Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2020-11-15

Australia on the Lookout for Future Lead-In Fighter Training System

The Commonwealth of Australia recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) in relation to AIR 6002 Phase 1 – Future Lead-In Fighter Training System (LIFTS). In the RFI, Australian Defence (ADF) said that the LIFTS aircraft “prepares aircrew to undergo conversion training on frontline fast jet aircraft, while also supporting the ADF on various training and public relations initiatives.”
 
Two manufacturers have so far nominated the platforms they will offer for AIR 6002 Phase 1, the follow on to the capability currently provided by 33 BAE Systems Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) aircraft. The Hawk 127 lead-in fighter prepares qualified Air Force pilots for conversion to F/A-18A and F/A-18B Hornets and F/A-18F Super Hornets.
 
Classroom in the Sky
Boeing will offer a version of its T-7A Red Hawk, which bagged the U.S. Air Force contract to supply 351 aircraft and 46 trainers to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s ageing T-38 fleet, in a deal worth a potential US$9.2 billion. The T-7A Red Hawk is the new advanced pilot training system that will train the next generation of pilots for decades to come. Along with updated technology and performance capabilities, the T-7A will be accompanied by enhanced simulators and the ability to update system software faster and seamlessly. The plane was also designed with maintainers in mind by utilising easy-to-reach and open access panels.
 
The T-7A features twin tails, slats and big leading-edge root extensions that provide deft handling at low speeds, allowing it to fly in a way that better approximates real world demands and is designed to prepare pilots for fifth-generation aircraft. High wings, easy access panels and reach enable the T-7A Red Hawk design to focus on accessibility, fewer fasteners and readiness of engine and seats. It is also designed around common U.S. Air Force ground equipment with established suppliers, reducing supply chain complexity. Moreover, clean, intuitive and reconfigurable advanced cockpit allows students and instructors a maximum range of training options with modern avionics. 
 
Stable, student- and instructor-friendly, T-7A platform offers fly-by-wire flight controls, ample thrust and excellent handling at all speeds, configurations and high angle-of-attack. The complete advanced pilot training solution provides interactive classroom lessons, computer-based training modules and adaptive training, while the T-7A adjusts to students’ needs by offering a complete suite of instructor tools for optimum results on the ground and in the ‘classroom in the sky’.
 
Long-term Reliability
On the other hand, Leonardo has indicated it will offer its twin-engine M-346, which is in service with the Air Forces of Italy, Republic of Singapore, Israel and Poland, with 72 aircraft already ordered.
 
Leonardo has described the M-346 as being designed “for a wide range of training capabilities, long-term reliability and cost-effective operations”. The Israeli Air Force recently celebrated its 50,000th M-346 sortie.
 
The M-346 Master is a twin-engine, tandem-seat, next generation advanced jet trainer, and central element of an Integrated Training System (ITS) designed to allow student pilots to develop knowledge, skills and practices needed for effective exploitation of modern combat aircraft. The ITS solution comprises of simulators and ground based instructional devices, including an operational Live, Virtual, and Constructive environment, which make the M-346 an effective solution to train the new generation of fighter pilots.
 
The M-346 characteristics contribute to maximise teaching effectiveness and to allow flight hours to be downloaded from front line aircraft (Operational Conversion Unit). In addition, the aircraft is also ideally suited to satisfy the Companion Trainer role at a sustainable cost and for the Adversary Red-Air role, thus preserving airframe-life and training cost of front-line fighters.
 
A comprehensive in-flight ETTS suite is a key feature of the M-346 and core element of the ITS. ETTS enables the M-346 to offer the whole spectrum of simulated training functions in flight and provides both students and instructors with different on-board simulations. These include, a tactical scenario (digital map with threats and targets); presence of realistic Computer-Generated Forces (friend and foe), on-board sensors (such as multimode Fire Control Radar, targeting pod and active/passive electronic countermeasures); weapons, including specific symbology and delivery parameters; and Live, Virtual, Constructive environment.
 
ETTS functions can support Stand Alone (flying a single-ship mission) or Multi-Ship networked operations, with aircraft and simulators being networked via a dedicated Training Data Link to exchange Tactical Scenario data with other participants.
 
The M-346FA is designed to have different operational capabilities, equally well suited for air-to-air (air policing, airspace control, Homeland Defence and Slow Mover Intercept) and various air-to-ground missions including CAS (Close Air Support), BAI (Battlefield Air Interdiction), COIN (COunter INsurgency), Airborne FAC and Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR), employing even Precision Guided Munitions. It can also be a useful platform for tactical reconnaissance.
 
Agile Training System
Certain reports have also suggested that Korean Aerospace Industries may enter the AIR 6002 Phase 1 with its T-50 Golden Eagle. The T-50A was developed jointly by Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries. It is made to train 5th Generation pilots. With more than 150,000 flight hours on the T-50 airframe, the T-50A is ready to deliver ahead of schedule. 
 
The aircraft is easy to fly—similar to the F-16, F-22, and F-35—which helps avoid negative training and unnecessary sorties. The T-50A creates better pilots, in less time, for less cost by enabling student pilots to focus their airmanship skills on improved aero performance, digital flight controls/fly-by-wire, with next-gen air traffic management systems, while operating from an anthropometrically designed 5th Generation cockpit.
 
The Republic of Korea Air Force’s training experience has proven that the new training system yields a better fighter pilot in less time with fewer sorties and lower cost. The T-50 training programme has reportedly reduced the number of required flights in the KF-16 to only nine sorties. The Ground-Based Training System contains an array of innovative technologies to provide options for “offloading” aircraft training tasks into the simulation environment.
 
The T-50A aircraft configuration is based on South Korea’s FA-50, which is currently in production. The FA-50, one of the most advanced fighter versions of the T-50, incorporates air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, along with an avionics suite that contains an electronic warfare suite, a multi-mode radar and an advanced datalink. 
 
Hawk Upgraded
Current provider BAE Systems has not released information on a specific offering for the AIR 6002 Phase 1 RFI, opting to emphasise that the Australian Hawk 127 fleet completed upgrades under a Lead in Fighter Capability Assurance Program (LIFCAP) in 2019.
 
The company has also said that data obtained from its recently completed 14-year Full Scale Fatigue Test of a static Hawk airframe at DST Group’s Fishermans Bend facility in Victoria suggest that, based on current use, the fatigue life remaining in the Hawk airframe would allow the aircraft to continue operations well into the late 2040s.
 
“The Hawk is the world’s most successful and proven military aircraft trainer, built on more than 35 years of fast jet training experience,” said BAE Systems Australia Director Aircraft Sustainment and Training, Andrew Chapman. “The 2019 completion of Hawk (LIFCAP) upgrade ensures the aircraft is freshly updated and available for service in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for many more years.”
 
Complete Package
While the first look at the contenders usually centres on the airframes offered, the delivered training package will see aircraft as part of a system involving simulation and ground based training on a scale not seen in previous generations.
 
Modern systems see flight data from the physical aircraft downloaded into simulators so that candidates can re-fly the mission and receive instruction, and trainer cockpits that can emulate the sensors, weapons and systems used in frontline aircraft. Trainer aircraft can also become nodes in a combined physical/simulation exercise, flying live tactical scenarios in concert with participants in other aircraft and ground based simulators.
 

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