According to multiple reports, Spain has tapped the PC-21 turboprop trainer from Swiss company Pilatus as its preferred future replacement for the Spanish Air Force’s fleet of C-101 Aviojets. The CASA Aviojet trainers first entered Spanish Air Force service in 1980 and are fast approaching the end of their operational lifespan.
A replacement evaluation process began around the time the Spanish economy peaked in 2007-08, but by 2009, amidst economic fallout and financial crisis, the project was frozen. With Spain’s economy and public finances once again on solid footing, the process was rebooted, with evaluations undertaken of the Pilatus PC-21, Leonardo’s M-345, and the Textron Aviation T-6 Texan II. Spain’s Defense Ministry has yet to make the selection of the PC-21 public, though leaked tender documents indicated the Swiss platform as the preferred alternative, due in part to providing the best monetary value.
Spain earmarked €225 million ($249 million) for the acquisition of a new fleet of trainers in April. The expected order will involve 24 PC-21s under a contract worth €204.75 million ($227 million).
Once delivered, the new trainers will form part of an integrated Spanish Air Force training system. The current model involves a two-phase flight training program, with pilots beginning to fly the T-35C Pillan and Aviojets before graduating upwards to more advanced jets, such as the Northrop F-5 (license-produced by CASA) Freedom Fighter.
The delivery timeline Spain laid out calls for the first six aircraft to be handed over in 2020, followed by six more before the end of August 2021, with the remainder arriving by April 2022.