Following the selection in February of the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master for its advanced trainer and light combat aircraft needs, the United Arab Emirates air force and air defense (AFAD) is focused on its basic trainer requirement to replace the current Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainers. The competitors are the jet-powered Alenia Aermacchi M-311 and the turboprop Pilatus PC-21.
There has yet to be any official announcement from the UAE regarding this requirement, and neither competitor will comment about it. However, AIN understands that a selection has in fact been made, and that official notification will soon be forthcoming. Perhaps a glance at the daily flying display schedule here at Dubai might provide a clue as to what the competition’s outcome might be: the PC-21 is in it; the M-311 is not.
When both the M-346 and the new basic trainer are in service, the UAE AFAD will arguably have the most modern training fleet in the world. Together the types will provide a flexible and cost-effective training solution that is tailored to producing pilots for the latest generation of combat aircraft, such as the F-16 Block 60. The new trainer will take all students, including rotary-wing, from the Grob G115 flight screener/primary trainer through to the advanced stages.
Designed to make significant advances in trainer technology, the turboprop-powered PC-21 can undertake many of the elements of the syllabus that have traditionally required an expensive-to-operate jet trainer. With a low-level speed range of 180 to 320 knots, the PC-21 is docile enough to train students at an early stage of their instruction, but at the same time has high enough performance to allow them to make a near-seamless transition to jets.
Furthermore, the PC-21’s cockpit systems employ the same kind of mission management techniques as would be encountered in front-line aircraft, and allow the in-flight simulation of many scenarios and emergencies. Virtual weapons, electronic warfare and sensor training can be accomplished. However, the system can also be kept simple for early stages of instruction.
Due to this flexibility, the PC-21 can fit nearly anywhere into the overall syllabus, while software can easily be upgraded to add new functions, if they are required. One operator, Switzerland, is already using the PC-21 to train its pilots right through to front-line fighters.
After its showing here in Dubai, the company-owned PC-21 is remaining in the UAE for further demonstrations and an appearance at the Al Ain airshow in January. After that it is going on a Far East tour to include Singapore, which already flies the type, and Australia.