Egypt needs new trainers as combat fleet undergoes modernization

Egypt new trainer aircraft
Egyptian Air Force K-8E trainer jet.

Egypt's recent acquisition of 30 Rafale fighters gave further impetus to the nation's combat fleet strengthening plan following the previous purchase of 46 MiG-29M2s and 24 Su-35s.

This extensive modernization of the combat fleet will soon lead the Egyptian Air Force to also need new trainer aircraft suitable for training young pilots for modern fighters.

Currently the Egyptian Air Academy is composed of several squadrons divided between the air bases of Bilbeis and El Minya. Students fly the Grob G 115 propeller aircraft during the screening and primary training phase in Bilbeis, before moving on to the Embraer EMB-312 Tucano turboprop for the intermediate phase. The advanced phase includes flight missions in the Karakoram K-8E (Hongdu JL-8) and Alpha Jet aircraft at El Minya.

The Egyptian Air Academy has an excellent reputation in the area, it has also provided training to cadets from numerous Arab and African countries and from Malaysia. The Academy's modernization will certainly be benefited by generous funding and influential support.

According to Egyptian officers in recent years, the EAF currently makes little use of simulators for pilot training, but the Academy plans to widely extend their use in the future through the introduction of modern integrated systems.

Egypt will soon be forced to replace most of the current trainer aircraft. The approximately 74 older Grob G115EGs in use at the 101 Training Wing in Bilbeis are rapidly approaching obsolescence. Grob Aircraft proposed replacing them with its G120TP turboprop, saying the type could be used to "take students all the way to the lead-in fighter training (LIFT) sector." It would also remedy the aging of the 54 Tucanos, acquired in the 1980s, in service at the 201 Training Wing in Bilbeis, as well as the K-8E jets.

The American company Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is offering the A-29 Super Tucano as a potential replacement for these aircraft. Like Grob, SNC believes the A-29 could be used to take students through to the LIFT phase.

However, the use of a single type of aircraft (and in particular a turboprop) for basic and advanced training is controversial and largely unproven, and a number of dedicated advanced trainers (all jets) are offered to replace K-8E and Alpha Jet.

Among the trainer jets at the top of Egypt's list are the Leonardo M-346, the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 Golden Eagle and the Irkut/Rosoboronexport Yak-130.

Leonardo, in particular, is fighting hard to win the order, offering both the M-345 for intermediate training and the M-346 for advanced training. The Egyptian deal would give a big boost to the Italian aerospace company's business in the area after Rafale won over the Eurofighter Typhoon (offered to Egypt by Leonardo). Here is our analysis that predicted Rafale deal.

Egypt is also on the list of potential customers for Czech manufacturer Areo Vodochody's L-39NG jet as the EAF previously operated the L-39 Albatros.

Although there are many manufacturers interested in the Egypt deal, we believe that the close defense trade ties between Italy and Egypt and the advanced capabilities of the Italian-made platforms will favor the M-346.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: George Karavantos

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