New British Training Fleet Entering Service

 - September 8, 2017, 10:09 AM
The UK armed forces have begun pilot training in a new fleet consisting of the Embraer Phenom 100 twin-engine jet (left) and Grob 120TP and Beechcraft T-6C single-engine turboprops (top right and bottom right). Photos: Chris Pocock

Three new aircraft that will provide fixed-wing training for the UK armed forces have begun to enter service. The fleet of Grob 120TP elementary trainers, Beechcraft T-6C basic trainers and Embraer Phenom 100 multiengine trainers is being provided by Affinity Flying Training Service. In a complicated arrangement, this joint venture between Elbit Systems and KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root) is a subcontractor to Ascent, which is responsible for delivering the UK’s overall new Military Flying Training System (MFTS) as a Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Ascent is itself a joint venture, between Lockheed Martin and Babcock International.

All three types appeared in RAF colors at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) a few weeks ago. The first of five Phenoms has since been joined in the UK by a second. Affinity is seeking the UK Military Airworthiness Release (MAR) for these jets, before they can replace Beechcraft King Air 200 turboprops in the Multi-Engine Pilot Training role. They will also train rear crew for the RAF.

Meanwhile, the Grob 120TP—named the Prefect in UK service—has already achieved its MAR. The eleven already delivered have begun the training of military QFIs. Training of student pilots will start in December, and the fleet will eventually number 23. They are replacing piston-engine Grob G115E Tutors.

The Beechcraft T-6C was making a temporary visit, and has since returned to the U.S. The first two of 10 such aircraft for basic flying training is scheduled for delivery next February. They are replacing Embraer/Shorts Tucano T.1s and will be based alongside the RAF’s advanced jet trainer—the BAE Hawk T.2—at RAF Valley. The RAF could possibly “download” some flying training from the Hawk to the T-6C, but this has yet to be determined.

All three aircraft types being supplied by Affinity have digital glass cockpits, unlike their predecessors. It is responsible for the infrastructure, maintenance and management required to support them in service. 

Affinity won the approximately £500 million ($660 million) 18-year subcontract to provide these aircraft last February. “Through technical advancement and commercial innovation, we will deliver aircraft to match the training needs of the next generation on the front line,” the joint venture said.