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Military trainers: Trainer manufacturers jostle for business

Trainer aircraft manufacturers are eyeing numerous opportunities to sell their products on the global market, with a large number of nations in the process of conducting competitions to acquire new-generation aircraft capable of providing an effective bridge to fourth and fifth-generation strike aircraft now in use or set to enter service within the next decade.

One of the highest profile contests under way will lead to the acquisition of up to 70 aircraft in the primary and advanced jet trainer (AJT) categories for the United Arab Emirates. To prepare its future pilots to fly the Lockheed Martin Block 60 F-16E/F multirole strike aircraft and Dassault Mirage 2000-9 fighter, the new two-tier system could act as a template for other wealthy nations, bidding companies believe.

The project - a request for proposals for which was recently issued - has been whittled down to battles between the Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano and Pilatus PC-21 turboprops and Alenia Aermacchi M-311 jet, and pits the Italian manufacturer's developmental M-346 against BAE Systems' Hawk 128 and the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed T-50. The UAE's selections could sway the form of the trainer market for the coming decades, along with pending decisions in other influential nations.

Australia is in the market for a new basic/primary training system to replace its Pilatus PC-9s. The selected type will operate beneath the Royal Australian Air Force's Hawk lead-in fighter trainers, Boeing F/A-18A/B Hornet and F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters and Lockheed's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Chile, Greece, Israel, Poland and Singapore are among those nations to require new AJT platforms within the short-term future, with Greece also among the nine states to currently support the delayed Eurotraining scheme, for which the M-346 is a strong candidate.

Fresh from its selection of the Lockheed/VT Aerospace Ascent consortium as preferred bidder to act as training system partner for its Military Flying Training System project, the UK is to embark on a wide-ranging selection of new training equipment including primary and basic platforms through to multi-engined platforms and single and twin-engined helicopters.

Russia is awaiting the introduction to service of the Yakovlev Yak-130 to replace some of the Aero Vodochody L-39s in use at its training schools, while China appears set to choose between the Guizhou FTC-2000 and Hongdu L-15 to deliver its future AJT requirements.

With a wide range of platforms on offer from numerous companies, which products are best placed to dominate the trainer market for the years to come?




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