Pilatus Aircraft has successfully tested the first of 49 PC-21 trainer aircraft destined for the Australian Defence Force, the company said on Thursday 21 July. The initial production test flight over the Pilatus factory in Stans, Switzerland, came only seven months after contract signature.
Under a contract signed in December 2015 aimed at harmonising Australian Defence Force flight training across all three services – Army, Navy and Air Force – Pilatus will deliver a total of 49 PC-21 which will operate from four Royal Australian Air Force bases. Pilatus will also supply significant elements of ground based training equipment and the in-service support capability.
This first PC-21 will be handed over to the Royal Australian Air Force at East Sale in June 2017 after completion of testing and verification work in both Switzerland and Australia.
The PC-21 aircraft will replace both the aging PC-9 fleet, which has been in service since 1988, and also the CT-4 aircraft currently used for basic training. The PC-9 is due to be withdrawn in 2019 after thirty years of service and more than 500,000 flying hours.
The PC-21s for Australia will form the backbone of future pilot training for the Australian Defence Force for the next 25 years.
Australia on Tuesday 8 December finally signed the deal for the delivery of 49 Pilatus PC-21 turboprop trainers as part of a pilot training program contract awarded to Lockheed Martin. The PC-21 was selected as the aircaft of choice earlier in 2015.
Australia is no stranger to the PC-21, as the training platform has been in service with the Republic of Singapore Air Force at RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia since 2008. The PC-21 is also operated by the air forces of Switzerland, the UAE, Saudi-Arabia and Qatar. With this latest order 180 aircraft have been sold.
The PC-21 replaces the PC-9 in Australian service, which was introduced Down Under in 1987. Pilot training in the aircraft commenced in 1989. All were built under license by Hawker de Havilland in Sydney.
The PC-21’s for Australia will be delivered commencing June 2017 and will form the backbone of pilot training for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) for the next 25 years.
Lockheed Martin and Swiss Pilatus Aircraft joint bid – together with Hawker Pacific – to supply the Royal Australian Air Force with a new basic trainer has finally had its confirmed success.
Canberra confirmed on Sunday 6 September that it has choosen this “Team 21” to deliver 49 new Pilatus-designed PC-21 turboprop aircraft to replace the aging PC-9/A fleet of Training Command’s Central Flying School at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria and the 2 Flight Training School at RAAF Pearce. Both bases will likely manage a fleet of 22 aircraft, with 5 additional PC-21s used for testing and as a reserve.
Officially the Australian government still calls Team 21’s bid “the preferred choice”, but nobody doubts that when the details of the deal have been worked out another plane would be choosen. The choice seems to mark the end of 4 Squadron flying the PC-9/As out of RAAF Williamtown and which is not mentioned in the modernisation program. Currently Williamtown helps putting the 63 aircraft strong PC-9/A fleet in the air.
Already in May there seemed no other option left than the PC-21, which clearly won from the BAE Systems, Beechcraft and CAE Australia counter-bid to bring the Beechcraft T-6C Texan II into the RAAF’s ranks.
Australia has had a taste of the PC-21 already, since the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s Basic Wings Course (BWC) program has been running at RAAF Pearce for eight years now as part of a 20-year program, with the RSAF having a total of 19 PC-21s on strength. Hawker Pacific and Switzerland’s Pilatus Aircraft Ltd, are principal subcontractors to Lockheed Martin, the training systems integrator.
The first pair of Royal Australian Air Force PC-21s is expected in 2017.
A Pilatus party: the 100th PC-21 rolled off the final assembly line at Pilatus Aircraft in Switzerland on 20 February. Destined for the Royal Saudi Air Force training fleet, this PC-21 also happens to be the 1000th turboprop trainer to be produced at Pilatus.
Pilatus trainer aircraft are used by over 30 operators around the world to train the military pilots. The latest Pilatus trainer, the PC-21, was developed from ground up and delivers jet-like performance, cockpit equipment, flexibility and ease of maintenance for a turboprop aircraft. The PC-21 training system which consists of the aircraft, high-end simulator technology, comprehensive Computer Based Training and instructional documentation, offers one of the most advanced, integrated training systems available. Training hours previously assigned to jet trainers can also be completed on the PC-21 training system.
Three air forces currently use the PC-21: Switzerland (8), Singapore (19) and the United Arab Emirates (25). Saudi Arabia and Qatar have also selected the PC-21 and in 2012 ordered 55 and 24 aircraft respectively. The first of these aircraft have already been delivered and the instructors, having been through type conversion at Pilatus, are preparing for their first student courses.
In addition to the PC-21, Pilatus also produces the recently enhanced PC-7 MkII and PC-9 M. The latest customer to opt for the PC-7 MkII is the Indian Air Force. The order for 75 aircraft was placed in 2012 and with two thirds of the aircraft delivered to-date; the fleet has already flown well over 12,000 hours.
Swiss Pilatus Aircraft and Swedish Saab last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding which addresses the offset obligations of Saab related to the possible purchase of the Gripen for the Swiss Air Force, while at the same time forging a long term relationship between two innovative and forward looking aerospace companies.
A new generation of aircraft for a new generation of military pilots: Gripens for Switzerland – PC-21s for Sweden. The PC-21 Pilot Training System has been the subject of sales negotiations between Pilatus and Sweden for some time. A decision to proceed with the purchase of the Gripen would take Pilatus one step closer to concluding a PC-21 contract, creating a win-win situation for both countries.
An order to produce and deliver some twenty PC-21s would be an important achievement for one of Central Switzerland’s biggest employers, with a workforce of over 1600 at its headquarters in Stans, and would also provide a boost for related business entities across Switzerland as a whole.
Pilatus and Saab also aim to create some 100 further new positions in the aerostructures sector. The production – for the PC-21, the Gripen and other aircraft types made by both manufacturers – will be performed at a new location in Switzerland which has yet to be defined.
Plans have also been agreed to set up an “Aerospace Software Development Center” in Switzerland. The two aircraft manufacturers will focus on developing innovative and safety-related software for their aircraft and associated groundbased systems. The goal will be to bundle know-how and exploit synergies to benefit the product ranges of both companies. All these measures are forecast to generate orders worth some half a billion Swiss francs (9.5 billion USD) over the next five to eight years. Around half of that total would go to Pilatus’ Swiss supplier base.
Markus Bucher, CEO of Pilatus Aircraft Ltd, explains: “This is a long-term partnership that makes sense, and would benefit both Sweden and Switzerland. The Gripen is the optimum aircraft for the Swiss Air Force and the PC-21 provides the best solution for the provision of training to military pilots, in Sweden and elsewhere. The Gripen offset deal has been vigorously negotiated in detail by armasuisse. It will allow Pilatus and around 600 Swiss suppliers to safeguard valuable development and industrial jobs on a long-term basis.”