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French AF receives first PC-21s
French AF PC-21s. © Emmanuel Huberdeau

French AF receives first PC-21s

The French Air Force organized a ceremony on 2nd October to celebrate the arrival of the first Pilatus PC-21s at air base 709 in Cognac.

The French Air Force organised a ceremony on 2nd October to celebrate the arrival of the first Pilatus PC-21s at air base 709 in Cognac. These aircraft will gradually replace the Tours-based Epsilons and Alphajets currently used for pilot training.

The aircraft are being supplied by Babcock Mission Critical Services (MCS) France, along with aircraft support, simulators, a new building and a refurbished hangar.

The new equipment and facilities will transform the way the French AF trains its fighter pilots and navigators/weapon system operators. Phases 2 and 3, currently performed in Cognac and Tours, will be merged into a single phase taking place in Cognac. The use of a single aircraft type will save time.

Phase 4 of the training taking place on Alphajet in Cazaux will be maintained. There will be a much greater use of simulation, accounting for 40% of the total training programme.

The PC-21 will better prepare trainees to handle fighter aircraft. The aircraft offers excellent flight performance for a turboprop — it can handle load factors from –4 to 8G. Its modern avionics will familiarise students with the systems they will encounter on aircraft such as the Rafale.

Simulators will introduce trainees to the radar or even the use of weapons, which was impossible on Epsilon or Alphajet. The French Air Force also points out that the PC-21 will be able to fly twice as many hours per year as an Alphajet at a much lower cost.

A total of 17 PC-21s will be delivered. They will remain Babcock's property until 2022 and then be transferred to the French AF. Babcock has contracted to supply 11,000 flight hours per year for 10 years. Training on the PC-21 is scheduled to get under way in 2019.

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