Most attention at the show is focused on the UAE’s near-term requirement for an advanced trainer aircraft, but the UAE Air Force is actually looking to institute a complete training system.
The Air Force has a medium-term requirement for a basic trainer to replace its existing fleet of 35 Pilatus PC-7 trainers with No.4 Squadron of the Khalif bin Zayed Air College, based at Al Ain International Airport. Behind the scenes, the basic trainer competition is hotting up.
Though UK Ministry of Defence sources have suggested that the selection of a new basic trainer is not likely to take place until early 2008, the UAE has already assessed two main contenders – the Alenia Aermacchi M-311 and the Pilatus PC-21 – while the Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano is reportedly also under consideration.
Of these competing aircraft types, the Pilatus PC-21 is present at Dubai, making a welcome return to the Gulf after its appearance in the Al Ain International Aerobatic Championship in January 2007.
The PC-21 is an advanced derivative of the PC-7/9 family, featuring a modern glass cockpit and with a combination of a 1,600shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68B turboprop engine and short span giving jet-type performance and handling. The aircraft is claimed to be the fastest Turboprop-powered trainer aircraft in the world.