The RCAF, which is embroiled in a controversial deal for the purchase of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II JSF aircrafts, is seriously considering the acquisition of new jet trainers to replace its ageing CT-155 Hawks.RCAF sources explained that the current configuration of the CT-155 is inadequate to train pilots for the JSF, which is a fifth generation fighter aircraft.
The RCAF is planning to induct a total of 65 JSFs in to its fleet, starting from 2016 onward. The JSFs will replace the RCAF’s McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet aircrafts. The Canadians are currently operating a total of 20 CT-155s, which is their primary lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) aircraft. Canadian trainee pilots, who graduate from RCAF’s basic and intermediate trainers such as the CT-156 Harvard II, use the CT-155 for their advanced jet training.
Defence analysts were evenly divided when asked on whether the RCAF will replace the CT-155 altogether, or will go for a technical upgrading. The training requirements for the JSF are likely to include the usage of high-fidelity simulators, especially in scenarios such as aerial refuelling. If the RCAF decides to go for a complete replacement, aerospace experts argue that it is likely to take several years to finalize the contract and to finish the formalities.
The most likely contender to replace the CT-155 seems to be another new aircraft of the BAE Systems, the Hawk 128 (Hawk T2). Currently the T-2 is being used in advanced jet training in UK by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the British Royal Navy. With a unit cost of around £19 million, the T-2 is slightly more expensive when compared to the other options.
Other serious contenders for the deal are the Alenia Aeronautica M-346 Master and the Korea Aerospace Industries’ (KAI) T-50 Golden Eagle. According to Canadian news reports, RCAF officials have already conducted informal talks with both the BAE and Alenia representatives.