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.
After 21 years and 279 aircraft procuded, the curtain falls for Boeing C-17 Globemaster III production in Long Beach, California. The final C-17 left the production facility on Sunday 29 November on it’s way to another Boeing facility in Texas in preparation for delivery to the Qatar Emiri Air Force next year.
Qatar is one of nine operators of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster, the military transport aircraft that first flew on 15 September 1991 from Long Beach. The US Air Force is the largest operator by far, taking 223 aircraft. The last USAF-delivery took place in 2013.
Over the last decade, India quickly became the second largest operator, counting 10 Globemaster. Australia and the UK both operate eight aircraft. Other operators are Canada, NATO, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Along with the UAE, Qatar was one of the operators to snatch up some of the last Globemasters remaining for sale. Ahead of closing down production, Boeing decided to produce a dozen or so ‘white-tail’ C-17s; aircraft with no formal customer. Other countries to take some of these aircraft were India, Australia and Canada.
A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A (Airbus A330 MRTT) has used its air‑to‑air refuelling boom for the first time on operations while refuelling a RAAF E-7A Wedgetail (Boeing 737) last week during a Coalition mission above Iraq, the Ministry of Defence in Canberra announced on 27 October 2015.
The air-to-air boom refuelling process involved two large aircraft, military versions of the Airbus A330 and Boeing 737-700, approaching within metres of each other while in flight and transferring fuel via a manoeuvrable pipe, known as a boom, which extends back from the rear of the KC-30A. This type of refuelling involves use of the AAR boom at the rear of the aircraft, rather than the wingtip AAR drogues used to refuel smaller aircraft equipped with an AAR probe.
The Air Refuelling Operator was responsible for remotely manoeuvring the boom from a control panel on the KC-30A flight deck. While moving at an altitude of 25,000 feet at speeds over 400 knots the KC-30 crew transferred 34,750 pounds of fuel within 15 minutes. That’s equal to 300 family sedan cars at a rate of less than three seconds per car.
A KC-30A and an E-7A Wedgetail, along with six F/A-18A Hornet aircraft, are deployed with the Australian Air Task Group as part of Operation Okra – the Australian contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve – or air strikes against the so-called Islamic State (Daesh) forces in Iraq and Syria.
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II completed the first air-to-air refueling from an Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) recently in the skies over Edwards Air Force Base, California. The Airbus tanker was a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft designated KC-30A. A total of 59 contacts were conducted of which five contacts transferred 43,200 pounds of fuel during the four hour sortie.
Following an Italian Boeing KC-767 earlier this year, the KC-30A is the second foreign tanker aircraft to succesfully refuel the F-35, of which the Australians have 72 on order. The RAAF uses five relatively new KC-30As for air-to-air refueling. “Our KC-30A is an essential force multiplier. Mid-air refuelling is critical to ensuring global reach for our aircraft, our people and our equipment. Refuelling between the KC-30A and F-35A is an important step towards the KC-30A’s achievement of Final Operational Capability (FOC) and represents continued progress in the development of the F-35A”, said Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies.
Current Australian F-18 Hornet fighter aircraft use the hose-and-drogue system for refueling, whereas the F-35A uses the refueling boom. The KC-30 is equipped for both. Two more Aussie KC-30s are expected in 2018.
Australia currently flies two F-35s at Luke Air Force Base in the US. In the future, the 5th generation fighter aircraft will be based at RAAF bases Williamtown and Tindal, with the first aircraft arriving in late 2018.
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.