With the remainder of the UK Military Flying Training System’s (MFTS) new aircraft to enter operational use before the end of the current decade, the selection of low-risk types is a critical factor pointing towards the project’s success, says Ascent Flight Training managing director Paul Livingston.

Three more fixed-wing types will be joining the already-operational BAE Systems Hawk T2 and Beechcraft King Air 350ER “Avenger” in use as part of the MFTS infrastructure.

Following the October 2014 selection of a solution offered by Elbit Systems/KBR joint venture Affinity, Grob Aircraft’s turboprop-powered G120TP will provide the future elementary flying training element of the MFTS syllabus. The German company will be contracted to produce 23 of the side-by-side-configuration type for the UK.

To be flown from the Royal Air Force’s Barkston Heath and Cranwell bases in Lincolnshire, the new assets will replace a current core fleet of 40 Grob G115 Tutors. Initial course capability (ICC) is scheduled for early in 2018.

Selection of the glass cockpit-equipped G120TP for the UK adds to a strengthening sales record for its manufacturer. Argentina and Indonesia have already received all of their respective 10 and 18 examples, while 13 of an eventual 25 have been supplied to Mexico. Myanmar’s air force has received half of its contracted 20, and the type was also recently selected by CAE USA for use as part of a new system to screen fixed-wing pilots for the US Army and US Air Force. Six will be acquired.

Basic flying training (BFT) tasks – currently delivered using 40 Shorts Tucano T1s – will be transferred to a fleet of 10 Beechcraft T-6C Texan IIs. These will be flown from RAF Valley on the Isle of Anglesey in north Wales, which is already the home of the service’s Hawk T2s and older Hawk T1s. The new turboprops will be supported by ground-based training equipment including one full-mission simulator.


A fleet of 10 Beechcraft T-6C Texan II turborpops will be used for BFT tasks


While the proposed small fleet size has raised some eyebrows, officials from Ascent, the RAF’s 22 Group and the UK’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation, are confident in the numbers. These include a roughly 30% reduction in total live flying hours during the BFT phase, and an increase in the use of simulated instruction to 46%.

A dynamic pipeline model, which is independently assured and also assessed by the MoD, is used to support such through-life projections of required aircraft numbers.

“Ten Texans with an availability rate of over 90% – it’s unheard of,” says Richard Murray, MFTS integrated project team leader for the DE&S, comparing the future fleet against the ailing Tucano.

“I’m confident we’ve got the right number,” says Livingston, adding: “the penalties for not meeting it [the required output] are strict.”

This confidence in the Beechcraft model’s performance is backed up by the company’s delivery to date of more than 850 T-6-series trainers, and the accumulation of over 2.5 million in-service flight hours. Notably, this installed fleet includes 17 A-model examples made available to the Israeli air force via an Elbit-delivered training system.

Initial capability with the T-6C is due in January 2019, with full availability to be declared in December the same year. At this point, the entire MFTS infrastructure will be in place.

Unlike the types they will be replacing, the G120TP and T-6C feature fully digital cockpits, which will expose students at an early stage to the technologies they will rely on at the operational level. The T-6C also emulates the availability of a radar and advanced weapons, allowing the military to further “download” training from expensive combat types.

The remaining fixed-wing element of MFTS will deliver multi-engine training from June 2018 using five Embraer Phenom 100 business jets operated from RAF Cranwell. These will assume the training service currently being delivered using a leased fleet of seven King Air 200s.

Selection of the Phenom 100 represents the first time that the twin-engined type has been picked to deliver military training, and Murray will require a number of minor modifications to be certificated. However, Affinity, Ascent and the Ministry of Defence stand to benefit from the operational experience gained by what Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets database records as a fleet of 324 of the Brazilian-built aircraft already in use around the globe, with a further 222 on order.

Contract signature with Affinity is planned to occur late during the third quarter of this year, having been delayed slightly from March 2015.

Source: Flight International