PC-21 NextGen Trainer
To train the next generation of military pilots, Pilatus developed the next generation trainer: the Pilatus PC-21, especially designed and built with students in mind. With air force budgets getting tighter, the all-new PC-21 provides a low-cost but highly effective training platform for pilots destined to fly jet fighters, without actually requiring them to fly jets until much later in the program. To do this, Pilatus expanded the design and performance envelope to take this single engine turboprop into an area that was previously the domain of jet aircraft.
The PC-21 surpasses other turboprop trainers in terms of aerodynamic performance, cockpit equipment, flexibility and ease of maintenance. The use of state-of-the-art technologies increases both the efficiency and quality of training. Training hours flown in expensive jets can now be done entirely in the PC-21 instead, substantial life-cycle cost savings. Other PC-21 attributes include significantly lower fuel consumption and noise emissions.
As a manufacturer with a long history in assisting air forces to train their front line pilots, Pilatus develops completely integrated training systems. The PC-21 package includes sophisticated synthetic training devices, computerbased training, and classroom instruction, providing a proven turnkey solution for today’s pilot training needs.
The PC-21 has better aerodynamic performance than other turboprop trainers on the market. It is also supported by a more powerful, flexible and integrated training system than any other jet or turboprop trainer but still has life-cycle support costs equal to current turboprop benchmarks. The PC-21 is as benign and easy to fly for the ab initio student as it is challenging and satisfying for the advanced pilot preparing for the front line.
Equipped with a pressurized cockpit, air-conditioning, an anti-G system and on-board oxygen generation, the PC-21 provides a comfortable modern training environment. The 1600 shp Pratt & Whitney PT6a-68b engine and five-blade graphite propeller push the speed and climb rate of the PC-21 into an area that was, until now, exclusively jet territory. A digital power management system and automatic yaw compensation make the PC-21 easy to fly in the circuit,while still providing the performance required for advanced training.
The capabilities of the PC-21 make it ideally suited to a very wide training envelope. It can be used from day one in the training system eliminating the need for an elementary flying training fleet but also bridges the performance gap between traditional turboprop trainers and expensive leadin fighters. The PC-21 therefore provides significant advantages over traditional turboprops and jet trainers.
The PC-21 is capable of sustained low-level speeds in excess of 320 kts; hydraulically-assisted ailerons and roll spoilers can produce fighter-like rates of roll in excess of 200° per second. It is therefore possible to download more training from fighter lead-in trainers to the PC-21 than to any other turboprop trainer in the world.
The technology used in the PC-21 is optimized to provide the most flexible training system in the world. The combination of a modern, inherently efficient aircraft, with an avionics system that can address current and future training demands enables an air force to respond to ever changing front-line requirements despite increasing pressure on training budgets.
The PC-21 avionics system is a Pilatus design and there is no reliance on third-party integrators or exposure to state controls. Pilatus has used modern avionics standards and an open-system architecture to allow training system designers much greater scope for innovation, adaptation and change. Upgrades are not reliant on third-party licenses and are cost effective over the product life cycle. The revolutionary, fully-digital glass cockpit environment of the PC-21 is capable of emulating front-line types. This flexibility helps to shorten the training process and increases the overall success rate.
The PC-21 has been designed from the outset to have a predictable cost profile over its life cycle. Modern materials, a full-scale fatigue analysis and an innovative design concept have resulted in an aircraft that is ideal for both conventional and performance-based operations. The advantages offered by expanded-envelope training coupled with the reliability and maintainability advantages of a modern design reduce life-cycle costs and increase value for money when compared with older turboprop or lightweight jet aircraft. Training needs analysis studies have shown that the cost of taking a student to wings graduation could be reduced by over 50%.
The latest generation fighter, transport and helicopter aircraft are all characterized by vastly increased mission system workloads. As a result, student pilots need to be exposed to a realistic cockpit environment at the earliest stages of their training. The PC-21’s expanded training envelope allows students to be introduced to profiles that were previously only possible with expensive jet training; making it easier for air forces to take the next generation of student pilots through to a successful operational conversion. The PC-21’s performance and flexibility combine with affordability to provide a new level of training effectiveness. Greater training effectiveness results in fewer total training hours, higher graduation rates and ultimately pilots reaching the front line sooner at less cost.
The PC-21 training system includes the ability to adapt the aircraft avionics to the requirements of each phase of training. The front and rear cockpits can be de-coupled for independent operation or to allow the instructor to access training modes and sensor data not available to the trainee. Aircraft displays, navigation sensor performance, system modes and simulated weapons status can all be modified by the instr uctor to increase training effectiveness and meet the needs of individual students.
