Pilot Training – Training for the future very much in the future
Designing and developing a flying training system for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) of the future takes time – a lot of time.
For the past few years the defence and training industry has been patiently waiting for the Department of Defence to finalise its requirements for its future flying training system. While there have been numerous delays along the way, a number of important steps have recently been made towards a new Pilot Training System (PTS), under project Air 5428, and a new rotary-wing pilot training scheme under Air 9000 Phase 7 Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS).
The aim of Air 5428 is to provide the Air Force, Army and Navy with a new fixed-wing PTS that will “provide platforms for flight screening and cover all facets of undergraduate pilot training from basic flying up to entry into Air Force lead-in fighter and operational conversion units”, according to the Defence Capability Plan (DCP) released last year. The PTS will also provide candidates for HATS and provide initial training for qualified flying instructors to support the PTS and fixed-wing operational training.
According to the DCP, the project will use basic and advanced training systems to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the fixed-wing PTS. In particular, the system is being designed to allow an increase in graduation numbers; generate pilot skills that are consistent with advanced fourth and fifth generation aircraft; allow the withdrawal of current training media; and provide solutions for the integration of synthetic training systems. The PTS, which will have an operational life of 25 years, will be required to graduate 110 pilots a year and based on a 65 per cent success rate this would mean an annual intake of approximately 170 students. The new system is being designed to make much greater use than before of synthetic training devices for airborne instruction and computer-based training and computer-aided instruction for theory subjects.
The DoD is looking to industry to develop and update the PTS, including the curriculum, training media, manuals and software; develop and maintain a training management information system; develop and support PTS-related infrastructure, including training aircraft, the synthetic training environment, facilities and systems; and deliver the training. The training aircraft are expected to be commercial- or military-off-the-shelf. The government will specify the platform capability required to achieve the competencies and training levels for both basic and advanced fixed-wing pilot training, while the bidders will be required to advise the actual platforms and training devices proposed to achieve the training outcomes, and the number of platforms and training devices to be used, says Defence.
Back in 2006 when the DoD released a request for information for the project, the original schedule called for a request for tender (RFT) to be issued in the third-quarter of 2007, responses to be received by the second quarter of 2008 and completion of contract negotiation and design by the end of 2010. Obviously that hasn’t happened, with Defence citing the size and complexity of the project for the delay.
The government gave the project first pass approval last August. The current status of the project is that the acquisition strategy leading up to second pass approval is under development, says Defence. Last year the DoD said that it expected an RFT to be released in the middle to late 2010, but now it says “the timing for industry engagement is not yet finalised”, with one industry source suggesting the RFT has slipped by a further year. Second pass approval is scheduled for financial year 2012/13 to 2014/15, while initial operational capability is planned for 2015 to 2017.
The DoD considered a private-public partnership (PPP) approach for the project – which is likely to cost in excess of A$1500 million – but after conducting studies on the issue decided a PPP acquisition would not be used. “Government decided at first pass that the training system will be procured using a performance-based contract for construction and delivery of pilot training,” according to the Department. In particular, with a PPP/PFI approach the schedule was of concern to Defence, says one source, with the very complicated partnering agreement that would be required and a possible lack of flexibility in such an agreement also understood to be concerns.
In announcing first pass approval last year, Defence Minister John Faulkner said that the project would deliver a more efficient and modern training system. It will provide student pilots with the necessary training and qualifications, including theory and flight experience, to enable them to become pilots in the Air Force, Army and Navy, said Faulkner. Through flight screening and basic and advanced training, the new PTS will prepare Air Force pilots for operational conversion and Army and Navy pilots for transfer to advanced helicopter training.
“The new PTS will enhance the ADF’s ability to train highly qualified and skilled pilots to operate its next generation of airborne capabilities,” said Faulkner. “Over the coming decade, the ADF plans to replace almost all of its airborne assets with the latest generation aircraft which will require a greater number of pilots with more advanced skill-sets,” he added.
Project Air 9000 Phase 7 HATS is moving a little faster than Air 5428, although not by much, with Phase 8 – the replacement for the Navy’s Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawks and cancelled Kaman Aerospace Super Seasprites – currently taking priority and consuming resources. Industry had expected a draft RFT to be issued in 2008 but instead a draft Operational Concept Document was released followed by a period of industry consultation, designed to assess industry preference and capacity to provide a PPP. Defence says the Air 9000 Phase 7 project team is currently developing the RFT documentation. “Commencement of formal industry engagement is scheduled for 2010, dependent upon government direction of a preferred acquisition strategy,” says Defence. “The acquisition strategy has not been finalised, though Defence has concluded wide-ranging assessments of both PPP and direct capital acquisition models for further government consideration,” it adds.
