The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) may be looking for a new jet trainer to replace its BAE systems CT-155 Hawk aircraft, multiple industry sources confirm.
The service wants a complete training system that can adequately prepare pilots to fly the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Canadian government has said it will buy 65 of the stealthy single-engined jets, but the selection is mired in controversy.
A complete training system would entail not only an aircraft, but also high-fidelity simulators, a training curriculum and other services.
Advancements in simulation technology might mean that high-fidelity simulators will replace live flying events for certain tasks--aerial refueling being one. But there might also be simulated mission systems training embedded onboard whatever new aircraft are chosen.
But some sources say that any new effort would not necessarily mean that the Canadian government is going to replace the Hawk. The RCAF could simply upgrade its current CT-155 aircraft fleet. All that needs to happen in that case is that the trainer be adequately upgraded to handle the training tasks associated with the F-35. But other ancillary devices such as advanced simulators might also be needed.
Industry sources say that there is no current programme of record to replace the British-built Hawk trainers. However, a request for proposal could be released "relatively soon."
That being said, it might take a number of years before an acquisition proceeds.
Potential contenders could include the BAE Hawk 128, Alenia Aeronautica's M-346 and the Korean Aerospace T-50. Both Alenia and BAE had models of their aircraft on display at the CANSEC defence trade show in Ottawa during on May 31. Sources say a senior Canadian defence official spoke to would-be contractors at the show about the potential Hawk replacement.
The Canadian Department of National Defence could not comment by press time.