Swedish Air Force seeking new basic training aircraft

The Swedish government has approved its FMV defense materiel administration to begin the procurement of a new basic training aircraft for the Swedish air force. A request for tenders was placed on the eAvrop online tendering platform on April 9. Potential bidders have until July 31 to register their tender, which will be binding until the end of the year.

FMV is searching for a commercial off-the-shelf solution for a light training aircraft that can fulfill the first phase of pilot training, which is currently performed using the aging Saab SK 60 (Saab 105) twinjet. The specification calls for an aircraft rated for +6/-3g loads and with true airspeed performance of at least 200 knots at mean sea level, and 220 knots at 10,000 feet. The aircraft itself is to form part of a complete package, including synthetic training devices, a part-task trainer, computer-based training, a mission planning system, a mission debriefing system, aircrew survival equipment, line and heavy maintenance, spare parts, training courses, and engineering support.

Efforts to replace the SK 60—which is also used for the advanced phase of pilot training—in the basic phase have been ongoing for some time, and repeatedly delayed. Through the new process, FMV has issued a request for information to potential bidders and has worked in concert with air force planners and operators. As a consequence, it has built up a significant understanding of what the marketplace has to offer, and of air force requirements, in turn allowing it to react quickly to the government approval and the tight schedule.

The new basic trainer and its associated systems are to be ready to begin training the first batch of students at the flight school at Linköping-Malmen in summer 2023, with trained instructors already in place. The successful bidder will provide maintenance for at least the first three years, with an option for a further two, after which the maintenance element will be competed.

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The need for new trainers is pressing: the SK 60 first flew in June 1963 and entered service in the training role as the SK 60A four years later. Some were delivered as light attack (SK 60B) and reconnaissance (SK 60C) aircraft, operating in the front line until being re-purposed as trainers.

In the mid-1990s much of the fleet underwent the SK 60W upgrade program that involved the original Turbomeca RM9 Aubisque engines being replaced by Williams FJ44 turbofans. In September 2009 Saab received an order to upgrade the avionics of the surviving SK 60Ws, including new instruments, warning systems and GPS, as well as a change to Imperial units from metric in the cockpit displays to reflect those in the front-line Gripen fighter.

Procuring the new basic trainer is the first step to a complete overhaul of Sweden’s military pilot training program, but leaves an equally pressing requirement for an advanced trainer. A number of types are under consideration, including the Boeing/Saab T-7 Red Hawk.

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