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Airbus AFJT - Trainer project 2020

fightingirish

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Today on October 16 2020, the Spanish division of Airbus presented its proposal for a new advanced trainer, the AFJT (Airbus Future Jet Trainer or Airbus Flexible Jet Trainer), to a small number of media. The AFJT is expected to replace the C-101 and F-5M in the Spanish Air Force.
Links (Spanish):
 

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breiz

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It started with the call for tenders issued by the Spanish AF:
 

royabulgaf

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The Airbus trainer looks nice, but it's only on paper. If Spain needs something by next year, the smart thing to do would be having Italy or the US train their pilots. IIRC, Italy is trying to set itself up as a training center for NATO and EU pilots.
 

Hood

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Looks a nice design but I can't see this being a starter, but it does seem to be heavily oriented to the Spanish supply chain rather than being an 'Airbus' product in the traditional multinational sense of that company.

In reality the M-346, T-6II, PC-21 and even the T-7 are the trainers to beat, the market seems rather saturated and while its great to see Spain trying to maintain a national industry, its probably unlikely to prove economically attractive despite the local investment it would offer.
 

TomcatViP

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There is a radar set in front... Why? It's not like Spain is devoid of large enough training ranges where radar can be better simulated for training purpose.
Having a radar will increases by two folds dev cost, decrease performances level and results in increased sustainment cost, narrowing market penetration opportunities.

Also the large rear fuselage would have been perfect for a twin set of verticals. Why then only a single one when AoA perfs is a necessity that will differenciates trainers b/w old and new generation...

What an un-explicable set of bad choices for a new otherwise elegant design.
 
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fightingirish

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The idea is to use the Airbus AFJT as advanced trainer during LIFT III & IV phases of Spanish Air Force training. Then the Spanish Air Force can also reduce the flight hours of OCU squadrons and leaving so more frontline fighters available.
See also the small graphic at the following link.
Link (Spanish): https://www.infodefensa.com/es/2020...ntrenador-espanol-capaz-portar-armamento.html
So as for now, this project it totally specified for the Spanish Air Force and the Spanish aerospace industry. I can't see the Armée de l’Air jumping on board, since they have ordered Pilatus PC-21. Those French pilots will transfer direct from the PC-21 to the Mirage, Rafale and someday later on to the FCAS.
 

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Hood

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Mako had two unnecessary features, LO shaping and an F414M with reheat. At the time this probably looked like overkill as European defence budgets were going downhill and low cost training was the key mantra and legacy types like the Hawk were still mopping up the market.
Today the emergence of the T-7 is ironically pretty much Mako but two decades later - maybe EADS were ahead of the curve? Even so the Mako would still be uncompetitive for most users and replacing C-101s and T-35s doesn't need a high-end platform.

The radar is odd, but I guess that's marketing hints for potential swing-role attack variants.
 

galgot

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Mako had two unnecessary features, LO shaping and an F414M with reheat. At the time this probably looked like overkill as European defence budgets were going downhill and low cost training was the key mantra and legacy types like the Hawk were still mopping up the market.
Today the emergence of the T-7 is ironically pretty much Mako but two decades later - maybe EADS were ahead of the curve? Even so the Mako would still be uncompetitive for most users and replacing C-101s and T-35s doesn't need a high-end platform.

The radar is odd, but I guess that's marketing hints for potential swing-role attack variants.

Yes, maybe the idea would be to make a trainer and something to compete with Chinese JL-9 or JF-17 ? Still would have to keep it cheap.
 
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Archibald

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Mako had two unnecessary features, LO shaping and an F414M with reheat. At the time this probably looked like overkill as European defence budgets were going downhill and low cost training was the key mantra and legacy types like the Hawk were still mopping up the market.
Today the emergence of the T-7 is ironically pretty much Mako but two decades later - maybe EADS were ahead of the curve? Even so the Mako would still be uncompetitive for most users and replacing C-101s and T-35s doesn't need a high-end platform.

The radar is odd, but I guess that's marketing hints for potential swing-role attack variants.

