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Military training: are turboprops killing jets? Here is our analysis

Trainer aircraft jet turboprop
USAF T-6 Texan II and T-38 Talon fly in a dissimilar formation.

Since the beginning of the 60s the trainer Aircraft market has been dominated by jets, it has favored aircraft such as MB-326, Fouga Magister, L-29, Jet Provost first and then MB-339, Alpha Jet, L-39, Hawk and so on.

In the last decade the trend has changed as many air forces have begun to replace old jet fleets with turboprop aircraft. One example is the recent procurement of the Pilatus PC-21 by France and Spain.

Contrary to what many think, this choice is not mainly linked to the lower cost at the same performance of the jets.

At the beginning of the 2000s the pilot training process underwent a radical change following the introduction of modern and technologically advanced combat aircraft. This has led the armed forces to adjust their pilot training.

Until a few years ago, the training of young pilots consisted mainly of three steps: initial phase with a basic propeller aircraft, subsequent passage in a medium class jet and finalization of the training in front-line fighter aircraft.

Today, fighter pilots make a further platform transition, flying advanced training jets such as the M-346.

Aircraft like the M-346 have somewhat revolutionized the training syllabus, offloading the work done in middle-class jets and front-line combat aircraft. They have performance and cockpit very similar to modern fighters.

This is the reason why air forces can perform intermediate steps in turboprop aircraft rather than jets.

The proof is provided by the market, today manufacturers who intend to develop new jets are aiming for the LIFT (Lead In to Fighter Training) phase. Examples are Boeing T-7A Red Hawk or Airbus Future Jet Trainer. Nations that cannot introduce these types for budgetary reasons rely on international military flight schools.

On very rare occasions student pilots have transitioned from turborpop to modern fighters such as F-35, Eurofighter, Rafale or Super Hornet as the gap between the two platforms is too large.

Taking the first example, we expect France and Spain to soon introduce an advanced jet trainer to complement the PC-21 turboprop.

As a USAF F-35 instructor told us in the past, "the trainers lay the foundation for successful training in modern aircraft, and their equipment must be similar to that of the latter."

On the performance side, modern turboprop and basic jet trainers are very similar, making the difference in the choice are the trade agreements along with the industrial benefits for the buyer's nation.

Written by Matteo Sanzani

This post first appeared on Blog Before Flight, please read the originial post: here

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Military training: are turboprops killing jets? Here is our analysis


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