Category Archives: Trainers

T-X competition narrows as Northrop Grumman backs out

The offerings in the US Air Force’s T-X program are getting rather thin now that Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems have withdrawn their T-X model from the competition. Northrop Grumman announced the decision in a statement today. The move follows last week’s similar decision by Leonardo and Raytheon to withdraw the T-100.

According to the statement, ‘Northrop Grumman and its principal teammate BAE Systems have carefully examined the U.S. Air Force’s T-X Trainer requirements and acquisition strategy as stated in the final request for proposals. The companies have decided not to submit a proposal for the T-X Trainer program, as it would not be in the best interest of the companies and their shareholders.’

The announcement was expected for quite a few days already, as Northrop Grumman earlier hinted at not entering the competition.

This leaves on Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in competion with their T-50, plus Boeing and Saab with a newly designed jet. A decision on the winner is to be announced some time in the next few years.

The T-X program is aimed at replacing many dozens of ageing US Air Force T-38 Talon trainer aircraft. Northrop Grumman’s T-X model was first sighted at Mojave airport in California in August 2016. It performed its first flight on 24 August 2016.

Raytheon and Leonardo withdraw joint entry in T-X competition

Raytheon and Leonardo on Wednesday 25 January announced they will not jointly compete in the US Air Force Advanced Pilot Training program, known as the T-X program. Their joint entry, the T-100 Integrated Air Training System, will therefore not enter in a competition to replace hundreds of US Air Force T-38 Talons.

“In February 2016, Raytheon and Leonardo announced their intent to team on the T-X pursuit. While we remain confident that the T-100 is a strong solution, our companies were unable to reach a business agreement that is in the best interest of the US Air Force,” said a statement released by Raytheon. “Consequently, Raytheon and Leonardo will not jointly pursue the T-X competition.”

Leonardo states it is ‘evaluating how to leverage on the strong capabilities and potential of the T-100, in the best interest of the US Air Force’. The Italian manufacturer and Raytheon formally announced their intention to compete in the T-X program in February 2016, after Leonardo earlier tried to partner up with General Dynamics.

Their T-100 design was to be developed jointly and to be built  in Meridian, Mississippi. The new type was to be based on the existing and highly capable Leonardo M-346 Master trainer aircraft. The chances of Leonardo entering the T-X competition with the M-346 or T-100 on its own, seem remote given US president Trumps’s desire for ‘buy American, hire American’.

Still in competition in the T-X program are Lockheed  Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) with the T-50, Boeing and Saab with a newly designed jet, plus Northrop Grumman with another new design. A decision on the winner is to be announced some time in the next few years.

 

MB-339: tool of the training trade

Airheadsfly.com recently paid a very fruitful visit to Italy, judging by this report on F-35 Lightning II production in Cameri and this impression of flying an Italian Air Force M-346 at Lecce Galatina airbase in the Puglia area of southern Italy. The latter is a flying school like no other, run by the Italian Air Force’s 61st wing. Here, novice pilots learn how to become fighter pilots the hard way. The most numerous tool of that particular trade is the MB-339, a trainer jet that in the future makes way for the M-345 High Efficiency Trainer (HET) and the M-346. A photo report from Lecce, home to many nationalities.

