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On behalf of the Spanish Air Force (Ejército del Aire), the Dirección General de Armamento y Material (DGAM) has signed a contract with Pilatus Aircraft for the procurement of an integrated pilot training system based on the PC-21 aircraft, the Swiss company announced on 31 January.

In confirming an order for 24 aircraft, Spain thus becomes the third European nation to opt for the ‘Next-Generation Trainer’ PC-21. The single-engine turboprop trainer aircraft will replace the Casa C-101 jet trainers, in servic since 1980.

Spain sought a new, highly efficient training platform to provide advanced training for the nation’s future military pilots tasked with protecting future generations. The PC-21 was selected after a long and extremely professional evaluation. The contract, valued at over €200 million, was signed on 30 January and includes Pilatus-developed simulators, spare parts and logistics support in addition to the aircraft.

As a small Swiss aircraft manufacturer, I’m delighted at our repeated success in winning through over large, international competitors. This result is proof that, with our PC-21, we can deliver the very best training system in the world […] We shall provide [the] Ejército del Aire with the first-class customer service they are entitled to expect from Pilatus” commented company Chairman, Oscar J Schwenk.

The schedule calls for pilot training to begin on the new system in 2021. Experience with existing PC-21 customers has shown that the cost of training for a military pilot can be reduced by over 50% using the PC-21, which requires much less fuel than any comparable jet trainer.

Traditionally, there was a widespread belief that single-engine turboprops would never replace jet trainers. But with defence budgets coming under increasing pressure, air forces now seek new ways of managing and maintaining their complex systems in mission-ready condition. Seeking to support this change, Pilatus developed performance-related services specifically tailored to the PC-21 Training System. The goal is to ensure an affordable product to match the performance criteria defined by air force customers. This is achieved by providing a highly sophisticated and integrated service package in line with current air force requirements.

Including the new order, Pilatus has now sold 235 PC-21s to nine air forces – including Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, France and Australia.

A PC-21 with a Swiss Air Force F/A-18 HORNET. (Photo: Pilatus Aircraft)

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