The Australian Defence Force’s programme to deliver a Pilot Training System (PTS) which will take a candidate from initial flight screening through to his or her possible entry into the post-graduate Lead In Fighter Trainer, is arguably the most important project on the books at this moment in time. The Pilot Training System, AIR 5428 Phase 1, will deliver a turnkey solution to the ADF, something that has never happened before in this domain. In the past, training projects have been platform-centric – selecting and introducing a specific aircraft type to service and adapting training accordingly. AIR 5428 is a holistic approach, which is outcome driven, rather than a project to acquire a new training aircraft (or two). As such, it is crucial that Defence gets it right.
6th Jun 2011
Byline: Nigel Pittaway / Melbourne
The Australian Defence Force’s programme to deliver a Pilot Training System (PTS) which will take a candidate from initial flight screening through to his or her possible entry into the post-graduate Lead In Fighter Trainer, is arguably the most important project on the books at this moment in time.
The Pilot Training System, AIR 5428 Phase 1, will deliver a turnkey solution to the ADF, something that has never happened before in this domain. In the past, training projects have been platform-centric – selecting and introducing a specific aircraft type to service and adapting training accordingly. AIR 5428 is a holistic approach, which is outcome driven, rather than a project to acquire a new training aircraft (or two). As such, it is crucial that Defence gets it right.
AIR 5428 also has to develop in conjunction with AIR 9000 Phase 7, Defence’s Helicopter Aircrew Training System, which seeks to deliver similar outcomes in the training of rotary wing candidates. The two projects therefore have certain and important synergies, which must be taken into consideration by both Defence and industry. To have one project lead the other by any significant amount of time risks a disconnect, which may have an impact on the seamless training stream sought by both. The schedule for both is therefore critical.
Since APDR last examined the AIR 5428 programme (‘Training for the future very much in the future’, April 2010) there has not been a lot of outward progress, and project timing is still very much up in the air. The AIR 9000 Phase 7 teaming announcements at the recent Australian International Airshow at Avalon is perhaps the best indication that Industry sees the rotary wing programme leading its fixed-wing counterpart.
First discussed openly in 2005, a Request For Information was released to industry in May 2006, to gauge the scope of systems design and Commercial or Military Off The Shelf (COTS/MOTS) schedules and acquisition strategies. First Pass approval was originally to be sought early in 2008, with a Request For Tender following later that year. Second Pass Approval was set for the first half of 2010 and contract signature by mid year.
That the schedule has slipped somewhat is obvious, requiring an Interim Basic Flying Training programme to stretch out the current basic flying training scheme until late in this decade and a risk-mitigation exercise to ensure the Pilatus PC-9/A used for advanced flight training can be made viable into the future if required.
First Pass Approval for AIR 5428 finally occurred in August 2009 and, according to the current Defence Capability Plan, Market Solicitation will be ongoing between now and 2015 with a Year of Decision in the 2012/2015 timeframe. Initial Operating Capability is now planned for somewhere between 2016 and 2018. It says that Final Operating Capability “Will occur when the full scope of the project, including the mission support and training systems and facilities, if required, have been delivered and accepted into operational service”
Given the complex nature of a training system, it is safe to assume that acceptance into operational service will occur later in the time-band, rather than sooner. This means the new training system will not deliver its first successful candidates to a Lead In Fighter squadron until at least 2019 or 2020, almost ten years from now. By then, according to the current schedule, the F-35A will have been in service for at least two years and practically every platform operated by the ADF will have a glass cockpit.
By contrast, the DCP calls for AIR 9000 Phase 7 to reach IOC a year earlier than AIR 5428, in 2015/2017.
The recent announcement that BAE Systems Australia was the successful bidder for the Interim Basic Flying Training project gives perhaps the clearest indication of AIR 5428 timeframe estimates. The six-year IBFT contract will commence in January 2012 and has provisions for six one-year extensions beyond that. In the worst-case scenario, this would then take the current system out to 2024. By then, according to the present timetable once again, Australia will have long retired its AP-3C Orions and C-130H Hercules, the F/A-18A/B Hornet will have been replaced by 72 F-35As, and the Super Hornet retirement will be under consideration, yet students will still be learning their trade on CT-4Bs and PC-9/As which will be approaching 40 years old.