Grabbing the early morning sun, this MB-339CD is almost ready for starting up for another training mission. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Grabbing the early morning sun, this MB-339CD is almost ready for starting up for another training mission. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Before moving to the aircraft, pilots first get the flight and weather information. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Before moving to the aircraft, pilots first get the flight and weather information. Pilots from Italy, Kuwait, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Greece and Singapore are a regular sight at Lecce. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This picture clearly shows the aircraft at Galatina airbase are being kept in very good condition by the dedicated technicians. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This picture clearly shows the aircraft at Lecce Galatina airbase are being kept in very good condition by the dedicated technicians. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
These MB-339s just left the hangarettes for the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Heading for the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Busy times on the runway, as 3 MB-339CD aircraft prepare to line up for take off. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Busy times on the runway, as three MB-339CD aircraft prepare to line up for take off. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
And lift off for another early morning mission. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
And lift off for another early morning mission. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A regular sight at Galatina airbase, where aircraft take off and land almost continuously. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A regular sight at Lecce Galatina airbase, where aircraft take off and land almost continuously. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This MB-339A is ready for another go-around. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This MB-339A is ready for another go-around. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This image clearly shows that the fuselage of the MB-339 is close to the ground, compared to the T-346. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This image clearly shows that the fuselage of the MB-339 is close to the ground, compared to the T-346. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Waiting at the flightline for things to come. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Waiting at the flightline for things to come. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Highly skilled maintenance crew work hard to keep the MB-339 aircraft in good shape. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Highly skilled maintenance crew work hard to keep the MB-339 aircraft in good shape. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
There's not much aircraft left when you separate the backside of the fuselage, as well as removing the tires. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
There’s not much aircraft left when you separate the backside of the fuselage. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After each mission the aircraft are being serviced. Recently, a part of the MB-339 flightlines got hangarettes, which eases work at Galatina a little, as it can be quite hot over there. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After each mission the aircraft are being serviced. Recently, a part of the MB-339 flightlines got hangarettes, which eases work at Lecce Galatina a little, as it can be quite hot over there. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Flight gear of students at Galatina. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Flight gear of students at Galatina. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The pilot always inspects the aircraft himself, before getting into the cockpit. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The pilot always inspects the aircraft himself, before getting into the cockpit. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
It seems these guys are having fun flying the new T-346A. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
It seems these guys are having fun flying the M-346, which is called T-346A in Italian Air Force service.. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This T-346A is about to come out of its hangarette to play (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This Master is about to taxi out. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Rolling out of the hangarette, this Master carries AHF editor Elmer van Hest in the backseat for an interesting flight. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Rolling out of its shelter, this T-346A carries AHF editor Elmer van Hest in the backseat for a familiarization and photography flight. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In the background a MB-339 is about to follow this T-346A towards the runway at Galatina airbase. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In the background a MB-339 is about to follow this T-346A towards the runway at Lecce Galatina airbase. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In a few moments, this T-346A will line up and disappear into the blue sky (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In a few moments, this T-346A will line up and disappear into the blue sky (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Two Masters are about to roll down the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Two Masters are about to roll down the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After a rainy night, this Master almost lifts off from the wet runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After a rainy night, this Master almost lifts off from the wet runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Facing the sun clearly shows the smooth lines of the T-346A. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Facing the sun clearly shows the smooth lines of the T-346A. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The three squadrons resident a Galatina Airbase, each representing a different phase in pilot training. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The three squadrons resident a Lecce Galatina Airbase, each representing a different phase in pilot training. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: The refuelling probe is one of the most externally visible differences between the MB-339A and the newer MB-339CD model. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

PC-21s for France, Jordan and UK

Pilatus Aircraft on Wednesday 4 January announced three seperate orders for a total of 21 PC-21 training turboprop aircraft. Seventeen of those are for the French Air Force, while the Royal Jordanian Air Force and QinetiQ, a UK company which operates the Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS), take two each. The total order is worth 280 million EUR.

France

In 2016, the French Air Force opted for the PC-21 to replace older Alpha Jet trainers now in use for training fast jet pilots. On 30 December, the French signed a contact with Babcock Mission Critical Services France (BMCSF) in which subcontractor Pilatus supplies 17 PC-21s for French Air Force training purposes.

QinetiQ

QinetiQ is ordering two PC-21s for the famed ETPS at Boscome Down airfield in the UK. The PC-21s with their modified flight instruments will be used to train test pilots and flight test engineers for customers from the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Royal Jordanian Air Force

The Royal Jordanian Air Force already ordered eight PC-21s earlier, after first eyeing the less advanced PC-9. The Jordanian now have ten PC-21 on orders. First deliveries are set for mid-2017.

Italy’s newest jet trainer airborne

The newest jet trainer made in Italy went to the skies for the first time on 29 December 2016, its maker Leonardo-Fnmeccanica Aircraft announced today. In rather adverse weather conditions, a spokesman confirmed, resulting in the lack of proper photographs of the achievement.

Hence the only photoshopped offical image we could find. Actually, making the first flight in bad weather is something we rather like. It may mean the manufacturer is confident of its product.

The prototype of the new Aermacchi M-345HET (High Efficiency Trainer) two-seat basic jet trainer took of from Venegono Superiore airfield in Varese, Italy, piloted by a crew of two: Quirino Bucci and Giacomo Iannelli from the Leonardo Aircraft Division.

As expected Quirino Bucci, Project Test Pilot Trainers of Leonardo Aircraft Division, expressed great satisfaction at the end of the 30 minute flight. “The aircraft conducted itself perfectly, meeting the expectations of the design parameters while showing excellent performance. The engine in particular demonstrated a great capacity to react to regime changes, which is a fundamental characteristic for a basic training aircraft.”

The M-345’s test campaign will be completed within 2017. The next tests will check the advanced avionics systems, the engine and the flight envelope expansion, including altitude, speed and manoeuvrability. Clean the aircraft is projected to reach 420 knots max level speed and a climb rate of 5,200 foot per minute. It should be operate up to 40,000 feet and as far as 760 nautical miles (1,410 km) with internal fuel. With 2 external fuel tanks the ferry range is aimed to be 1,000 nm (1,850 km).

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: The only official image of the M-345 HET released by Leonardo is a photoshopped one. It first flight took place on 29 December in bad weather conditions. (Image © Leonardo-Finmeccanica)