Yep, it was also supersonic. I remember thinking of it as a low end to Rafale to replace the 2000 and tackle the F-35 more efficiently. But that was no longer a trainer...
 

fightingirish

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ceccherini

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Establishing herself as an autonomous airframe developer could maybe strength Spain's position in Fcas and bridging the gap between the end of Typhoon program and the actual start of Fcas but commercially it seems a very unwise move, it's highly unlikely there will be a market outside Spain with so many advanced trainers already available.
 

litzj

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there was a rumor about Spanish T-50, but it is interesting to see another project by European.

If European made their own, it probably means T-50 and T-7 is too much? or just to be independent?

I do not know
 

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Jackonicko

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"commercially it seems a very unwise move, it's highly unlikely there will be a market outside Spain with so many advanced trainers already available."

Many of which are now showing their age (Hawk), or are flawed in some way (M346 is twin-engined, T-50 is expensive to run), or come with political baggage/ties/ITAR restrictions (most of the rest). A genuinely new generation trainer with a modern open architecture, built cheaply using model-based engineering (like T-7) might in fact be a very commercial proposition. Especially if it allows France to buy a new, non US, non British advanced trainer, and if it gives the Airbus partners a trainer to sell alongside German and Spanish-built Eurofighters, Rafales, and eventually SCAF/FCAS. If France supports this, you could see Qatar buying some in very short order.
 

Jackonicko

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"I can't see the Armée de l’Air jumping on board, since they have ordered Pilatus PC-21. Those French pilots will transfer direct from the PC-21 to the Mirage, Rafale and someday later on to the FCAS."

I can. I can't see ANY advanced air arm seriously attempting to transition pilots straight from PC-21 (of which I am a huge fan) to an advanced fast jet, without some kind of advanced/LIFT phase. The PC-21 is a fantastic aircraft, with astonishing performance for a turboprop, which will be able to do much of what is now done in Hawk and Alpha Jet cockpits, but it simply lacks the performance to do all of it, however clever your instructors are at adding workload, however good the synthetics are for adding emulated threats etc. You may not need to give your SCAF pilot as many hours in an advanced jet trainer as you now give a Rafale pilot in an Alpha Jet, but you'll need to give him some, or waste an awful lot of hours on the frontline type.
 

Jackonicko

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"It started with the call for tenders issued by the Spanish AF:"

Did it? Or did it start with the C-101NG programme?

Interesting that Gabriel García Mesuro, AFJT Chief Engineer, was previously C-101 NG Chief Engineer, and says on his LinkedIn that: "C-101 NG has evolved to Airbus Future Jet Trainer (AFJT) an airplane designed to cover the needs of Ejercito del Aire for the replacement of F-5M fleet....."
 

Archibald

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Seems the Alphajets will be left to rot well into the 2030's. Don't forget, the previous trainers - Magister - lasted until 1994, at least in the naval variant, the Zephyr...
 

Jackonicko

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France could be taking AFJT into service by 2028 if it signs up quickly.

And if it can bear to buy an aircraft manufactured by an inferior aeronautical nation (which in French eyes is anywhere that isn't France)......

Seems the Alphajets will be left to rot well into the 2030's. Don't forget, the previous trainers - Magister - lasted until 1994, at least in the naval variant, the Zephyr...
 

Archibald

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And if it can bear to buy an aircraft manufactured by an inferior aeronautical nation (which in French eyes is anywhere that isn't France)......

This is a little unfair, really. We bought Tucanos from Brazil...
 

ceccherini

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"commercially it seems a very unwise move, it's highly unlikely there will be a market outside Spain with so many advanced trainers already available."

Many of which are now showing their age (Hawk), or are flawed in some way (M346 is twin-engined, T-50 is expensive to run), or come with political baggage/ties/ITAR restrictions (most of the rest). A genuinely new generation trainer with a modern open architecture, built cheaply using model-based engineering (like T-7) might in fact be a very commercial proposition. Especially if it allows France to buy a new, non US, non British advanced trainer, and if it gives the Airbus partners a trainer to sell alongside German and Spanish-built Eurofighters, Rafales, and eventually SCAF/FCAS. If France supports this, you could see Qatar buying some in very short order.
How exactly having two engine is a defect? Where did you find stats about the operating costs of T-50? Where did you find a French Air Force requirement for a new trainer? How producing a trainer make easier to sell advanced fighters? We are talking of multi billion contracts, not a "Pay one, take two" beer pack. Countries that face export restrictions have multiple Russian and Chinese options for a last generation advanced trainer. Frankly your comment makes no much sense.
 

