Airbus dusts off Advanced Fighter Jet Trainer AFJT project

Airbus Advanced Fighter Jet Trainer
Airbus Advanced Fighter Jet Trainer AFJT concept.

After Airbus unveiled its concept for a new advanced trainer aircraft about a year ago, many analysts wondered if the project was still running today. A few days ago the Spanish aircraft manufacturer answered this question during the biennial FEINDEF meeting in Madrid, Spain.

Aibus's proposal, called Advanced Fighter Jet Trainer (AFJT), aims to replace the fleet of Northrop F-5M and CASA C-101 Aviojet trainer aircraft of the Spanish Air Force, but also looks to the foreign market, especially France and Finland.

However, as with all new programs, time is the AFJT's worst enemy as it will take a long time to be fielded. Just to give an idea, the Boeing/Saab T-7A project, which was developed in a very short time, started in 2013 and the first aircraft are expected to be operational in 2028 (if nothing goes wrong).

“The main purpose here is to start the project,” Abel Nin, the Airbus program manager, told Defense News on Friday at the FEINDEF. Nin expects the prototype to fly four years after the program officially launches.

The Spanish Air Force submitted the operational requirements document for a new jet trainer in 2020, said Lt. Col. Jesus Gutierrez Gallego, who works with the service’s program planning division. The service doesn’t recommend a specific vendor, and now it’s up to the Defence Ministry to deliberate and decide whether Airbus will receive the contract, he told Defense News.

“We need it before the current system starts its sundown,” he said.

Spanish Air Force officials said the F-5M is expected to begin retiring from service between 2027 and 2030.

Due to the tight deadlines, we do not rule out that Spain may select a market-ready and proven platform rather than an aircraft under development with uncertain delivery times.

The main contender of the AFJT is currently the Leonardo M-346. According to Leonardo, the M-346 is the most advanced solution available today for the Lead in Fighter Training (LIFT) phase of training, with the highest possible download of flight hours from the expensive OCU phase carried out on the twin seat version of fighters. It includes fully developed and widely proved on-board simulation and Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) capability. Leonardo is also developing new cutting-edge simulation systems to train pilots for next generation fighters.

The multirole version of the M-346, the M-346FA Fighter Attack, is enhanced with the modern Grifo Radar and boasts multirole capabilities on a single platform, offering both cost-effective advanced training and combat roles. The Fighter Attack is already operational at the first international customer, while the M-346 has been in service for years with the air forces of Italy, Poland, Israel and Singapore.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: Airbus

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