By David Pugliese
It has become the modern trend to increase the cost effectiveness of aircrew training through simulation — and the outsourcing of training flights to private contractors. David Pugliese examines what is in store for the next generation of RCAF pilots.
The Royal Canadian Air Force’s future air training needs promises billions of dollars of work for aerospace firms. RCAF leaders have pointed to the need to acquire everything from new simulators to new aircraft for pilot training.
The RCAF future simulation strategy has outlined the need to purchase simulators for the service’s CC-177 Globemaster III and CC-150 Polaris transport aircraft and CH-149 search and rescue helicopters. Those acquisitions would eliminate the need for the service to send personnel overseas for such pilot training, according to RCAF officers.
The full cost of implementing the simulation strategy is estimated at $544-million, with the potential for $2-billion in savings over the coming years.
In 2015, Canada’s military also started work on a multibillion-dollar program designed to train its future pilots.
Industry representatives have been asked for feedback on the Future Pilot Training (FPT) project, expected to be worth at least $4-billion. The project will be put in place over the next five years and is expected to cover a 20-year period.
In the meantime, the Canadian government has extended CAE’s existing contract for the NATO Flying Training in Canada Program through at least 2023 while the RCAF sorts out its training needs.
Military officers eventually hope to combine two existing programs, including the NATO Flying Training in Canada Program, which deals with advanced and lead-in fighter training. Besides training RCAF pilots, the program is open to other NATO and allied nations. Past participants have included aviators from Denmark, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In 2027, a program dubbed Contracted Flying Training and Support, which will provide the Canadian Forces with primary flight training and specialized helicopter and multi-engine, fixed-wing pilot training, also will be brought under the FPT umbrella. Numerous firms are expected to be interested in the potential work.
For instance, Leonardo has already started marketing the Aermacchi M-345 jet as a solution for the whole range of the RCAF’s training needs. The Italian Air Force has already ordered a first batch of five M-345 aircraft, which Leonardo describes as having costs comparable to those of a high-power turboprop aircraft but with a higher performance level. The first delivery of the planes for the Italian Air Force is expected by 2019.
The engine is a turbofan Williams FJ44-4M-34 for military and aerobatic use, according to the company. The cockpit is equipped with HOTAS (hands on throttle-and-stick) commands, digital displays with three-colour touch screen MFD (multi-function display) and a head-up display (HUD), which in the rear seat is replaced by a display repeater of images of the front HUD.
Life cycle cost reduction is driven by long fatigue life and two-level maintenance, Leonardo added.
Italy is expected to purchase 45 M-345s to replace the Aermacchi MB-339. The aircraft would be used in both a training role and for Frecce Tricolori, Italy’s aerobatic team.
That last role could set the aircraft up as a potential replacement for the Snowbirds’ CT-114 Tutor aircraft.
While the purchase of new training aircraft for the RCAF might still be some ways off, the awarding of another training contract is expected shortly.
The winner of the $1.5-billion Contracted Airborne Training (CATS) contract was supposed to be selected in December 2016, but it has been delayed somewhat by shortages of procurement specialists in the federal government.
Discovery Air Defence from Montreal has been providing such services for the Canadian military since 2005. It has also expanded in operations internationally and was recently hired to provide similar services to Germany.
Discovery Air is up against CAE, which has allied itself with Draken, a U.S. firm.
Public Services and Procurement Canada official Nicholas Boucher said the plan is to still award the contract sometime in the “fall of 2017” although no specific date has been provided.
The existing bids, however, are valid until October 31, 2017. As of press time, Boucher told Esprit de Corps that “a bid validity extension has not been requested,” meaning that it is expected a winner will have been selected by the end of October.
CATS will provide aircraft to the Canadian Forces to simulate hostile threats for ground and naval forces as well as fighter pilots. The winning firm also provides aircraft to tow targets and carry electronic warfare systems for various training scenarios, according to the information supplied by Public Services and Procurement Canada.
CATS will run over an initial 10-year period, followed by the option to continue for another five years. The winning bidder is required not only to provide planes and pilots but also maintenance crews and engineering support. The Canadian government estimates that aircraft operated by the winning bidder will have to fly between 2,500 and 3,500 hours a year.
The majority of services will be provided in Victoria, B.C.; Cold Lake, Alberta; Bagotville, Quebec; and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Other training flights could take place outside Canada, including in the U.S. and Mexico.
Discovery Air has taken its skills developed on the Canadian program and is now applying them to other programs in foreign countries.
It has teamed with Leonardo and Inzpire Ltd. to develop and deliver what the firms are calling a customer-centred, low-risk, live air training solution for the UK Ministry of Defence’s Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) Program. The companies will combine their capabilities, expertise and experience in live air aggressor training, air warfare training, electronic warfare, and airborne systems integration to deliver a highly capable and scalable solution to support ASDOT’s live fly tactical training needs through the mid-2030s, the firms noted in a statement. This support would be for RAF Typhoon and F-35 Lightning II aircraft.
Discovery Air had an earlier alliance with Inzpire but it has been expanded to include Leonardo, the firms noted in a September 12 announcement.
With extensive experience in working with the RAF on their Typhoon and Tornado aircraft, providing advanced technology, training, services and support, Discovery Air noted that Leonardo is well placed to understand the end user requirements for ASDOT and offer the best mix of simulation, networked and integrated training capabilities to train British combat jet pilots in the most effective and efficient way possible.