Second pass approval for the project remains scheduled for FY 2011/12 to 2012/13, and IOC from 2014 to 2016.
According to the DCP, HATS aims to deliver a system that includes live, synthetic and classroom instruction and is intended to “overcome the broadening gap between the current rotary wing training systems and the advanced operational helicopters in the current and planned future ADF inventories”, including the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) and the multi-role MRH-90 helicopter.
“The existing training systems are based upon relatively simple, single-engine helicopters that lack the complex mission and pilotage systems of contemporary aircraft,” explains Defence. “These helicopters therefore lack the ability to replicate or simulate operational aircraft characteristics, resulting in the requirement to transfer advanced training onto operational types, thus reducing their availability for operational tasking,” Defence adds.
The current training system also lacks synthetic training devices that complement and enhance training and allow the practice of training evolutions that prejudice safety if they were conducted airborne, says the DoD. “This synthetic deficiency places a greater strain on the conduct of training in aircraft, leading to constraints on the numbers that can be trained due to aircraft and training environment availability,” it adds.
HATS will include commercial- or military-off-the-shelf helicopters to replace the existing training fleet of Eurocopter Squirrels, used for Navy pilots, and the Bell OH-58 Kiowas, used by Army students; an aviation training vessel; air, ground and maritime facilities; and a synthetic training environment including full-motion simulators, fixed base simulators, part-task trainers and computer-based training.
HMAS Albatross at Nowra, New South Wales, has already been selected as the location for the new helicopter training school. The A$100 million school will train up to 60 pilots, 40 aircrewman/loadmasters and 12 observers per annum, with construction to start after second pass approval.
Since 2007, Boeing Defence Australia has been supporting the Army’s Black Hawk and Kiowa helicopters with pilot, aircrew and technician training, as well as operational fleet maintenance and support services at the Army Aviation Training Centre in Oakey, Queensland, under the Army Aviation Training and Training Support (AATTS) contract. The AATTS contract was modified earlier this year to reflect the Army’s current and future aircrew training requirements. Under the updated contract, Boeing is also responsible for delivering the initial Army pilot helicopter qualification course, using the Kiowa; 85 per cent of S-70A-9 Black Hawk pilot training; and CH-47 Chinook helicopter instructor and technician training.
The new A$44 million agreement also includes the first one-year extension – out of a possible five one-year extensions – of AATTS, with the contract now running through to September 2013. “The Commonwealth’s decision to both increase the scope of AATTS and extend the contract until 2013 reinforces Boeing Defence Australia’s position as the pre-eminent ab initio training provider to the ADF,” says Mark Brownsey, Boeing’s senior manager for Global Services and Support – Training Operations.
Whilst the AATTS contract has provisions for contract extension to cater for delays in Air 9000 Phase 7, the existing fixed-wing flying training contract does not have that luxury. Slippage in Air 5428’s timeline has meant that the DoD has been forced to seek an interim solution to provide training once the current arrangement expires in December 2011 until Air 5428 delivers a new PTS.
Basic flying training and screening is currently provided to the ADF by BAE Systems Australia, which has held the contract at its Flight Training Tamworth facility in New South Wales since 1992. The Tamworth centre also provides air grading for the Republic of Singapore Air Force, and flight training for a number of air forces in the region, including Brunei, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
BAE currently graduates around 90 ADF students from a 25 week basic flying training course each year, with army students conducting a further period of training before they proceed to rotary-wing flying training.
Last July, the DoD issued an expression of interest for the provision of Interim Basic Flying Training (IBFT) services for the ADF as the first part of a two-phase procurement process. The second part of the process, the RFT, followed late last year and closed in February. The IBFT contract period is expected to be six years, according to the DoD, starting in January 2012. “Although it will contain options for the Commonwealth to extend the contract to ensure a smooth transition to the Air 5428 PTS,” Defence adds.
The DoD is expecting a very competitive tender process, with a down select expected around June.
APDR understands that bids for the IBFT were received from BAE Systems Australia, Boeing Defence Australia and Thales – the latter in partnership with Flight Training Adelaide, which is more traditionally associated with the commercial flying training business, and Hawker Pacific.