BAE Systems says the $88.6 million performance-based IBFT contract will provide flight screening for around 275 candidates per year between 2012 and 2018, and Basic Flight Training for about 150 students each year. BAE Systems is the incumbent provider of basic flight training for the ADF and won IBFT against stiff competition from Boeing Defence Australia and Thales Australia. “The Decision to select BAE Systems to deliver this contract underscores the Company’s record of success over the past 18 years as the provider of the service” said General Manager Aviation Solutions John Quaife. BAE Systems says the contract win places them in a ‘strong position’ to secure the 25-year AIR 5428 contract from 2018.
The IBFT contract will see basic flight training for the ADF carried out at Tamworth until at least 2018. The CT-4B airframe has been in service at Tamworth, with the ADFBFTS, since 1999 and required a crashworthiness upgrade to bring it into line with the ADFs Crash Protection Policy and contemporary civil standards. This was successfully demonstrated in February when BAE Systems and Aeronautical Engineers Australia (AEA) performed a crash test on a redundant CT-4B fuselage to prove the modifications. This paved the way for the issuance of a Supplemental Type Certificate in accordance with Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 23 crash protection requirements.
Even with the original timeline for AIR 5428, there were concerns that the PC-9/A fleet would not remain viable until the new Pilot Training System became operational. Two PC-9/As had their cockpits modified a few years ago with an upgraded Electronic Flight Instrumentation System (EFIS) and GPS navigation system to evaluate such a modification should it become necessary. Under Minor Project 190, the work was carried out on two aircraft from the Aerospace Operational Support Group at Edinburgh. “The AOSG aircraft were chosen so as not to limit the impact on availability for advanced pilot training at No.2 Flying Training School at RAAF Pearce and Qualified Flying Instructors at Central Flying School East Sale” says Defence.
Although the modification has not been carried out on the rest of the fleet it remains an option: “The EFIS modification was designed when technical advice was the system might not be sustainable through to the Planned Withdrawal Date” says Defence “It was implemented on the two AOSG aircraft to ‘prove the modification’ as a risk mitigation strategy for the advanced pilot training component of AIR 5428”.
At the recent Avalon show, Raytheon Australia along with partners Hawker Beechcraft and BAE Systems Australia kicked of their bid for AIR 5428 based around the T-6C Texan II platform and are currently the only industry players to so far announce a teaming arrangement. Actually the ‘launch’ at Avalon is the ratification of an agreement between the three companies signed last December.
“Our solution for AIR 5428 is world-class mature, deliverable and sustainable” said Raytheon Australia Managing Director Michael Ward, “We stand with trusted partners of our own to offer a value for money, low risk transition from the current fleet to a modern and complete pilot training system for the future”.
Raytheon Australia points to its pedigree with training systems here in Australia, notably its association with the RAAF Hornet Aircrew Training System and the recent Super Hornet Training Support Services Contract. The company also runs the Retention and Motivation Initiative (RMI) to supply the Navy with a modern glass-cockpit twin-turbine helicopter and runs an Electronic Warfare Training fleet of Learjets from Nowra in support of ADF training.
“Raytheon Australia’s teaming with BAE and Hawker Beechcraft Corporation is evidence of considerable planning over a substantial period of time, to build a comprehensive training solution that demonstrates a deep understanding of the Australian Defence customer requirements, as well as a determination to mount a compelling case that the solution is mature, deliverable and sustainable”.
The company had earlier based its bid around the T-6B+ variant, alongside its own locally modified version of the CT-4E Airtrainer, the glass-cockpit CT-4F. For the mission segment, the bid was based upon the Raytheon/Flight Safety International Evolutionary Military Crew Training System (EMATS) and leveraging from experience gained training US and NATO crews in the United States and Canada. For now, Michael Ward says the training system to be offered is yet to be defined. “The nature of the training solution will be influenced by the solicitation determined by the Commonwealth” he said “Advances in training system design and the military’s requirements are driving the evolution of the military aircrew training system”.
