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This article was Originally Published on Oct 08, 2006 in Volume: 5  Issue: 2

Aircraft Trainers on the Fly

The aircraft military trainer market continues to diversify and adapt to meet the changing needs of its worldwide customer base. The number of new aircrafts to the market has increased during the past few years and the market could reach $18 billion in sales by 2015.

By Rodney L. Pringle

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The aircraft military trainer market continues to diversify and adapt to meet the changing needs of its worldwide customer base. The number of new aircrafts to the market has increased during the past few years and the overall market could reach $18 billion in sales by 2015, according to Forecast International. However, program postponements and force downsizing in many countries threaten to reduce worldwide sales of military trainers. As the trainer market continues to get smaller, competition for sales is expected to increase in all parts of the market, including jets, turboprops and pistons. “The worldwide military training fleet is large and, in many cases, aging, but defense budget reductions and force downsizing have combined to dilute the requirements for large-scale re-equipment of these aircraft,” said Bill Dane, an analyst at Forecast International, in a study released by the company earlier this year. “Consequently, we are now faced with a shrinking market offering fewer opportunities than in the past. This scenario has been exacerbated by the recent introduction of new trainer types by several lesser industrialized nations that formerly purchased their trainers from the West or from the Soviet/Warsaw Pact. The end result of these developments is that there are simply too many aircraft types vying for too small a market.”

Because of this, Dane said, large numbers of trainers that would have come due for replacement under the previous Cold War scenario have been retired or refurbished and put back on the market for sale to operators with modest defense budgets. “This has resulted in an intensely competitive market, which in many cases has forced manufacturers to incorporate a more belligerent capability into their trainer designs,” he said. “The weapons-carrying capability of a particular trainer model can go a long way toward enhancing its overall market appeal. Such capabilities range from performing armament training roles to carrying out light strike/attack missions.” Some of the aircraft expected to dominate the trainer market in the years to come, analysts said, include: Raytheon’s T-6A Texan, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) turbofan-powered T/A 50 and turboprop-powered KT-1, BAE Systems Hawks, the Embraer Super Tucano and ALX, Aermacchi’s M-346, SF.260 and SF.260 TPs, and Sino-Pakistani HAIG/PAC K-8 trainers.

F-35 Offers Promise

Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for the Teal Group, said the military trainer market could receive a slight boost with the production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. The F-35, produced by Lockheed Martin along with partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, is intended to replace the current generation of strike fighters, particularly the vertical take off and landing (VTOL) Harrier jump jets, the AV-8 Harrier II (U.S.), Harrier GR7/9 (U.K.) and the Sea Harrier (U.K.). It would also replace the conventional A-10 Thunderbolt II, F/A-18 Hornet and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. It is being touted as a multi-role strike fighter that will use stealth technology.

Partners for the F-35’s system development and demonstration phase include: the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia. The F-35 aircraft is expected to be ready for service in 2011, and is scheduled to begin replacing the USAF A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and F-16s in 2011.

“The numbers [for the F-35] are big and the export prospects are big,” said Aboulafia. “All of a sudden, you are going to have a lot of countries in need of a higher-end trainer. That should stimulate the market a little bit.”

Even with the promise of the F-35, the market will still be challenging, Aboulafia said. “I think you are still looking at a downward trend for the next decade and stabilizing at about 1 billion in sales with some level of recovery. In eight or nine years, you could see some recovery. No one is going to get rich in this particular market.”

Forecast International predicts that annual deliveries of military trainer aircraft will peak at 216 units in 2009 and will then go into a steady decline until hitting a 10-year low of 132 shipments in 2015. Shipments are projected at 1,024 units during the first five years of the forecast period, according to the company, and will fall significantly to 797 during the second five-year period. Output could rise slightly in the outyears should the multinational Advanced European Jet Pilot Training (AEJPT) program kick off in a more timely fashion than currently forecast, according to Forecast. The following is a look at what some analysts believe will be the best sellers in their markets.