Jackonicko

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Having two engines adds complexity - not ideal in a trainer. Having two engines adds to operating, support and sustainment costs.

T-50s costs are well known, and were revealed during TX and other competitions.

France clearly needs a trainer - its Alpha Jets are on their last legs, the PC-21 isn't adequate to replace them for the whole syllabus.

On the export market, having a trainer to sell alongside the fighter you are supplying is clearly a good thing for manufacturers.

My comment makes a great deal more sense than your kneejerk rejection of the AFJT's commercial prospects.

Presently, the T-7A is the only truly new generation advanced jet trainer there is. Airbus are looking to produce a competitor.
 

Hood

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There is a gap between a T-6II or a PC-21 and the latest fighters.
Whether just having a PC-21 is feasible is open to question. You should never underestimate the amount of simulator time now being used, at least 50% of any syllabus now in order to cut flying hour costs. In my view this ratio will increase even further. So some air forces might be tempted.
The M-346 has two engines but is transonic without afterburner, both the T-50 and T-7 have reheated engines and that means high fuel costs regardless. Historically supersonic trainers have been baulked at because of their high costs, only larger air forces such as USAF accepting the financial penalty.

I sense a small market, even Airbus itself is only forecasting a market of 300-500 airframes which is quite small (when Hawk was launched they were looking at world markets of 3,000+). Airbus seems happy to let Spain take the lead, its not trying to feed into broader European supply chains, it very much sees this as a low-risk regional project.
Hawks will need replacing 2020-2040 timeframe, but the current M-346/T-50 operators won't need new kit for some time, so coming at the tail end of the current crop the market is limited to those nations still using Alpha Jets and Hawks.
To be honest I'm surprised that NATO or France-Germany haven't attempted a more unified training pattern building on NFTC-style models in Europe. That could really bring savings and allow a unified fleet.

What engine are they pitching for AJFT? ITP Aero is involved in several engine programmes, including the F414 and EJ200.
 

ceccherini

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Having two engines adds complexity - not ideal in a trainer. Having two engines adds to operating, support and sustainment costs.
The fact that as a general design principle, at parity of other conditions, a single engine aircraft is less expensive doesn't mean that twin engine aircraft are expensive in absolute. Maybe in an ideal world, with an ideal engine on the market, a single engined M346 would be cheaper. Still that doesn't mean that M346 is a particularly expensive plane nor make a market case for a single engine equivalent.
T-50s costs are well known, and were revealed during TX and other competitions.
if they are well known you would have no difficulty in quoting a source. Also it's a supersonic trainer, you pay for what you get.
France clearly needs a trainer - its Alpha Jets are on their last legs, the PC-21 isn't adequate to replace them for the whole syllabus.
yeah, and Cambodian navy clearly needs a nuclear submarine. But you have to manage a limited budget and to make choices. Alpha Jet have still many years of life left and in absence of an official requirement there's no urgent need. And even if this need exist, if they want a cheap jet they could get the M-345, if they want an advanced subsonic jet there's the M-346, if they want a supersonic trainer they could choose between the T-50 and the T-7. Maybe in the future French Air Force will pick this new Spanish plane but it is far from obvious, by a commercial point of view developing a new product in a such limited and competitive market could pay but it is still very risky.
On the export market, having a trainer to sell alongside the fighter you are supplying is clearly a good thing for manufacturers.
Why exactly is this "clear"? Do you know of some instances in which fighters and trainers have been sold together?
My comment makes a great deal more sense than your kneejerk rejection of the AFJT's commercial prospects.
I completely agree with you. After all isn't the meaning of "make sense" to reiterate unfunded generalization adding "clearly" to any unjustified claim and not replying to criticism?
Presently, the T-7A is the only truly new generation advanced jet trainer there is. Airbus are looking to produce a competitor.
How exactly the T-50 and M-346 are not "new generation" and what will have the new Airbus trainer more than T-50 and M-346 and in common with T-7 to be classified as a later generation trainer?
 

