Pilatus PC-21 formally welcomed into RAAF service

A RAAF PC-21 in flight over Victoria’s Gippsland region. (Defence)

The first six Pilatus PC-21 advanced trainers for the Royal Australian Air Force were formally welcomed into service during a ceremony at RAAF Base East Sale, Victoria on Friday.

Forty-nine PC-21s as well as simulators and training devices are being acquired under the AIR 5428 Pilot Training System. The first two RAAF PC-21s were displayed at the Avalon Airshow earlier this year shortly after their delivery flights from Switzerland, with contracted handover to the Commonwealth due by the end of June.

“The new pilot training system is a significant leap forward and will train more of our people faster, and to a higher standard than our current system,” Defence Minister Senator Maris Payne said in a statement.

“This will provide the Australian Defence Force with a tailored pilot training system to meet the needs of our pilots for the next 30 years.”

Training of undergraduate Air Force, Army and Navy pilots on the PC-21 is due to commence in early 2019.

“The ADF will now have an intake of up to 165 trainee pilots each year at RAAF Base East Sale, leading to an increase in the number of successful graduates,” Minister Payne said.

Prime contractor for the AIR 5428 project is Lockheed Martin, which teamed with Pilatus and Hawker Pacific to deliver the new ADF pilot training system under a seven year, $1.2 billion contract signed in late 2015.

Under AIR 5428 the PC-21 will replace both the ageing Pilatus PC-9/A advanced trainer, which has been in service since 1988, and the CT-4B Airtrainer, which is currently used for basic training. The PC-9/A is due to be withdrawn in 2019 after 30 years of service and more than 500,000 flying hours.

“It really is the start point of us generating what will become a fifth-generation Air Force,” CAF said of the PC-21 at Avalon.

Forty-two PC-21s will be used for basic and advanced pilot training with the Basic Flying Training School (BFTS), which is relocating from Tamworth to East Sale, and 2 Flying Training School (2FTS) at RAAF Base Pearce north of Perth, as well as for instructor training and Roulettes formation display team flying with Central Flying School (CFS), also at East Sale.

“Over $300 million is being invested in new state of the art training facilities, which incorporates seven new PC-21 flight simulators, both here at RAAF Base East Sale and at RAAF Base Pearce in Perth,” Minister Payne said.

 Of the remaining aircraft three are due to be allocated to the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) at RAAF Base Edinburgh, with four for forward air control/JTAC training with 4 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW.

PC-21s overfly RAAF Base East Sale. (Defence)


  1. Stevo6069 says

    Would it be fair to ask the minister why our aerospace industry was not worth investing in building these planes in Australia like the PC-9’s were? Instead of simply buying off the shelf and not investing in Australian manufacturing, technological development and employing Australians.

  2. John N says


    You are not going to see the Roulettes flying Hawks, Hornets or even eventually F-35As, the Roulettes fly whatever airframe the Central Flying School (CFS) is operating.

    Have to remember that the Roulettes are all instructor pilots from the CFS, that’s the way it works.

    Originally the first aerobatic team from the CFS was the Red Sales flying Vampires in the early 1960’s and then they became the Telstars, again flying Vampires until the late 1960’s.

    Around 1970 the Roulettes were formed flying MB-326H Macchi, then PC-9 and soon it will be the PC-21.

    For more than 50 years the RAAF’s aerobatic teams have come from the CFS, and that’s not going to change any time soon.


    John N

  3. Philip says

    Great step forward for army and airforce to be now using one of the world’s best advanced training planes.

    Great news also for Hawker Pacific and Lockheed in maintaining these planes, as this extends and streamlines their services (=defence jobs) supporting both these new RAAF trainers as well as the Singapore Air Force’s PC-21 trainers which are also based in Australia too.

  4. says

    Stevo6069, why you say? It is because of Unions,delays etc. Just have a look at us building subs! We could buy top German subs off the shelf with no delays for a fraction of the cost.

  5. John N says


    Whilst I empathise with the point you are making, the numbers of aircraft that the ADF procures at any one time these days to replace older types are relatively small production runs.

    The PC-21 for example, the 49 airframes are likely to be required to enter service over a 2-3 year period.

    Sure you could create an assembly/production facility, employ the necessary number of people, train them up, assemble/produce those 49 airframes (say 2 airframes per month), then shut the whole thing down again in a few years and make everyone redundant, the numbers are just not sustainable, unfortunately.

    And what would the cost ‘overhead’ be to produce those 49 airframes in Australia? An extra 10%? 20%, 30% or more?

    On the other hand, Australian industry should end up the majority of expenditure available for 30 years of sustainment for those 49 PC-21 aircraft, and approx. 30 years of sustainment for all of the other types in ADF service too.

    Unfortunately the days of Australia aircraft manufacture are a thing of the past, but there are other ways to get a ‘return’ for Australian industry too.

    What I would like to see is for the Government ‘mandate’ a set dollar amount as an ‘offset’ for those overseas contracts.

    Take for example, aircraft the ADF has procured (or is procuring) from Boeing in recent years, 8 C-17A, 24 F/A-18F, 12 EA-18G, 15 P-8A, relatively ‘small’ numbers of each ‘type’ that to produce here would add a significant overhead to the per unit cost of each type.

    Now without doing ‘exact’ maths, lets say for example that we spent $10b in procuring those aircraft from Boeing, if there was a mandated offset amount of say 20%-30% of the ‘value’ of the procurement, that would mean that Boeing has to order $2b-$3b worth of Australian aerospace products (and yes of course we have to be as competitive as possible in producing those products/components too).

    It could be components for the Boeing military aircraft mentioned above, or components for Boeing commercial aircraft (B737, B787, etc),

    Anyway, just my opinion of course, yes would be great to have a viable Australian aerospace assembly capability (can’t see that happening anymore), but there is more than one way to skin a cat, sustainment and component manufacture that can go on for many many years beyond a few years of assembly for a small number of airframes.


    John N

  6. Mick181 says

    Paul those off the shelf Subs would be absolutely useless to Australia, will not have the range or Power generating capability we need.

  7. says

    Gary,as John N has explained this very well.On top of all this you have Unions to deal with.I used to be in a union and what they do to businesses is they totally wreck them.More wages and better working conditions.As John has said the money now for a industry to make components ( such as Marand and all those other manafactures) is the only way it can go. I don’t have a gripe ,I didn’t know what you were pointing at.As to the subs by right we should go nuclear. Those German subs are the quietest on the planet.

  8. says

    Mich181, Israel,bought 6 of the German subs for 3.6 billion, and we are spending 50 billion on 12. Why? so it gives Australia jobs. What a total waste of money. Do some research on the latest German subs. It is truly a work of art.

  9. Murray says

    The Roulettes flying German subs at an air show – now that is something I would like to see.

  10. AlanH says

    If we are taking delivery of PC-21s now why isn’t flight training on them going to commence until early 2019? We could all be fleeing an encroaching nuclear radiation cloud by then.

  11. Tim says

    A lot of conversation about where these aircraft should have been built (and subs for some reason). I am sure someone will know the answer. The aircraft have been supplied as part of a contract to deliver a training package to the ADF by a consortium of companies as per the article. Does the ADF actually own the aircraft or are they owned by the consortium?

  12. PAUL says

    Display teams well the Blue Angels already use F18 – Red Arrows use Hawk – Kiwis use the new T6 Texan as the A4’s went missing 🙁 so new Pc21’s should be good unless they want to use something else a bit different that’s quite aerobatic like the new C27