The majority of bids proposed Sale, in Victoria, as the site for the IBFT facility with backing from the state government, while BAE has proposed its existing Tamworth facility, believing that this option would provide true value for money and would ensure the existing standards remain, according to John Quaife, BAE Systems Australia aviation solutions general manager.
The DoD’s existing contract with BAE could not be extended further and under the terms of the free trade agreement with the US it had to be opened up for competition. In the RFT, Defence has called for some changes to the existing system, in particular the move to a more performance-based contract, but it is mostly built around the current approach, says Quaife, with BAE’s bid largely an extension of its current provision but meeting Defence’s changes.
Boeing, meanwhile, says its response to the IBFT RFT is “an innovative approach based on a crashworthy platform, and will provide the ADF with a world’s best practice aircrew training system”.
Boeing says its IBFT bid is similar to its existing AATTS contract. “Besides the provision of aircraft and facilities, Boeing will deliver highly capable instructors supported by state-of-the-art systems, including logistics, maintenance, courseware, a limited synthetic training environment and a training management system,” Boeing says.
Boeing says its IBFT bid leverages capabilities within the aerospace company which will also be critical elements of Air 5428. “For example, Jeppesen Australia has played an integral role developing the overall solution and Aviall Australia will provide a wide range of cost-effective logistics services,” says Boeing. “Boeing’s full range of training solutions includes mission planning systems, aircrew and maintenance training devices and training centres, as well as training services, including instructors, coursewear and logistics support. Boeing’s extensive in-country and global experience as a training systems integrator will allow us to deliver a cost-competitive, safe solution that meets all ADF requirements,” it adds.
Thales believes it has a very strong team and proposal for the IBFT and is very happy with what it has submitted, says Tony Landers, Thales Training and Simulation sales and marketing manager. A decision is expected on the RFT in May/June.
Not surprisingly BAE, Boeing and Thales are lining up, talking to potential partners and team members, to ensure they are ready to bid for both Air 5428 and Air 9000 Phase 7 whenever the DoD is ready to roll with the RFTs.
BAE believes both projects, but particularly Air 5428, require a more innovative approach than a simple platform-based one in order to deliver the required training for the defence force of the future. The planned operation of numerous new aircraft platforms, including the Joint Strike Fighter, Lockheed AP-3C Orion replacement and the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport, calls for a complete rethink of training, suggests BAE’s Quaife, which Defence should be in a position to formulise, even if the aircraft aren’t in service yet.
Quaife declines to detail BAe’s plans, but a lead-in fighter trainer will be fundamental to the training package proposed for Air 5428 and in BAE’s case that will obviously be the Hawk advanced jet trainer. In turn that suggests the need for a competent turboprop aircraft and single type rating system which puts the Pilatus PC-21 and Raytheon T-6 as strong contenders, he suggests. Both of these would require “an elegant training package built around them”, says Quaife.
BAE doesn’t have a team finalised yet for either projects, but Quaife says the company is in constant conversations with potential partners and awaits to see what exactly Defence wants. “Really we’d like to be in that [training system] designing process, working with Defence, now,” he says. “Ideally, we would like to have those teaming concepts in place by the middle of this year if possible, but it depends on how much certainty there is at that point in the process,” he adds.
In such a situation, with the projects slipping, Quaife suggests for prospective bidders “big is better”. He says: “Unless you’re big you can’t carry a large Air 5428 team to keep developmental activity happening.”
BAE believes its current relationship with Defence at Tamworth is working well and is a good example of how a partnership between Defence and industry should work.
Likewise, Boeing intends to respond to both RFTs, seeing them as intrinsically linked and delivering the ADF an end-to-end training system. “Boeing intends to respond to both RFTs drawing upon our company’s extensive experience globally as a training systems integrator,” says Boeing. This experience includes as training provider to the US military. St. Louis, Missouri-based Boeing training Systems and Services, for example, has delivered lead-in fighter solutions to the US Air Force and US Navy, with the Northrop T-38C and Boeing/BAE Systems T-45, as well as providing the T-1A multi-engine training system to the US Air Force.
“We will leverage our in-country performance on the AATTS contract and our ability to provide a safe and cost-effective solution that meets our customer’s needs to deliver highly capable military aircrew,” it adds.
Boeing declines to discuss the specifics of its proposed response, including platforms, partners and teaming arrangements, until Air 5428 and Air 9000 Phase 7 reach a better level of definition. “However, as Air 9000 Phase 7 is currently ahead of Air 5428, Boeing has examined several training platforms, including possible platform mixes and appropriate levels of simulation,” it adds.
