The Saudi Arabian air force could buy 55 Pilatus PC-21s to serve as a lead-in pilot trainer as part of a broader deal in negotiation with BAE Systems that includes resuming production of Hawk T128/T2 advanced jet trainers, according to sources familiar with the transaction.
The Saudi order for PC-21s and Hawks is expected to be confirmed in less than two months, with BAE serving as the prime contractor for both deals, sources say. BAE declines to comment about any potential new Saudi aircraft deals. Such a deal would preserve both airframers' tight grip on pilot training requirements for the Saudi air force at a critical moment for both aircraft programmes.
Pilatus needs a new order soon to continue production of the PC-21, after completing deliveries to the air forces of the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland. BAE also has proposed offering PC-21s to the UK Ministry of Defence under the military flying training system (MFTS) programme. Meanwhile, BAE needs a new order to restart production of the venerable Hawk series, with potential follow-on trainer deals for the US Air Force and Poland.
The Saudi air force continues to operate 47 PC-9s delivered by BAE as part of a package deal with Hawks under an Al Yamamah order placed in the mid-1980s, according to the Flightglobal MiliCAS database. The air force's current inventory also includes 29 Hawk 65/65As delivered under the same programme, the MiliCAS data shows.