and strategy on our side, but we may prefer to be the prime as it reduces overheads, provides better value for Defence, and gives them direct reach back to the OEM of the entire training system.”

Rob Oliver says that the Pilatus plan is to base all training around the PC-21 rather than acquire a separate platform for the initial phases of training, but that will depend on the RFT.

“We believe we’re the only aircraft system which has the performance to provide the relatively benign performance required for ab-initio training, right through to the lead-in point of Lead-in Fighter training” he says.

Pilatus is the only military pilot training OEM that has a contemporary system, conducting initial and advanced training leading to front line current generation fighter aircraft, being delivered in Australia. The PC-21 pilot training system appears to be the only completely new design comprehensive initial military pilot training system in existence anywhere in the world, and may be the only system that provides the flexibility and performance which the ADF will require in the future.

The PC-21 comes with a comprehensive system of ground based training equipment and courses. This results in an integrated training package which was designed from the beginning to be tailored to suit customer’s needs and syllabi and enable the objectives of modern pilot training to be met. The classroom and computer-based training elements of the system are seamlessly integrated to the flight training and synthetic training devices. The flight training device is based upon the actual aircraft with modules for the cockpit section, instructor station, visual system, and interface to other training devices via a high level architecture. The main aim of the Pilatus Synthetic Training Device is to permit learning, development and the practice of skills in cockpit procedures, instrument flight procedures and manoeuvres, emergency procedures and flight characteristics necessary for understanding and operating the integrated systems of the PC-21 while in a safe and cost effective environment.

Pilatus supplied 67 PC-9/A aircraft to the RAAF in 1989. They are operated by No. 2 FTS, RAAF Base, Pearce, Central Flying School at RAAF Base, East Sale, 4 Sqn at RAAF Williamtown and Aircraft Research and Development Unit at RAAF Edinburgh. By 2014 they will have been employed for 25 years, creating a challenge to purchase the right level of spares to see them through their final years of service. Defence’s Strategic Reform Program requires a focus on minimising the overall cost of these spares.

The Royal Singapore Air Force’s Basic Wings Course at RAAF Base, Pearce, has used PC-21 aircraft for pilot training for the last 4 years. The PC-21 is also the first trainer of choice for the United Arab Emirates and the Swiss Air Force. It appears to be the preferred choice for several other Air Forces who are undertaking similar acquisition projects to AIR 5428.
Pacific Aerospace’s upgraded CT-4E is a useful option

The NZ manufactured CT-4 is a well known trainer and participant in aerobatic display teams for the RNZAF (13), Royal Thai Air Force (20) and RAAF (30+). The CT-4E can now be supplied with a Garmin G600 Electronic Flight Instrument System.

Pacific Aerospace Limited (PAL) would team with a prime contractor to meet the requirements of AIR 5428, assuming that calls for a basic/elementary flight training platform as part of the programme.

When APDR interviewed him recently, Steve Peters, General Manager Commercial for PAL, said:

“We have a long-standing history with, and significant experience in, supporting the CT-4 aircraft in-service with the RAAF and their flight training partner(s). This experience ensures that the company has an excellent track record in supplying and supporting a robust, agile training platform that can meet the demanding operational requirements of the RAAF in relation to flight screening, ab-initio training and intermediate flight training. The CT-4 gives operators genuine versatility, whereby student pilots can develop their basic flying skills in a stable training platform, which can also easily meet the more rigorous demands of advanced aerobatics in the most challenging of training environments.”

A good degree of continuity between the A, B and E variants results in less retraining of instructors and engineering support staff on the E model, lower capital investment in new support infrastructure, resulting in an overall lower direct operating cost but delivering a much higher performing fully aerobatic (+6G to -3G) aircraft with its 300 HP engine and 3 bladed propeller.

Defence say they do not have a current project to upgrade from their existing CT-4Bs, but this option must have its attractions given the cost pressures of the Strategic Reform Program.

Other defence companies possibly responding to AIR 5428

Both Boeing Australia and Thales Australia have not answered APDR questions on their likely response to a future AIR 5428 RFT. What is known is that they both tendered the Grob 120A aircraft unsuccessfully when competing for the Interim Basic Flying Training (IBFT) requirement to provide flight screening and basic training services to the RAAF. This contract was won in 2011 by BAE Systems with upgraded CT-4s.