One possible partner for Boeing in the Air 9000 Phase 7 competition is AgustaWestland, with which it signed a memorandum of understanding in early 2008 proposing an integrated aircrew training system based around the AW109 LUH. Boeing has previously teamed with the helicopter manufacturer on training programmes in Italy (the CH-47 Chinook) and the United Kingdom (AH-64 Apache). “Both parties are currently in discussions regarding finalisation of the MoU,” says Boeing.
Thales is already forming the best team it believes it can take forward for Air 5428 and at the same time will pursue Air 9000 Phase 7 “aggressively”, says Landers.
But they are not alone, with defence companies, training providers and manufacturers including Thales, CAE, Lockheed Martin, Australian Aerospace, Raytheon and Sikorsky among those expressing interest in both or one of the RFTs.
Training and simulator specialist CAE says it intends to bid for both programmes, either with a team or as part of another team. “CAE is finalising our bid strategy and teaming options as the customer continues to evolve their requirements,” says Alan Johnson, managing director of CAE Australia.
Lockheed Martin says it plans to respond to both RFTs. “When the ADF issues the final request for proposals, our intent is to create an integrated training solution to exceed their requirements,” it says. Lockheed Martin’s solution will draw on its broad base of experience in large scale integrated training programmes, such as the UK Military Flying Training Systems (UKMFTS), Royal Singapore Air Force Basic Wings Course, US Air Force C-130 Aircrew Training and USAF Special Operations Aircrew Training, “that gives us a unique insight into how to tailor a programme to meet the ADF’s needs”, says Lockheed Martin. “In fact, much of the USAF Special Operations training we provide involves helicopter and tilt-rotor aircraft. We are also approaching the delivery of both pilot and maintenance training for the F-35 and will be partnering with the US Department of Defense in operating the F-35 Integrated Training Center at Eglin Air Force Base, initially training 12 different military services. As a member of the joint venture responsible for UKMFTS, we are moving toward the rotary wing training, the next phase of training in the 30 year UKMFTS programme. Finally, we bring years of experience for introductory flight training including establishment and execution of the Republic of Singapore Air Force Basic Wings Course at RAAF Pearce,” the company adds.
Lockheed Martin won’t go into specifics on its proposals, but says it plans to offer “an integrated training system leveraging a variety of our proven training technologies to deliver a student-centric solution tailored to meet our customer’s specific needs. In terms of partnerships, we excel in not only bringing the right team to the table but in partnering with the customer for their long term mission success.”
A leading platform contender for Air 5428 and an attractive partner for a number of companies planning to respond to the RFT is Pilatus with its PC-21. “Yes, Pilatus will definitely be responding to the Project Air 5428 RFT or any other related requests from the ADF,” says Rob Oliver, director defence Australia at Pilatus Australia. The manufacturer has yet to finalise its partners. “We will finalise our teaming partners and structures after determining some more precise details of Defence’s needs, requirements and acquisition strategies so that we can form the best possible team to provide the optimum and most cost-effective solution for the ADF,” says Oliver.
The PC-21, which was recently selected by the United Arab Emirates for its new pilot training system, is the only competitively new training aircraft in the market, according to Oliver. The PC-21 “has the highest degree of flexibility and integration opportunities to allow it to occupy the space of several of the key components of the current ADF pilot training spectrum. This is essential to satisfy the complex and challenging requirements of a tri-service defence pilot training system,” he adds.
Oliver also points to Pilatus’ excellent reputation both within Australia and the international pilot training field, as well as the fact the PC-21 was designed to meet the capability and efficiency demands of a modern air force. “Aerodynamically, the PC-21 has a higher specific excess power than any of its turboprop competitors. This enables it to fly at over 320kts at low altitude and dive at 370kts,” he says. It also climbs faster, says Oliver, while the high wing loading gives it a more representative handling characteristic, both in ride quality and in turn rates for tactical formation training. And unlike competing aircraft that outsource their avionics system, Pilatus has full control over the training capabilities of the PC-21 because the avionics and training system was developed as an integral part of the aircraft design. There are three large 6in x 8in displays in each cockpit. Two of the displays are devoted to mission system training, such as navigation, air to air radar and air to ground radar training. The centre Primary Flight Display is backed up by two standby instruments for redundancy. In addition to the integrated mission system, PC-21 has an option of twin civil Flight Management Systems and an autopilot. It also has HOTAS, a head-up display and all instrumentation is night vision goggle compatible.
