Spain has selected the Pilatus PC-21 to be its next pilot trainer, and will buy 24 to replace its fleet of aging CASA C-101 jet trainers, which are due to be retired beginning in 2021. A deal worth €204.75 million ($225.5 million) was announced in late November on the government’s procurement website Plataforma de Contratacion del Sector Publico (PCSP). Payments are due to be made in three installments, comprising €71.5m in 2020, €71m in 2021, and €62.5m in 2022, and total around 10 percent less than the budget originally set aside for a new trainer.
The PC-21 was evaluated against the Embraer Super Tucano, Beechcraft T-6A Texan II, and KAI KT-1. PCSP noted that the PC-21 offered the best cost/quality ratio. Included in the deal is an initial logistics package and an integrated training system (ITS) that includes two networked flight simulators, two cockpit simulators, and an ejection trainer.
With a pressing need to replace the C-101s, the PC-21s are to be delivered on an aggressive schedule. One simulator and the first six aircraft are due in March 2020, with the last aircraft expected before the end of 2022. An initial cadre of eight instructors will be trained so students can begin flying the PC-21 during the 2021/22 academic year. In Ejército del Aire (EdA, Spanish air force) service the PC-21 will be designated E.27.
Currently, the EdA conducts its fixed-wing training at the Academia General del Aire (AGA) at Murcia-San Javier, where initial training is conducted on the ENAER T-35C Pillán (E.26 Tamiz in EdA service) aircraft of the Escuela Elemental. Students then progress to the C-101EBs of the Escuela Basica. It is expected that the PC-21s will replace both types at San Javier.
The base also hosts the Patrulla Águila, the EdA’s aerobatic team that also flies the C-101EB. No announcement has been made regarding the future of the team. Neither has there been any decision on what will replace the C-101EBs of the Grupo de Escuelas de Matacán near Salamanca, which undertake an advanced training role. The EdA also operates some upgraded Northrop SF-5Ms for fighter lead-in training with Ala 23 at Badajoz-Talavera la Real. Rotary-wing training is conducted by Ala 76 at Granada-Armilla with Sikorsky S-76As and Airbus Helicopters EC120s.
With this acquisition, Spain will become the 10th country to operate the PC-21, following Australia (49), France (17), Jordan (12), Qatar (24), Saudi Arabia (55), Singapore (19), Switzerland (8), the United Arab Emirates (25), and the United Kingdom. The latter has two civil-registered aircraft assigned to the Qinetiq-run Empire Test Pilots’ School at Boscombe Down.