MELBOURNE, Australia — The Australian Defence Force is to will buy 49 Pilatus PC-21 turboprop trainers and relocate its basic flying training activities from Tamworth in regional New South Wales to RAAF Base East Sale in eastern Victoria by 2019.

The announcement formally confirms Team 21, led by Lockheed Martin Australia, as the winner of the ADF’s Project Air 5428, the fixed-wing pilot training system, which will replace a mix of civilian-operated PAC CT-4B Airtrainers and Royal Australian Air Force-owned Pilatus PC-9s. , as Team 21 led by Lockheed Martin Australia. 

Team 21, which also includes Pilatus and Hawker Pacific, is the preferred tenderer for Air 5428 and will provide a turnkey service to the ADF using the PC-21, 22 of which will be based at East Sale.

Candidates from the RAAF, the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army will undertake fixed-wing flight training under the new system.

"Defense has conducted a thorough and comprehensive tender evaluation. Lockheed Martin Australia's tender locating the Basic Flying System at RAAF Base East Sale provides a training system that will meet defense's needs and represents the best value for money outcome over 25 years," Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said on Sept. 6.

"The new training system will streamline future pilot training, co-locating multiple training facilities to support both officer training and basic flying training at RAAF Base East Sale."

Andrews said the new training system will have an annual intake of up to 165 trainee pilots, allowing the number of pilots graduating to increase from 77 today to 105.

An independent analysis undertaken on behalf of the ADF has indicated that the income base in the East Sale region will increase between AUS $17 million and $19 million (US $11.9 million to $13.3 million) per annum, he said. It will add an additional 6six percent to the region’s economy and result in economic gains of over $500 million (349.6 million US dollars) over the 25-year period, he said.

The unsuccessful bidder was a team led by BAE Systems Australia, which offered the Beechcraft T-6C Texan II trainer. BAE Systems currently provides aircraft and facilities at Tamworth as part of an Interim Basic Flight Training (IBFT) contract.

BAE's System’s Tamworth facility is also used by the Republic of Singapore Air Force, the Royal Brunei Air Force and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, but the loss of the AIR 5428 competition and the completion of the IBFT contract by 2019 is a blow to the local area.

Sen. Barnaby Joyce, the federal member for New England, which includes Tamworth, said described the decision was disappointing but added said that he was hopeful new opportunities could be found.

"[The] RAAF will continue to work closely with BAE over the next four years to actively promote the unique flight training opportunities offered at Tamworth," Joyce said.

"There are opportunities for other air forces and commercial pilot training to be delivered by BAE at their established training facility in Tamworth.

"We have already seen an increased interest from the Republic of Singapore Air Force, which is a strong ally of Australia and our welcome guest in our city."


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