Upgraded Orlik Trainer Unveiled

 - March 11, 2014, 12:34 PM
Poland’s Orlik trainer has been around since the mid-1980s, but the latest MPT version, seen here during its unveiling this week, is tailored for training pilots for fourth- and fifth-generation fighters. (Photo: Airbus Defence and Space)

This week Airbus Defence and Space unveiled the Orlik MPT, an upgrade of the PZL-130 Orlik (eaglet) trainer that made its first flight in 1984 and has been the Polish air force’s basic trainer since entering service in 1993. The new version introduces a host of improvements intended to equip it to serve as the initial step in a new-look Polish training syllabus, and the unveiling follows Poland’s decision to procure the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 to serve as the advanced/lead-in trainer before students progress to Poland’s front-line F-16 fighters.

Since the initial PZL-130TB version entered Polish service with a 750-shp Walter (General Electric) M601E turboprop, the type has been upgraded to PZL-130TC-I standard with Garmin avionics and Martin-Baker Mk 11L ejection seats. Subsequently a TC-II version was developed with a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C turboprop of similar power output, driving a four-blade propeller with anti-icing. This forms the basis of the new MPT (multi-purpose trainer) offering. The Orlik MPT has a full glass cockpit with a head-up display and HUD repeater in the aft cockpit, while cockpit lighting is compatible with night-vision equipment. The wing is enhanced for greater efficiency, with upturned wingtips.

The Orlik MPT program began in 2011, and the first prototype unveiled this week is slated to fly by around the end of the month. Poland has a requirement for 12 aircraft and expects to use the type to introduce basic combat instruction before students fly the M-346. This is made possible by the high degree of virtual training capability designed into the avionics system. Although the aircraft was developed to meet a Polish requirement, it will be offered to export customers, with Airbus forecasting a potential global market for up to 16,000 trainers over the next 10 years. With the full clout of Airbus behind it, the Orlik MTP is expected to be of interest to many air arms seeking modern, glass-cockpit training capability but at a significantly lower price than for existing turboprop trainers.

The former PZL Warszawa-Okecie factory that designed and built the Orlik, and developed the MPT, became an EADS company in 2001, when the Polish government sold a 78-percent stake. The government retains 18 percent, while employees hold 4 percent. The plant is now part of the reorganized Airbus Defence and Space division.