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 The PC-9/A is due to be withdrawn in 2019 after 30 years of service and more than 500,000 flying hours.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.