Weighing the competition

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Flightglobal has a unique perspective on the United Arab Emirates' basic and advanced jet trainer (AJT) contests, as our test pilot Peter Collins has conducted flight tests on all four of the shortlisted bidders while the contest has been under way.

In the AJT sector, Collins says Alenia Aermacchi's M-346 offers the potential to deliver a "one-type" solution from basic through to fighter lead-in training, and describes the type as "an aircraft with great handling and performance". It is "a true fourth-generation trainer in design", he concludes.

The Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 "was easy to fly, with carefree aircraft and engine handling, and combined stunning performance with modern avionics. KAI has produced the T-50 at the right time and with the right specification," he says.

Of the two models shortlisted to contest the basic trainer requirement, Collins says the Alenia Aermacchi M-311 "is a delight to fly", and argues that its jet propulsion "offers significant performance advantages over competing turboprops, but at comparable fuel flows, similar lifecycle costs and almost identical acquisition costs".

Writing late last year, Collins was also impressed with the capabilities of the Pilatus PC-21. The aircraft is "so loaded with sophisticated, equivalent fourth-generation fighter-type simulated systems and training potential it can, without doubt, be classified as a new type of fighter, attack and systems trainer-type aircraft", he says.

Read Pete Collins flight tests of all four contenders