The ability to download elements of operational conversion unit flying (night vision goggles, basic radar interception, smar t weapons, etc.) to a far less expensive platfor m makes the PC-21 an excellent tool for air forces needing to rationalise and improve their training.
The aircraft is equipped with radar simulation software and an integral datalink system. These can be used to teach radar techniques and simulated weapons employment against either on-board computer generated targets or against other aircraft. This type of training on the PC-21 can significantly reduce expensive jet training time.
The PC-21 can simulate almost any weapon found on the latest generation of fighter aircraft. Realistic tactical training can be carried out without the extra costs associated with practice weapons and air-to-ground weapons ranges. This offers the possibility, for example, of simulating beyond visual range (BVR) missile training, utilising a simulated radar picture without the need for another aircraft as an airborne target. Radar-to-visual intercepts and multiple target engagements can be conducted with any similarly equipped aircraft. For air-to-ground training, the PC-21 provides continuously-computed release point (CCRP) and continuously-computed impact point (CCIP) delivery modes, a synthetic air-to-ground radar and a ‘no-drop' bomb scoring system (NDBS).
To meet the need for the performance, flexibility and the reliability required of a trainer aircraft, the PC-21 is powered by a 1600 shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68B coupled to a five-blade Scimitar graphite propeller. The c combination of a high performance turboprop engine (which minimizes fuel consumption and noise emission) with a sophisticated power management system (PMS) makes the PC-21 extremely easy to handle at low airspeeds while still providing the power required for high performance.
The PC-21 aircraft design ensures safe, benign, reproducible spin and stall characteristics and the flight controls have been optimised for ease of operation and effectiveness. Extensive wind tunnel testing during the design and development stage ensure that the aircraft responds perfectly to every control input. The fully-balanced and harmonized flight controls are augmented by spoilers for roll control. The combination of hydraulically assisted ailerons and roll spoilers produces outstanding roll performance with maximum roll rates in excess of 200°/sec, unique in this class of aircraft. A selectable auto-yaw-compensation device compensates for the yaw effects from engine power and speed changes.
Babcock France and Dassault Aviation signed a partnership in January 2017 which would initially materialize in the delivery of the French “FOMEDEC” training contract with the creation of a joint company under the leadership of Babcock France. Following a competitive bid process, the France’s Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) has awarded Babcock France with the FOMEDEC contract to provide and maintain a training platform and related services for the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air).
This 11-year contract will provide new training aircraft (Pilatus PC 21), related simulators (CAE) and modernised training facilities for the training of fighter jet crews to be performed by the Air Force itself at the Cognac Air Base. The first aircraft will be delivered in March 2018.
Archie Bethel, Chief Executive of Babcock International Group, said: “We are delighted that our French company will be working as a key support partner on this major French defence contract. The project will draw on our expertise in the European aviation industry and our experience of delivering long-term military flight training programmes. It is also a great satisfaction to enter into a partnership with such a recognized aviation leader as Dassault. We look forward to working with the French Air Force over the next decade.”
Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, said: “As the manufacturer of the Rafale, the spearhead of the French fighters, and of its advanced training companion, the Alpha Jet, Dassault Aviation bolsters this new project with Babcock, an outstanding provider of support environments, for the benefit of the French Ministry of Defence. With this programme, we are very proud to keep on our enduring participation to the training of the French fighter pilots. Since 1959, our company has been the provider of the French fighter training cursus.”
Spain selected the Pilatus PC-21 to be its next pilot trainer on 27 November 2019, and will buy 24 to replace its fleet of aging CASA C-101 jet trainers, which are due to be retired beginning in 2021. The Air Force currently had 60 units of this type of aircraft that entered service in 1980. Pilatus has been the winner of the public tender, with an offer for its 24 airplanes and ground equipment comprising an emergency exit coach, two cockpit simulators and two networked flight simulators, and an initial logistics package for 204,750 million euros, significantly below the maximum price indicated in the contest rules of 225 million euros. The first six aircraft must be delivered in March 2020.
Spain became the 10th country to operate the PC-21, following Australia (49), France (17), Jordan (12), Qatar (24), Saudi Arabia (55), Singapore (19), Switzerland (8), the United Arab Emirates (25), and the United Kingdom. The latter has two civil-registered aircraft assigned to the Qinetiq-run Empire Test Pilots’ School at Boscombe Down.
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