The more advanced turboprop Grob 120TP, with its glass cockpit and Virtual Tactical Training (VTT) system could be their choice for what Grob Aircraft AG calls ‘a sophisticated mission training platform that can accommodate typical elementary, basic and advanced pilot training segments’. Grob Aircraft AG claim the Indonesian Air Force has become the first Asian customer for the Grob 120TP, with deliveries commencing in 2012.

Other aircraft which could be sourced as part of the future PTS include the Embraer EMB-312 Tucano trainer aircraft and the Finmeccanica SF-260TP. The plastic lightweight Diamond DA20 used by Canada and the US for flight screening and initial flying training would not be suitable in Australia because it does not have the lightning protection of a metal-bodied aircraft, and therefore cannot be used for Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) training.

Choice of Location

In May 2011 BAE Systems won an IBFT contract for the Australian military’s flight school in Tamworth, New South Wales. Under the six-year, performance-based contract, with six one-year extension options, BAE Systems Australia is each year providing flight screening services for around 275 candidates, as well as basic flight training for 150 students.

BAE Systems believes that this gives their team an advantage when it comes to choosing a location for AIR 5428. However, this is not necessarily so.

According to a Defence spokesperson:

“At first pass approval in July 2009, the Australian Government agreed that RAAF Base, East Sale would be publicly identified in the tender documentation as a basing solution for the future basic flying training school, noting that prospective tenderers would be required to tender for another location in addition to East Sale. All basing proposals will be considered on a value for money basis with the final basing decision being made by the Government when a second pass approval decision on AIR 5428 is made.”

The Victorian Government and the Shire of Wellington are lobbying strongly for the basic flying training base to be located at RAAF Base, East Sale. East Gippsland Shire Council has joined Wellington Shire Council by signing a Heads of Agreement in February 2012 for a strategy to secure the AIR 5428 Pilot Training System for Sale.

“AIR 5428 represents what would be a significant long-term benefit to our region and the Heads of Agreement is another milestone towards us achieving our goal” Wellington Shire Council chief executive officer, David Morcom said.

What happens next?

We wait. Nothing more can be done publicly until Defence release their draft RFT, hopefully during 2012.

The Raytheon team and Pilatus are certain bidders, while it is highly unlikely that Boeing and Thales will not be contesting a billion dollar tender. Other parties or teams may emerge after the draft RFT’s release.

On the helicopter front, Raytheon will not be teaming with BAE Systems for AIR 9000 Phase 7. BAE Systems/CAE/ Augusta Westland are one team, while Raytheon is bidding with Bell Helicopter. Thales and Boeing have already announced they will join forces to offer the Eurocopter EC 135 for the HATS tender.

Return on major investments in future ADF network centric capabilities, systems and platforms is heavily dependent on the calibre, morale and competence of personnel who will use them. The evaluation of AIR 5428 will be considering the totality of the training systems offered, not just the aircraft. Importantly sustainability, ease of updating, partner commitment and total cost-of-ownership over the life of the project will be assessed. This contract will be a major step towards ensuring future investments in personnel and air delivered capability are realised effectively in the defence of the nation and its people – whenever that might be.











Image: T-6C cockpit.doc (contains hi-res image sent to me by Raytheon)

Caption: Glass cockpit of the T-6C training aircraft, to be proposed for AIR 5428 by the Raytheon/BAE Systems/Hawker Beechcraft team Credit: Raytheon Australia




Image: PC-21-Cockpit03.jpg

Caption: The two in-line seats of the Pilatus PC-21 cockpit have the same instruments and controls. Credit: Pilatus


Image: Simulator01.jpg

Caption: Student pilot using a Pilatus synthetic training device. Credit: Pilatus










Image: Garmin G600 EFIS.jpg

Caption: Garmin G600 EFIS for installation in a CT-4E Credit: Garmin Ltd











Image: G120TP cockpit.jpg

Caption: Grob 120TP cockpit. The Indonesian Air Force is claimed to be the first Asian customer for this aircraft. Credit: Grob Aircraft AG


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