BAE Systems has been given an unexpected opportunity to contest the main element of the nine-nation Advanced European Jet Pilot Training (AEJPT), or Eurotraining requirement.
The company recently received a request for information linked to its Hawk advanced jet trainer design, which had previously been excluded from consideration due to a lack of UK participation in the long-running Eurotraining effort.
Intended to deliver aircrew training services to multiple nations using pooled aircraft and ground-based training equipment, AEJPT has made slow progress since the agreement of a European Staff Requirement in June 2006. However, Alenia Aermacchi's M-346 has long been considered the lead candidate to meet the programme's fast jet element.
Industry sources say that in addition to approaching the Italian manufacturer, the Eurotraining steering committee also recently issued RFIs to BAE, and to Swiss firm Pilatus related to its PC-21 turboprop. The companies have been given until 15 January 2010 to respond to the request.
"We will have a response strategy by the end of this month," says Ian Reason, BAE's business development director for training and Hawk UK. "Hawk is fully compliant with all the 'musts'," he adds.
© Flt Lt Paul Heasman/Royal Air Force
The UK Royal Air Force has acquired the Hawk 128/T2
BAE will offer its new-generation Hawk 128 as "a starting point" for any future European offer, but is looking to tailor the aircraft for specific Eurotraining requirements, Reason says. A single-engine solution would offer significant operating and lifecycle cost savings over the M-346 over the life of the service, he claims, adding: "we believe we've got a real chance".
The Eurotraining service is currently expected to achieve initial operational capability in 2014, following a two-year implementation phase. However, with a contract award for the system's fleet of potentially 80-120 training aircraft anticipated only during 2011, this schedule could well slip further.
Separately, BAE will by 24 September submit its response to the US Air Force's second RFI on possible replacements for its Northrop T-38 supersonic trainers. With a potential need for between 300 and 500 aircraft, the requirement is the biggest single opportunity for current AJT manufacturers, and US and foreign companies are already jockeying for position.
"We will work out this year who we're going to be teaming with," says Reason. "We're not ruling anything in or out at this stage," he adds.
Options could include offering a development of the Hawk with BAE Systems Inc acting as the prime, or partnering with a major US company. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and potentially Northrop Grumman are also expected to pursue the deal, with rival aircraft types likely to include Alenia's M-346 and the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed T-50.
Reason says the USAF has asked for information about an overall training system, and believes that airframe performance shortfalls against fifth-generation types like the Lockheed F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II could be offset by the use of technologies such as centrifugal simulators. "We believe the Hawk is a credible competitor," he says.