A trainer is a class of aircraft designed specifically to facilitate flight training of pilots and aircrews. The use of a dedicated trainer aircraft with additional safety features—such as tandem flight controls, forgiving flight characteristics and a simplified cockpit arrangement—allows pilots-in-training to safely advance their real-time piloting, navigation and warfighting skills without the danger of overextending their abilities alone in a fully featured aircraft.
Given the expense of military pilot training, air forces typically conduct training in phases to eliminate unsuitable candidates. The cost to those air forces that do not follow a graduated training regimen is not just monetary but also in lives. For example, for many years the Indian Air Force operated without a suitable advanced training aircraft, leading to a high casualty rate as pilots moved to high performance MiG-21 aircraft without suitable assessment of their aptitude for supersonic flight.
There are two main areas for instruction, flight training and operational training. In flight training a candidate seeks to develop their flying skills. In operational training the candidate learns to use his or her flying skills through simulated combat, attack and fighter techniques.
Civilian pilots are normally trained in a light aircraft, with two or more seats to allow for a student and instructor. The aircraft may be modified to withstand the flight conditions imposed by training flights. The two seating configurations for trainer aircraft are: pilot and instructor side by side, or in tandem, usually with the pilot in front and the instructor behind. The side-by-side seating configuration has the advantage that pilot and instructor can see each other’s actions, allowing the pilot to learn from the instructor and the instructor to correct the student pilot. The tandem configuration has the advantage of being closer to the normal working environment that a fast jet pilot is likely to encounter.
It is now the norm for pilots to begin their flight training in an aircraft with side by side seating and to progress to aircraft with tandem seating. This, however, has not always been the case. For example, it was usual to find tandem seating in biplane basic trainers such as the Tiger Moth and the Jungmann, and the British used side by side seating in the operational conversion of some of its fast jets such as the English Electric Lightning.
Typically, contemporary military pilots learn initial flying skills in a light aircraft not too dissimilar from civilian training aircraft. In this phase pilot candidates are screened for mental and physical attributes. Aircraft used for this purpose include the Slingsby Firefly, as at one time used by the United States Air Force Academy, and the Scottish Aviation Bulldogs of the RAF. The U.S. replaced the Firefly and the Enhanced Flight Screen Program (EFSP) with the Diamond DA20 and the Initial Flight Training (IFT) program. At the end of this stage, pilot trainees are assessed and those who pass advance to the full pilot training program.
After the ab-initio phase a candidate may progress to basic, or primary, trainers. These are usually turboprop trainers, like the Pilatus PC-9 and Embraer Tucano. Modern turbo-prop trainers can replicate the handling characteristics of jet aircraft as well as having sufficient performance to assess a candidate’s technical ability at an aircraft’s controls, reaction speed and the ability to anticipate events. Prior to the availability of high performance turboprops, basic training was conducted with jet aircraft such as the BAC Jet Provost, T-37 Tweet, and Fouga Magister. Those candidates who are not suitable to continue training as fast jet pilots may be offered flying commissions and be trained to fly multi-engined aircraft. Today, the USAF Academy uses light piston-powered aircraft such as the Cirrus SR20 (designated T-53A) for basic cadet flight training.
Those that progress to training for fast jet flying will then progress to an advanced trainer, typically capable of high subsonic speeds, high-energy manoeuvers, and equipped with systems that simulate modern weapons and surveillance. Examples of such jet trainer aircraft include the supersonic Northrop T-38 Talon, the BAE Hawk, the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet, the Aero L-39 and the Yakovlev Yak-130.
Effective combat aircraft are a function now of electronics as much as, if not more so than, the aerobatic ability or speed of an aircraft. It is at this stage that a pilot begins to learn to operate radar systems and electronics. Modern advanced trainers feature programmable multi-function displays which can be programmed to simulate different electronic systems and scenarios. Most advanced trainers do not have radar systems of their own, but onboard systems can be programmed to simulate radar contacts. With datalinks and GPS, virtual radar systems can be created with similarly equipped aircraft relaying to each other their positions in real time and onboard computers creating a radar display based on this information. The aim of programmable displays is to speed pilot training by replicating as far as possible the systems a pilot will find in an operational aircraft.
