Defence released a Request For Information (RFI) to industry on June 2 with a view to replacing its Lead In Fighter Training System (LIFTS), currently provided by the BAE Systems Hawk Mk.127 platform.
The Hawk has recently completed a significant mid-life upgrade under Project Air 5438 and has a current planned withdrawal date of 2026.
The RFI for a replacement capability is part of Air 6002 Phase 1 (Future Lead-In Fighter Training System) which, according to the 2016 Defence White Paper and associated Industry Investment Program, is a $4-5 billion project scheduled to run between 2022 and 2033.
Air 6002 has two major requirements, the primary role being the means of providing training for RAAF pilots and Weapons Systems operators streamed for fast jet operations, between the undergraduate PC-21 and the F/A-18F, F-35A or EA-18G. The secondary requirement will be to support other ADF capabilities in both the friendly (Blue Air) or opposing (Red Air) forces.
Defence anticipates that a mix of Live and Virtual means will be required for the training role, which includes air vehicles and full mission simulators as currently employed by the Hawk LIFTS capability. For the support role the new capability platform must be able to employ both kinetic and non-kinetic effects.
The RFI stresses that industry responses address the high-level performance of their solution against requirements, as well as providing details of estimated delivery timeframe and indicative cost.
“The Hawk Mk.127 planned withdrawal date of 2026 means that it is now appropriate for Defence to seek initial industry engagement via an RFI, as part of the early steps leading into Air 6002 Phase 1. The responses will help inform Defence on industry’s views and considerations for the Future Lead-In Fighter Training System,” Air Vice Marshal Cath Roberts, head of Air Force Capability, explained.
“In parallel, Air Force will continue enhancing its understanding of what it needs from LIFTS as the output from the Pilot Training System (PC-21) and the input requirements into the Australian F-35A operational conversion mature, Both of these activities will aid in the development of the Air 6002 Phase 1 requirement.”
AVM Roberts said that, while Defence is yet to fully define its requirements for the program, it is likely that a Hawk option will be considered, but the scope of any further upgrade of the existing LIFTS capability cannot be decided until the requirements are fully understood.
“Aircraft performance and aircraft mission systems that bridge between the Pilot Training System and fast jet conversion courses will be critical requirements,” AVM Roberts added.
“The Future LIFTS will be expected to remain relevant to its role in training fast jet aircrew and supporting Joint Force training, to be adaptable to those needs as they evolve, to be affordable, and to be safe out to an indicative timeframe of 2050.”
The RFI closing date is 4 pm on July 31.