Turboprop-powered trainers

Raytheon’s T-6A Texan is projected by many to be the top-seller in the turboprop-powered aircraft market going forward. The aircraft is a single-engine, two-seat primary trainer that is a military trainer version of Raytheon’s Beech/Pilatus-9 Mk II. The T-6A has a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68 turbo-prop engine that delivers 1,100 horsepower. Because of its thrust-to-weight ratio, the aircraft can perform an initial climb of 3,100 feet (944.8 meters) per minute and can reach 18,000 feet (5,486.4 meters) in less than six minutes. The T-6A has over 300,000 fleet hours in the United States. To date, the U.S. Air Force and Navy have ordered 418 aircraft, and 300 have been delivered—251 to the Air Force and 49 to the Navy, according to Raytheon. In addition, the NATO Flying Training in Canada program purchased 26 T-6As and the Hellenic Air Force of Greece has received 45 T-6As. The program calls for the company to build nearly 800 of the primary trainers through the year 2017 while expecting increased domestic and international sales during that time, according to Raytheon. In April, the company, along with the U.S. Air Force and Navy, celebrated the 300th delivery of the T-6A Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) aircraft. “The T-6 primary trainer has proven itself time after time,” said Jim Smith, vice president of Government Business for Raytheon. “With 300 U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy aircraft delivered and over 300,000 fleet hours flown, the T-6 program is the low-risk alternative in training programs today. This delivery marks yet another milestone in the most proven training system available today.” Korea Aerospace Industries’ (KAI) KT-1 and the Embraer Super Tucano are also projected to land strong future sales in the turboprop market. The KT-1 basic trainers come with turbo-prop engines boasting 950 horsepower that generate a maximum speed of up to 648 kilometers per hour and can cover a distance of 1,700 kilometers without refueling. KAI has introduced a number of KT-1 versions, including an armed variant called the KO-1. Embraer has a light attack version of the Super Tucano called the ALX, which will be used by the Brazilian Air Force. Others expected to do well in the turboprop market include: Fuji Heavy Industries KM-2D/T-5 and KM-2F, and the Pilatus PC-9 and PC-21.

Jet Trainers

In the jet training market, the KAI T/A-50 is projected to be a dominant player in sales, according to analysts. The T-50 Golden Eagle is a Korean supersonic trainer and light attack aircraft. It is being developed to replace the F-5 and T-38 in the South Korean Air Force and on the worldwide supersonic trainer market. The South Korean government has approved plans to purchase 50 T-50s and 44 A-50 Lead-In Fight Trainer (LIFT) models, according to Forecast International. On the export market, the T-50 is vying for sales in the United Arab Emirates, Greece and other places. The BAE Systems Hawk 128 is also projected to post strong sales in the jet trainer market. The 128 is the latest of BAE’s offerings of Hawk trainer/light attack aircraft. More than 900 Hawks are in operational service today, according to BAE Systems, with greater than 1.5 million flying hours logged. The aircraft has been chosen to fill the advanced jet trainer requirement for the U.K.’s Military Flying Trainer System. Others in this market include: the Aermacchi M-346, the Aero L-159, the Boeing/BAE T-45, EADS Mako, HAIG/PAC K-8, HAH HJT-36, LMAASA AT-63, MiG-AT and the Yak-130.

Piston Trainers

The SIAI-Marchetti SF.260, the Grob 120A and the Slingsby T.67M Firefly are expected to be strong contenders in the piston trainer market, according to industry analysts. The SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 is a variant of the Aermacchi F-260, a light aircraft marketed as an aeorbatics plane and a military trainer. The Grob 120A is an aerobatic, side-by-side training aircraft with advanced avionics that can accommodate a student pilot and an instructor. The Slingsby T.67M Firefly, by Slingsby Aviation, is a high-performance two-seat aerobatic training aircraft with a 260-horsepower engine. It has been selected for training in 12 countries, including the United States, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

Forecast Predictions on Market

Forecast International predicts that an estimated 1,821 trainers of all types will be produced through the year 2015 on approximately 20 different assembly lines.

Production will fall off during the second half of the 10-year period, to 797 units, compared with 1,024 in the first half, the company said. Of the manufacturers actually producing or expected to build or license-assemble trainers, Raytheon Aircraft will lead the field with a 33-percent share of the market as calculated by unit output, according to Forecast International. With 13 percent of the market, Korea Aerospace Industries will rank second, and will be trailed by BAE Systems (9 percent), Embraer (7 percent) and Aermacchi (6.9 percent), Forecast International predicts.

Viewed in terms of sales revenue, according to Forecast International, Korea Aerospace is projected as the market leader with a 21.6 percent market share on sales of $3.96 billion. KAI will be trailed by BAE Systems (18.6 percent), Raytheon (18.56 percent) and Italy’s Aermacchi (7.3 percent), according to Forecast.

“Whether new to the market or an already-established player, the respective manufacturers will have to perform a near-tightrope act in the coming years as they weigh the costs of incorporating a light attack capability into their designs for wider market appeal against coming up with a competitively priced candidate that adequately meets a given air arm’s training needs,” Dane said. “Those manufacturers that come up with the right mix will be leading the field in a market estimated at more than $18 billion over the next 10 years.”



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