As the capabilities of front-line aircraft have increased, this has been reflected in increasingly sophisticated advanced trainers. As the costs of developing new aircraft have risen in real terms, it has become more likely that fewer aircraft will be designed specifically for the training role. The advanced trainer was often seen as a stepping stone by most nations in developing a fast jet design and manufacturing capability. With increasing costs, even major air forces will have difficulty reaching the economies of scale to justify development of new advanced trainers. Nations will be required to continue to push the modernisation of existing aircraft (some such as the Hawk dating from the 1970s) or co-operate in the development and procurement of advanced training aircraft.
Over the next decade, more than half of the trainer aircraft currently in use will need to be replaced. This creates strong pressure on manufacturers to meet the market needs for this segment. However, while sales for turboprop aircraft are doing well, those for jet trainers are rather slow. The recent acquisitions by France and Spain of the Pilatus PC-21 show how the armed forces are currently focusing more on turboprop aircraft than on jets. The Swiss-made turbobrop was chosen to replace FAF Alphajet and SpAF CASA C-101 jets.
This discrepancy between market needs and manufacturers’ offers led to the decision to launch new projects such as the Czech L-39NG and the Italian M-345. They can be considered medium-class aircraft capable of replicating most of the capabilities of high-performance jets. Even if these systems are not able to cover the whole LIFT phase, thanks to the advanced systems on board they can provide a reasonable compromise, eliminating the need to introduce more types of aircraft.
Military Trainer Aircraft Market
The military trainer aircraft market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of over 2% during the forecast period (2019 – 2024). – The growing emphasis on training of fighter pilots on advanced trainer aircraft shall lead to the growth of the military trainer aircraft market. On the other hand, the increasing cost of manufacturing military trainer aircraft shall pose as a major restraint for the market.
The recent rise in military conflicts around the globe is expected to allow for the formation of stricter regulations to control the production of military equipment. The world is seeking new advanced technologies to build better aircraft, the demand for trainer aircraft is expected to increase in tandem with the need for military fighter aircraft. The trainer aircraft will play a crucial role in the deployment and functioning of fighter pilots and aircraft.
The developing countries with growing military size have increased their defence spending significantly. Significant nations like China, South Korea, India and Russia have all increased their defence spending. China registered a 132% increase in defence spending, second to UAE at 136%. Germany, Brazil, Australia and Israel have also increased their military spending significantly; this increase in expenditures with rising conflicts and power struggle is expected to drive the market for military aircraft trainers. The development of new sonic fighter aircraft is also expected to boost the demand for military trainer aircraft.
The development of military trainer aircraft is a long and challenging process just like the development of an actual fighter aircraft. The investment regarding time and money has been a market deterrent for military trainer aircraft. This restraint has forced OEMs to develop trainer aircraft from old existing trainer aircraft structure by upgrading them with new technologies and refurbishing airframe. This technique has worked out well regarding cost-cutting for both current OEMs and the military forces, however, has prevented various new OEM’s from entering the market at a competing level.
Replacing of older aircrafts with newer aircrafts equipped with advanced technologies allows the pilots to adjust quickly to the new aircraft model. The only training that trainer aircraft provides is regarding pilot’s endurance to speed, cognitive and memory-knowledge of controls, avionics and adjust to the maneuverability of aircraft. An experienced pilot can learn the same and perform well with the new aircraft in short time. Thus, the need for trainer aircraft is focused on the new pilots. The number of new pilots eligible to fly such new aircraft is small due to restriction posed by the internal military rules and prerequisites of flight hours and previous knowledge of flying other aircraft. All aircraft are derivatives of prior fighter aircraft or trainer aircraft, hence experienced pilots have a better chance of adjusting to the new aircraft without needing much time on the trainer. Militaries too do not prefer to invest in military trainer aircraft as they have limited use since each fighter aircraft is different and trainer aircraft are explicitly made to suit variants of same aircraft model.