Neither Raytheon nor BAE Systems would commit to a basic trainer in the bid at this point in time, saying the Request For Tender would provide a clearer direction when it’s released. Industry insiders have indicated that the only three aircraft suitable, should an initial flight training platform be required, are the CT-4, the Diamond DA-40 and Grob 120.
BAE Systems brings a wealth of experience to the team by virtue of its involvement with the running of the ADFBFTS since 1999 and with Ansett Aviation, providing initial training for Army candidates for seven years before that. It also assembled 21 of the 33 Hawk Mk.127 Lead In Fighter Trainers for the RAAF at its facility at Newcastle and today provides support for the Hawk and ‘classic’ Hornet fleets.
Matthew Sibree, AIR 5428 Project Manager for BAE Systems says the Teaming Agreement will be refined once an RFT is released: “The team appreciates that the Commonwealth would prefer to deal directly through one interface. To that end Raytheon Australia will assume the role of the prime contractor with BAE Systems acting in the subcontractor role”.
Sibree says that being the IBFT service provider stands BAE Systems in good stead: “Being the incumbent contractor delivering IBFT allows BAE Systems to increase our understanding of what is essential to deliver an exemplar pilot training system” he told APDR, “Once we fully understand the Commonwealth’s requirements we will be in a better position to explore opportunities for synergy. Regardless, our solution will seek to minimise schedule, technical and ultimately cost risk for the Commonwealth”.
In regard to the use of an initial training platform Sibree says, “We believe, in the T-6C, we have an aircraft that can fill the full spectrum, but we’ve left our options open if the Commonwealth mandates that a basic aircraft is required”.
Hawker Beechcraft can contribute experience gained through the USAF/USN Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS), which is also based upon the T-6. “The T-6C is the world’s premier integrated pilot training solution, and will be the most effective platform for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the ADF’s pilot training” asserts HBC President, US and International Government Business Jim Maslowski, “The advanced Technology of the trainer mirrors the systems and capabilities of Australia’s advanced fourth and fifth generation aircraft and will deliver extremely cost-effective results, well-trained confident pilots and high graduation rates”.
The company had a T-6C on show at Avalon, as part of a five-week Australian Demonstration tour which also visited RAAF bases Williamtown, East Sale and Pearce as well as the ADFBFTS at Tamworth and was on show to senior officers in Canberra.
The T-6C has a glass cockpit centred around the open-architecture Esterline CMC Cockpit 4000 avionics suite which, according to Hawker Beechcraft, is the first in its class to incorporate a dual FMS/GPS navigation suite. It also features a Hands On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) capability, integrated with the avionics suite and four underwing hard points.
The platform selected for AIR 5428 will also have to be suitable for use with the Aircraft Research and Development Unit and as an aerobatic mount for the RAAF aerial demonstration team ‘The Roulettes’. Although a weapons capability is not a requirement for the training curriculum, the successful platform may also be selected for use by No.4 Squadron, replacing the current PC-9/A(F) aircraft in the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training role. “Although the aircraft selected for basic and advanced pilot training does not require a weapons capability” says Defence “Such a capability may be resident on a platform or platforms offered by tenderers. The presence of a weapons capability is not a selection criteria”.
Pilatus, manufacturers of the current PC-9/A trainer are also a certain bidder for AIR 5428 with their PC-21, but have yet to decide if they will be bidding alone, or teaming with other companies. “We are talking to anyone that wants to talk to us” says Rob Oliver, Pilatus Australia’s Director, Defence “Because we want to make sure we have the best training model and strategy on our side, but we may prefer to be the prime as it reduces overheads, provides better value for Defence and gives them direct reach-back to the OEM of the entire training system”.
The PC-21 is currently in service with the Swiss Air Force as the platform in the Jet Pilot Training System (JEPAS), run by Pilatus, which sees young graduates progressing directly to the F/A-18C Hornet. “The Swiss Air Force has achieved its main goal in purchasing the PC-21s, which is to train future military pilots to a higher standard in a shorter timeframe with the help of a high-performance, cost-effective training system designed to allow a direct transfer to the F/A-18 fighter jet” says Pilatus CEO Oscar Schwenk. The PC-21 system has recently been selected by the United Arab Emirates, where Pilatus will be teaming with local industry to supply a complete training package.
