The Republic of Singapore Air Force is the first export customer for the latest Pilatus PC-21 turboprop trainer, developed to train pilots to front-line fighter level without intermediate training on a jet. Singapore’s new training program also is innovative on another level–under its private-public structure, Lockheed Martin serves as the main contractor, supplying all the infrastructure and leaving only the teaching to the military.
The Singapore Ministry of Defense DSTA (Defense Science and Technology Agency) and Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training and Support Division (LMSTS) signed a contract in late 2006 calling for the latter to provide a 20-year turnkey engineering and logistics support package for pilot and weapons operator training for the Basic Wings Course of the Singapore Air Force. Lockheed Martin selected the Pilatus PC-21 as the backbone of the flight training support program from among four other trainer types. It plans to start training activities this June. The order for Pilatus includes 19 PC-21s scheduled for delivery this year.
The flight training program will be carried out at the Royal Australian Air Force base in Pearce, located north of Perth in western Australia. Hawker Pacific Pty Ltd. will provide aircraft maintenance services to Pilatus for the duration of the 20-year training program. According to Lockheed Martin, the order contains options to extend the training program beyond the contractual 20-year limit.
The PC-21 has a maximum takeoff weight of 6,834 pounds in clean configuration and 9,370 pounds with external loads. Its 1,600-shp PT6A-688 engine allows a maximum speed of 323 knots at sea level, and maximum operating speed is 370 kias. The PC-21 can reach 400 knots in a shallow dive and its airframe supports +8/-4g loads in clean configuration and +5/-2.5 with external loads.
According to Pilatus, the PC-21 costs six times less to operate than a jet trainer and up to 40 times less than front-line jets. Despite its limited weight and performance, the aircraft is designed for intermediate and advanced flight and mission systems training up to fighter lead-in, in addition to its traditional turboprop trainer role affording basic and intermediate training.
The PC-21 is equipped with open-architecture computers that can be optimized for existing and future weapon systems.