In addition, Oliver says computer-based training, cockpit procedure trainers and an operational flight simulator have been developed to support training. This was instigated alongside the aircraft development programme to provide the end-used with a fully integrated training system, he adds.
Furthermore, the PC-21 was designed to fit into a training system rather than being a standalone platform that a training system needs to be designed around, he says. “Pilatus’ approach for the remainder of the training system is to team with the best providers for each component so as to provide the Commonwealth with the optimised overall solution,” says Oliver.
The other hot contender for Air 5428 is Raytheon with the CT-4F and Beechcraft T-6C. The T-6C has 85 per cent commonality with the T-6A which is used by the US military, Hellenic Air Force and NATO Flying Training in Canada. With a high-level of mission system commonality with the T-6, Raytheon Australia says the CT-4F is a more advanced basic trainer equipped for battle management skills. Like the T-6, the CT-4F system has been developed to support a fully integrated training spectrum for the ADF, says Raytheon Australia. The CT-4F fills a critical gap between the training environment and operational requirements, it adds.
The company declines to comment on its plans to respond to the Air 5428 and Air 9000 Phase 7 RFTs, but is expected to bid for both. “Raytheon Australia has the strong relationships, innovative solutions and proven performance to deliver Air 9000 Phase 7 and Air 5428 in a way which will exceed the military’s expectations,” says the company. It adds: “Raytheon Australia offers a systems engineering approach to increase the effectiveness of military flying training. The result is a comprehensive product agnostic delivery model, focused on flexibility, cost and schedule management, delivering on the promise of true force preparedness for the ADF and ensuring absolute readiness of the aviation warfighter.”
Raytheon Australia says its training solutions are underpinned by a flexible curriculum that adjusts to changing customer requirements. The Raytheon Military Aircrew Training System design delivers 100 per cent of task training and substantially reduces operational type conversion hours, delivering greater availability of operational types for their primary roles and fewer operational pilots required as instructors, it adds.
Raytheon Australia is focusing considerable efforts on boosting its training system to support the ADF. Earlier this year, the company launched its Training Support Network which is designed to bring together Raytheon’s training resources with the niche capabilities and expertise of Australian small medium enterprises which will be members of the new Network.
Raytheon Australia points out it has great pedigree as a mission systems integrator for training. This includes the Hornet Aircrew Training System, the Electronic Warfare Training System and the AWD Training System. Most recently, in February, Raytheon Australia announced that it had signed a contract for the provision of capabilities to support Australian Super Hornet operational and training requirements. Raytheon Australia says it has assembled a proven team for the contract which includes Link Simulation and Training – L-3 Communications and Milskil. The same team has worked together over the last five years on the F/A 18A/B Hornet Aircrew Training System programme.
Meanwhile, helicopter manufacturers are lining up as contenders for Air 9000 Phase 7. One of these is Australian Aerospace which will base its bid around the EC135. The manufacturer is currently preoccupied with preparing its response to the tender for Air 9000 Phase 8 which is expected to be released shortly and will pitch its NH90 NFH against the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R Romeo, but is maintaining a watching brief on Phase 7 progress. “Although Phase 7 gained first pass approval in February 2007, the requirement/acquisition strategy details still have to be defined by the government. So at this stage, Australian Aerospace is keeping all options open regarding how we will respond to Phase 7, but it will be based around the EC135,” says the Brisbane-based division of Eurocopter.
Regarding possible partnerships, Australian Aerospace says that it has been in constant discussions with a number of potential partners over the last three years concerning various teaming arrangements. “These consultations are ongoing but it would be premature at this time to identify those potential partners,” it adds. The company has previously teamed with Thales on a number of programmes, including the Tiger ARH.
The EC135 is “by far the most sophisticated training platform in operation today”, claims Australian Aerospace, with the helicopter already selected by customers including Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Japan. The helicopter is likely to be up against contenders including the Bell 429 and the AgustaWestland AW109LUH for Air 9000 Phase 7.
Australian Aerospace already has a strong foundation with the ADF. “Through the Tiger ARH and MRH90 prorgammes, Australian Aerospace is providing 58 platforms of the latest-generation helicopters to the Army and Navy. Should Australian Aerospace win the Phase 8 contract with the NH90 NFH, it will become the sole source supplier of all rotary platforms in the ADF inventory, with the exception of the Chinooks,” says the manufacturer. It adds: “This would go a long way towards meeting the government’s declared goal of rationalising and harmonising the ADF’s rotary wing fleet.” Australian Aerospace is already providing training devices and delivering training services for the ARH and MRH programmes.