France plans to introduce additional PC-21 aircraft to cover phase IV training

France PC21 advanced training
France Air Force PC-21 trainer aircraft.

The French Air Force appears to be planning to introduce additional Pilatus PC-21 turboprop trainer aircraft to cover advanced fighter pilot training (phase IV) at Cazaux air base.

France selected the 'Swiss-made' aircraft in early 2017 to replace part of the fleet of older Alpha Jet trainers. The initial agreement included a total of 17 PC-21s to be used for intermediate (phase III) training of fighter pilots at the Cognac air base.

Currently students completing training in PC-21 move to the Alpha Jet Advanced Trainer for Phase IV before being assigned to the Mirage 2000 or Rafale.

In a somewhat surprising choice, the French Air Force has decided to introduce an additional 13 PC-21 aircraft to begin replacing the Alpha Jet in phase IV. Today, the armed forces increasingly tend to use high-performance aircraft for phase IV, similar to those of front-line fighters, to reduce the performance gap compared to the latter. This allows the service to offload flight hours to expensive 20-ton aircraft, such as the Rafale.

However, the French Air Force has previously said that it considers the PC-21 to be the most powerful, economical and flexible integrated training system than any other jet or turboprop trainer on the market. The service probably intends to build a single-type trainer fleet (PC-21 only) as it has already planned to do with the fighter fleet (Rafale only).

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: Franch Air Force

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