Currently, the ongoing trend has shifted from the development of heavier trainer aircraft to light trainer aircraft. Various companies are now focused on the development of light trainer aircraft with advanced capabilities. Technological advancement shall lead to countries worldwide replacing their aging military trainer with new light trainer aircraft and this shall propel growth in the near future.
Currently, Fixed-wing aircraft has the highest share of all the segments. The increasing number of developments in terms of fixed-wing military trainer aircraft and the growing number of trainer programs shall lead to the growth of the segment. Moreover, the introduction of various new fighter aircraft by manufacturers worldwide shall lead to countries needing trainer aircraft in order to train their pilots.
China, in 2018, flew their military trainer aircraft which had been derived from the Diamond DART0450 aircraft. The TA-20 aircraft is a joint venture development between China Electronics Technology Corporation (CETC) and Wuhu Diamond Aircraft Manufacturing Company. Additionally, the United States Air Force (USAF) awarded The Boeing Company a contract of USD 9.2 billion for manufacturing 351 Advanced Pilot Training (APT T-X) aircraft and 46 Ground-Based Training Systems (GBTS) to replace the existing fleet of T-38C jet trainers.
In addition, India is in line to conduct the first flight for the homegrown HTT 40 basic trainer aircraft. The prototype aircraft after their testing operations shall be used for the first stage training for all flying cadets. India, currently, relies on the Pilatus PC7 MK2 trainer that had been purchased after the grounding of the older fleet of HPT 32 trainers. The introduction of the new trainer aircraft in the Indian Air Force shall enable the pilots to have better training experience. Thus, upcoming developments shall increase the focus on this segment, and this shall be the reason for its expected high CAGR.
North America will Continue to Hold a Major Share in the Military Trainer Aircraft Market between 2019 and 2024. In the military trainer aircraft market, North America is generating the highest revenue at present. The North American region is witnessing significant developments related to military trainer aircraft. New technical solutions and the application of modern technologies have led to the introduction of various combat aircraft configurations with a significant improvement in reliability, flight performance and operational performance through the creation of new features that enhance the ability to integrate sensors and process information.
The United States is engaged in the development of new hi-tech fighter jets and are currently in plans to replace their aging trainer aircraft and procure newer generation of trainer aircraft in order to train their pilots. Currently, Boeing T-X aircraft is a new advanced pilot training system which is being offered by Boeing in partnership with Saab for the T-X advanced pilot training program of the US Air Force (USAF). The T-X aircraft is intended to replace the aging T-38 trainer fleet of the United States Air Force (USAF).
In 2018, Aero Vodochody, a Czech aircraft manufacturer and Israel Aerospace Industries have entered into a partnership to pitch variants of the L-159 and L-39NG jets to the US Air Force and Marine Corps as light attack platforms. In partnership with IAI, Aero shall offer the USAF a multi-mission aircraft with the best available technology thus increasing the potential of the US Air Force. The increasing number of deliveries of fighter aircraft shall lead to the US procuring the increasing amount of trainer aircraft.
Additionally, Airbus helicopter has also reported that they shall be introducing the versatile and market-leading H135 aircraft as the future training helicopter for the US Navy at the Naval Helicopter Association’s Fleet Fly-in at Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Pensacola, Florida in October 2019. Airbus pilots shall also conduct orientation flights with US Navy pilots and other stakeholders to demonstrate the capabilities of the H135 trainer aircraft. Additionally, the helicopter has also been equipped with the most advanced technologies available like 4-axis autopilot and One Engine Inoperable (OEI) training mode. The H135 trainer aircraft shall provide future pilots with an ideal platform for training missions, conducted over water and in reduced visibility. Thus, various ongoing developments shall lead to a growth of military trainer aircraft in the North American region in the near future.
Key Manufacturers are Irkut Corporation, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Diamond Aircraft Industries Inc., Embraer SA, Northrop Grumman Corporation, The Boeing Company, BAE Systems plc, Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., Textron Inc., Leonardo SpA (Alenia Aermacchi), Lockheed Martin Corporation and Raytheon Company.
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