The Fu­ture of Mil­i­tary Train­ing

The L-39NG

Aviation Classics - - CONTENTS -

LAt the Farn­bor­ough In­ter­na­tional Air Dis­play in 2014, Aero an­nounced an ex­cit­ing new pro­ject un­der the ti­tle of the L-39 Next Gen­er­a­tion or L-39NG. This new con­cept is aimed at c ntin­u­ing the sup­port for the many ex­ist­ing cus­tomers of the L-39, as well as at­tract­ing new ones with a mod­ern and flex­i­ble ap­proach to the highly suc­cess­ful trainer.

ike all good sto­ries, this one starts over a cup of cof­fee and the pa­tient ex­pla­na­tion of ex­actly what Aero is de­vel­op­ing in its con­cept for the next gen­er­a­tion of mil­i­tary train­ing air­craft. That con­ver­sa­tion re­vealed the out­line, al­beit in con­sid­er­able depth, and set me look­ing into the pro­ject out of sheer fas­ci­na­tion. That has since grown to ex­cite­ment as I truly be­lieve the Czech air­craft man­u­fac­turer has a world-beat­ing so­lu­tion to the fi­nan­cial, en­gi­neer­ing and lo­gis­tics night­mares that cur­rently be­set air forces world­wide. Frankly, the latest L-39 con­cept is a bold and adapt­able ap­proach to ful­fil the needs of mil­i­tary pi­lot train­ing, no mat­ter the size of the air force or

the bud­get. To ex­plain the many rea­sons and think­ing be­hind the air­craft, it is nec­es­sary to ex­am­ine where the world’s jet trainer fleet is to­day. CUR­RENT TRAIN­ING AIR­CRAFT The mod­ern world has changed dra­mat­i­cally since the Aero L-39 Al­ba­tros first flew. The end of the Cold War and the world­wide de­crease in mil­i­tary spend­ing has meant that bud­get is now the prime fac­tor in the think­ing of any air force; re­li­a­bil­ity, sus­tain­abil­ity and cost ef­fec­tive­ness are all fac­tors now con­sid­ered vi­tal in any new mil­i­tary air­craft ac­qui­si­tion. The cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of train­ing air­craft, such as the Yakovlev Yak-130, KAI T-50 Golden Ea­gle, Ale­nia Aer­ma­c­chi M.346 and BAE Sys­tem Hawk T.2 are all ex­traor­di­nar­ily ca­pa­ble air­craft through their com­put­er­based on-board sim­u­la­tion sys­tems and other ad­vanced train­ing aids, all nec­es­sary to pre­pare stu­dent pilots for mod­ern com­bat air­craft. Un­for­tu­nately, for many air forces these ad­vanced train­ers are sim­ply not an op­tion due to their rel­a­tively high cost, not only of pur­chase, but of op­er­a­tion. Even those forces with the bud­get to be able to af­ford these air­craft have found that the jump from ele­men­tary train­ing air­craft to the so­phis­ti­cated mod­ern trainer is sim­ply too great for the stu­dents, cost­ing ad­di­tional hours of fly­ing to fully ac­cli­ma­tise them to the new ma­chines. This fac­tor is borne out by the ex­am­ple of the Rus­sian Air Force, which had in­tended to com­pletely re­place its L-39 fleet with the Yak-130, but has since de­cided to re­tain the L-39 un­til at least 2020 and prob­a­bly be­yond. This de­ci­sion was made to re­duce the over­all train­ing costs and to ease the tran­si­tion of the stu­dents through the train­ing pro­gramme. Like­wise, the In­done­sian Air Force is re­tain­ing the Hawk as the ba­sic and in­ter­me­di­ate trainer be­fore their stu­dents move on to ad­vanced train­ing in the T-50. Other air forces have in­tro­duced tur­bo­prop air­craft as an in­ter­me­di­ary step in the train­ing pro­gramme, and while these air­craft are a cost ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion, there is much to be said for an all-jet syl­labus for mil­i­tary stu­dents be­yond the ele­men­tary stage, as they will only be fly­ing jet air­craft for the rest of their ca­reer. In­clud­ing an air­craft with a dif­fer­ent form of propul­sion and its as­so­ci­ated han­dling in the train­ing pro­gramme has his­tor­i­cally proven to be counter-pro­duc­tive. Re­plac­ing the pro­pel­ler-driven air­craft of the 1950s and 60s was pre­cisely why jet train­ers were in­tro­duced in the first place, so stu­dents did not have to de­velop skills and learn han­dling tech­niques that they would never have cause to use again. The tur­bo­prop train­ers have another lim­i­ta­tion, par­tic­u­larly for the smaller air force that is look­ing to utilise its train­ers in more than one role. They can only carry a lim­ited weapons or equip­ment load to op­er­ate as light strike, counter in­sur­gency, and re­con­nais­sance air­craft, and are se­verely lim­ited in the fighter and bor­der pa­trol roles, lack­ing both the speed of re­sponse and mis­sion adapt­abil­ity of their jet equiv­a­lents. Aside from those air forces with mod­ern ad­vanced train­ers or tur­bo­prop in­ter­me­di­ate air­craft, there is a much larger group of coun­tries that still op­er­ate older types, mostly jets. These air­craft are be­tween 25 and 35 years old and form the ma­jor­ity of the world’s jet train­ing fleet, es­ti­mated to be in the re­gion of 3500 air­craft of all types. Around 50% of this fleet will re­quire re­place­ment in the next 15 years, leav­ing a size­able gap to be filled. These age­ing types have a num­ber of other prob­lems in­her­ent in their use. Firstly, main­te­nance costs are high and will only in­crease as the air­frames get older. Se­condly, the avionics and sys­tems they are fit­ted with do not re­flect cur­rent stan­dards in front line air­craft and do not pre­pare the stu­dents for the types they will even­tu­ally fly. While up­grades and mod­erni­sa­tions may help ame­lio­rate this, it would no longer be cost ef­fec­tive to up­grade many of the older types prior to their with­drawal from ser­vice.

ABOVE: It’s good cof­fee too! Editor BE­LOW: Mod­ern ad­vanced mil­i­tary train­ers like the Yak-130 are in­cred­i­bly ca­pa­ble, but also ex­pen­sive to pur­chase and op­er­ate. Mike Mcevoy

ABOVE: Ad­vanced tur­bo­prop air­craft such as the T-6 are cost ef­fec­tive but have lim­i­ta­tions in sec­ondary roles. USAF RIGHT: For many air forces, train­ing air­craft also fill sec­ondary roles such as bor­der pa­trol and ground at­tack. Aero

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