Jackonicko

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There is a market case for a new trainer. Making it single-engined is commercially and operationally sensible.

T-50 costs were widely aired during the Polish and US TX competitions. I'm not writing this for payment, nor for a peer reviewed academic paper, so I don't need to cite sources when stating simple fact and/or common sense.

France's Alpha Jets do not have 'years of life left', and even if they had airframe life remaining they are rapidly becoming more difficult to support and sustain. Are all the required support contracts still in place, even?

You ask: "Do you know of some instances in which fighters and trainers have been sold together?"

Apart from Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, you mean? The trend has been very much towards multi-platform deals, and trying to keep other manufacturers out of your most lucrative markets. I'm sorry to use the word "clearly", but it really is blindingly obvious that if you can, you'll supply as much of a customer nation's requirements as you can. And from a customer point of view, it tends to make support and sustainment easier.

None of these points are 'unjustified' - except in the typographical sense!

Do you really need me to explain how a trainer designed this Century, using extensive model-based design, embedded synthetics, a state of the art cockpit, advanced aerodynamics, greater use of composites, etc. can be regarded as being generationally different to trainers originally designed quarter of a century ago?
 

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Is the design transsonic or even low supersonic capable? Wing thickness, engine inlet and fuselage contour seem to be appropriate and similar to the F-5. If so it could be ideally suited to air policing for a fraction of the cost of "real" fighter aircraft.

Anyone remembering the ATG Javelin?
 

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Wyvern,
Not really the successor to Mako - which was an EADS Deutschland design that incorporated a degree of LO. Mako is now 30 years out of date, based on old design, using old production engineering, and with development FAR from being complete. Why would you bother resurrecting it?

Basil,
Different Airbus people have said different things about whether or not it's supersonic. It looks as though it could/should be. The difference with Javelin is that it comes from a reputable manufacturer, and has a real home market, and quite possibly a significant home market.
 

Hood

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There is a market case for a new trainer. Making it single-engined is commercially and operationally sensible.

The market is mixed bag. Airbus says there is a market for 300-500 aircraft - this seems tiny compared to the hundred of turboprop trainers that have been sold and the over 1,000 Hawks built alone. Even if Spain and France brought the AJFT that's probably no more than 50-60 aircraft combined, hardly a profitable return.

So far Alenia Aermacchi/Leonardo have managed to export 72 trainers (Israel (part of deal for AEW equipment and recon satellites), Poland, Singapore, Azerbaijan, Turkmeninstan). Far more KAI T-50s have been built, over 200 but of which only 64 were for export (Indonesia, Iraq, Philippines, Thailand). In Israel, Poland and Singapore (and the UAE but they subsequently put out to tender again with no result so far) the T-50 lost out to the M-346 - which rather belies your claim that the M-346 is inferior to the T-50.
The T-7 is still early to estimate, it well be under US Congress export approvals so that will limit some buyers. Hawk hasn't shifted any exports since 2017 and isn't likely to now.

What is clear is that KAI is very strong in the Asian market and with Pakistan, Spain and UAE with possible users gives a chance of a global breakout and the FA-50 offers a greater lightweight fighter option for smaller nations. Leonardo hasn't made much market impact. But most of the M-346 and T-50 users so far have been second-tier and third-tier airforces. All the major airforces have so far concentrated on replacing their turboprop basic/advanced trainers.
Pilatus has shifted 235 export PC-21s (Australia, France, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland (as a Hawk replacement), UAE and 2 for Qinetiq in the UK). I won't list all the T-6 Texan II and Super Tucano sales but they top over 500 together, so there is no doubt that up until now propeller-driven trainers have far outstripped the exports of jet trainers (750+ vs. 136).

