• A RAAF PC-9 together with a RSAF PC-21 near RAAF Base Pearce.
    A RAAF PC-9 together with a RSAF PC-21 near RAAF Base Pearce.

It was the contract that never seemed to end but the Commonwealth and Team 21, a joint effort of Lockheed Martin, Pilatus and Hawker Pacific, have finally signed Air 5428.

Katherine Ziesing | Canberra 

The initial seven-year $1.2 billion contract was officially signed on December 9, 2015. Performance-based options for up to 25 years will provide the opportunity to extend the length and increase the value of the total contract for the industry partnership.

The new facility will be based at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria, with the site to undergo extensive infrastructure work to accommodate the capability.

The new pilot training system will see ADF basic flying training, currently undertaken at the Basic Flying Training School (BFTS) with BAE Systems at Tamworth in NSW, relocate to East Sale, already home to the RAAF’s Central Flying School (CFS), while advanced training will continue to be conducted from RAAF Base Pearce, home to the RAAF’s 2 Flying Training School (2FTS).

“We are honoured to partner with Australia to deliver a comprehensive training solution that is customised for their needs and focused on fifth-generation mission readiness,” Jon Rambeau, vice president and general manager for Lockheed Martin Training and Logistics Solutions said at the contract signing.

As prime contractor, Lockheed Martin will provide overall project management for the pilot training system and deliver a family of integrated ground-based training technologies.

Pilatus Aircraft will provide PC-21 turboprop training aircraft and through-life engineering and airworthiness support. Hawker Pacific will provide maintenance services and fleet support and leverage its established supply chain in Australia.

Hawker Pacific’s Government Business unit will manage the contract from Sale in Gippsland Victoria, which will in turn manage the performance of aircraft maintenance activities across four locations in four states – at RAAF Bases East Sale, Pearce, Edinburgh and Williamtown.“We are delighted that after 28 years of Pilatus PC-9 operations the Commonwealth of Australia has chosen to endorse our reputation for providing world class Training Systems with this new contract,” Oscar J. Schwenk, Chairman of Pilatus, said. “I am equally happy that Team 21 won the deal against all international competitors and that, in the final round, the Australian Defence Force has chosen the Pilatus PC-21 over all other aircraft – once Pilatus, always Pilatus!”

The PC-21 has been in service with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) at RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia since 2008 and is also operated by the Air Forces of Switzerland, the UAE, Saudi-Arabia and Qatar. Team 21 is in the ninth year of a 20-year performance-based flight training contract to provide the Basic Wings Course to the RSAF, at RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia.

With this latest order 180 aircraft have been sold and Australia is now the sixth country to operate the PC-21 as their platform of choice in this training role.

ADM understands that the PC-21’s for Australia will be delivered commencing June 2017. A total of 49 aircraft are covered in the contract, of which three will find a home with the RAAF’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) and four with 4 Sqn at Sale.

Efficiencies will also mean the new contractor-supported Pilot Training System will see an increase in ADF pilot training throughput despite operating fewer aircraft than the current system.

The move is an obvious blow to BAE Systems’ Australia extensive flying training operation at Tamworth under the IBFT contract.

BAE will continue to provide ADF pilot training there through until the end of 2019 (flying at East Sale will begin in 2018, according to the current timeline), and does also provide military flying training for Singapore, Brunei and Papua New Guinea, but the decision seems likely to see a major rationalisation of the Tamworth operation. ADM also understands that the loss of IBFT from Tamworth Airport will also likely see the regional NSW city’s air traffic control tower closed.

Tamworth’s loss is Sale’s gain, with former Defence Minister Kevin Andrews predicting roughly 160 jobs for the region under the new arrangements.

This article first appeared in ADM's February issue. 

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