Rob Oliver says that the Pilatus plan is to base all training around the PC-21 rather than acquire a separate platform for the initial phases of training, but this would depend on the RFT. “We believe we’re the only aircraft system which has the performance to provide the relatively benign performance required for ab-initio training, right through to the lead-in point of Lead-In Fighter Training” he says.
Pilatus has also teamed with Lockheed Martin and Hawker Pacific as the platform supplier for the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s Basic Wings Course, which provides training for pilot candidates at RAAF Pearce in Western Australia. The 20-year Basic Wings Course contract also uses the PC-21 airframe, which were assembled in Switzerland, but using Hawker Pacific personnel. “We are extremely pleased with the capabilities and quality of our established SMEs, and we are keen to use them and other Australian industry capability for AIR 5428 also” says Rob Oliver, “As we want to create permanent jobs in Australia”.
Lockheed Martin, through its Simulation Training and Support (LMSTS) division also runs the United Kingdom Military Flight Training System (UKMFTS) in partnership with the UK’s VT Group, and will also oversee the International F-35 training programme.
The company would not comment on its plans for AIR 5428 and declined a request for an interview with their programme manager. However a spokesperson told APDR that, “There is a way to go on AIR 5428 requirements definition, so we are continuing to refine our potential offerings as more specific customer information emerges in relation to that programme”.
Boeing Defence Australia also intends to bid for AIR 5428 but says that it is awaiting greater definition from Defence on the project. “AIR 5428 needs to reach a better level of definition before we can announce any preferred platform or teaming arrangements” said Capture Team Leader Shane Fairweather “Our bid will draw upon Boeing’s extensive experience globally as a training systems integrator, our in-country performance on the Army Aviation Training and Training Support contract, and our ability to provide a safe and cost effective solution that delivers Defence highly-capable military aircrew”.
Boeing Defence Australia has successfully run the Army Aviation Training and Training Support (AATTS) programme since 2007 and will continue to do so until at least 2013.
At the Avalon Airshow, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Thales Australia to bid for the Helicopter Aircrew Training System project (AIR 9000 Phase 7) but is keeping its cards close to its chest for AIR 5428, saying it prefers to wait for further developments. “Our solution, however, will leverage Boeing’s extensive mission planning systems, aircrew and maintenance training devices and training centres, and training services with instructors, courseware and logistics support” says Fairweather.
Boeing Defence Australia was also a bidder for the IBFT contract, with a solution based around the Grob 120, but lost out to BAE Systems.
Thales Australia was also an unsuccessful bidder for IBFT, again based around the Grob 120, but also has a large training and support footprint in Australia. In conjunction with its parent company it provides simulators and support to the Australian Army’s Tiger and MRH 90 helicopters and, through its takeover of Wormald Australia, successfully ran the F-111 simulator programme for the RAAF until December last year.
It is also expected to bid for AIR 5428 but, despite the AIR 9000 MoU with Boeing, is yet to announce its plans.
Other training providers such as CAE are also expected to be included in the teaming agreements to come and support maintenance and support companies such as Hawker Pacific (already teamed with Lockheed Martin and Pilatus to support Singapore’s PC-21s) will have significant opportunities.
The Defence Capability Plan anticipates Australian industry opportunities in the development of the Pilot Training System (including curriculum and training media), development of PTS-related infrastructure and participation in the global supply chains of the OEMs. This will hopefully flow down to the Small and Medium Enterprise business level and provide opportunities for many years to come.
Whilst there appears to have been little outward progress on AIR 5428, at least as far as media reporting is concerned, it is evident that industry has been putting a lot of work into their bids and it is fair to expect several teaming announcements over the course of the next year or two.
For now, however, the only certainty is the Raytheon Australia/BAE Systems Australia/Hawker Beechcraft Corporation alignment and the T-6C Texan II.