Spain could end Patrulla Aguila aerobatic team, here are the options

Spain retire Patrulla Aguila
Spanish Air Force Patrulla Aguila aerobatic team. The team's future may be at risk due to the lack of a 'made in Spain' replacement aircraft.

The upcoming arrival of the new Pilatus PC-21 trainer aircraft at the Spanish Air Force Air Academy in San Javier, Spain, does not secure the future of the Spanish aerobatic team Patrulla Aguila. While the Swiss-made turboprop represents the best option to replace the iconic CASA C-101 jet in the team's fleet, the armed force appears to have different plans.

The Patrulla Aguila has been using the homemade CASA C-101 for decades, however, with the end of the jet's operational life expected in summer 2022, the unit's activity could be compromised.

Representatives of the Spanish Air Force recently told the Spanish media LA RAZÓN that "the Patrulla Aguila has represented the Air Force for decades, but also our national industry thanks to the use of an excellent system designed and manufactured in Spain." This is the reason why, in the absence of a "made in Spain" option, the Defense will not replace the current fleet. "We intend to maintain this philosophy as long as the availability of aircraft allows," said the armed force.

The plan of the service is to extend the operational life of the current aircraft as much as possible and once the type has been withdrawn from the flight school fleet "keep those with remaining flight hours."

Officials said that "as the operational decline of the C-101 approaches in the summer 2022, a decision on the future of the Patrulla Aguila will be made based on the options available at that time." Reliable local sources say the defense could also opt to dismantle the team as with a Swiss-made aircraft like the Pilatus, "it would lose its purpose."

According to these statements, the life of the Patrulla Aguila seems to depend on the entry into service of the Airbus Future Jet Trainer (AFJT) which, however, is still in a conceptual phase and its development will take several more years. Furthermore, the choice of the AFJT could result in a significant cost increase for the team as it is a superior class and performance system compared to the C-101. To date, the future of the Patrulla Aguila seems to be hanging by a thread, probably by the end of next year the nation's plan will be clearer.


Written by Matteo Sanzani
Photo Credit: Patrulla Aguila

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