Thai Air Force Seeks More Simulators

 - January 31, 2018, 5:54 PM
A Royal Thai Air Force PC-9 in the colors of the Blue Phoenix aerobatics team. (Photo: Sukasom Hiranphan)

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) plans to make increased use of simulators for training pilots, according to group captain Verachon Pensri, the senior instructor pilot at the RTAF’s Flying Training School. The air arm is also planning to phase out its fleet of 23 Pilatus PC-9 turboprop trainers after more than 20 years of service. Pensri was speaking at the Asia Defence Expo and Conference in Singapore.  

The RTAF uses the PC-9 in the second phase of fighter pilot training. The aircraft’s avionics were upgraded by Pilatus working with Thai Aviation Industries between 2007 and 2010. But now the RTAF is facing some obsolescence issues. Pensri said the plan is to replace the PC-9 and its ground training system suite in five to seven years.

Pensri said that the RTAF’s long-term vision is to possess simulators for all of its jet fighters, namely the Lockheed Martin F-16A/B (including the MLU version), the Saab Gripen, and the upgraded Northrop F-5E/F, known as the Super Tigris in Thailand.

Currently, the RTAF possesses full-flight simulators only for the legacy F-16A/B and the Gripen. The service is seeking eight simulator domes with at least a 210- by 100-degree field of view with removable cockpits to allow scalable and tailored training for the respective platforms.

The RTAF is in the process of acquiring the T-50 jet trainer from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The first pair was delivered to Thailand on January 25, after a two-week delay due to engine blade damage when transiting to Kuantan, Malaysia, on their delivery flight. The T-50 will replace the Aero L-39ZA/ART as the lead-in fighter trainer.