This won't continue forever, at some point the market will swing as new LIFT are needed from the 2030s onwards. The question is how many airforces will want a supersonic LIFT? Some may try and bridge PC-21 to frontline jet, others will want a jet to slot into that. A highly agile airframe is a must but I'm not sure that supersonic performance brings you vastly more benefits and - so far - we haven't seen air forces queueing up to buy them. Also remember that increasingly Western training is being contracted out to private industry, how many of them are going to want to pick up supersonic hardware that is costly to maintain and increase the price of their bids?

I feel the answer will be a mix of supersonic and subsonic/transonic but leaping into the unknown with a fresh design now with component trainers still is a hard business decision to make. Both M-346 and T-50 have origins back to 1992 and for 30 years of development and sales work they have amassed around 300 aircraft - not a very great return. EADS jumped ship with Meko, they didn't even attempt to battle it out with the Hawk or M-346. It's also interesting that we've never seen a home-grown trainer from the US industry - T-6 Texan II builds heavily on Pilatus expertise and even Boeing had to team up with SAAB to get a 'home' product.

Apart from Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, you mean? The trend has been very much towards multi-platform deals, and trying to keep other manufacturers out of your most lucrative markets. I'm sorry to use the word "clearly", but it really is blindingly obvious that if you can, you'll supply as much of a customer nation's requirements as you can. And from a customer point of view, it tends to make support and sustainment easier.

I'd love you to give some examples because I can't think of many (no I'm not counting Al-Yamamah as that was 30 years ago) beyond the last few Hawk LIFTs to Saudi Arabia and Qatar (who also have PC-21s and Rafales in their fleet). Airbus and Dassault had no trainers to offer with its Typhoons and Rafales and F-16 operators use a wide range of trainers, I've never seen many references to package deals (not really sure the Hawk 200 counts either).
 

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Wyvern, [...]
Mako is now 30 years out of date, based on old design, using old production engineering, and with development FAR from being complete. Why would you bother resurrecting it?
Because it looks and seemingly promised to be more modern than this one?
 
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ceccherini

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Do you really need me to explain how a trainer designed this Century, using extensive model-based design, embedded synthetics, a state of the art cockpit, advanced aerodynamics, greater use of composites, etc. can be regarded as being generationally different to trainers originally designed quarter of a century ago?
M-346 first flight was in 2004, it has a state of the art glass cockpit with advanced simulation capabilities and Leonardo is a world leader in composites. Its aerodynamic design has been developed in the early '90 to simulate 4th and 5th generation fighter flight envelope being preferred over a Mig design, not exactly the more inept guys in the aerodynamic field. T-50 first flown in 2002 being heavily based on F-16. So again what kind of game changing technology you expect to be embedded on this new Airbus trainer? How did you inferred this quantum technological leap from the very vague informations available on this new project?
 

Archibald

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just my 2 cts, as usual...

I really don't understand what is happening to the trainer market. Notably, to the standard, subsonic jet trainer.

From the T-37 to the Alphajet, it seemed to be well in place. As such, there should have been (for example) an Alphajet successor by Dassault somewhere in the late 90's. With combat aircraft like Rafale shrinking markets and the cyclical nature of the bizjet market, Dassault would have certainly rushed toward an Alphajet replacement had the market been lucrative... nowadays they suffer from both Rafale low sales and the bizjet market going to hell. Making their position, at time, a little precarious.
In such context, if they could sold more aircraft selling an Alphajet successor, they would have done so two decades ago. Instead - nada, zilch.

Instead, the trainer market seems to have been drawn and cartered between two polar opposites

- PC-21 / Super Tucano ultra-fast turboprops
vs
- stealth / supersonic "miniature F-35 trainers" (M-346, T-50, T-7)

Between these two, a basic, subsonic, non stealth jet trainer to replace the Hawk and Alphajet, is still nowhere to be found.
Otherwise these two "standards" wouldn't have lasted THAT long: 50 years and counting.

There has been boatloads of trainer projects along the years, but sometimes it looked like a placeholder to fill the lower end of the combat aircraft market (Mako, T-50...)

It doesn't seem to be a good idea, however.
Trying to make a trainer into a F-35 low end (stealth, supersonic, F-404 or 414 engines) drive its costs through the roof.
 

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