Virtual chocks away as RAF training  jet is phased out

An RAF training jet is set to be scrapped because pilots can now learn so much from simulation.

In response to a parliamentary question by former defence minister Mark Francois on what plans the Government had to replace the Hawk T2 aircraft, as well as its planned out-of-service date, Jeremy Quin, the defence procurement minister, confirmed there was no intention to replace the jet.

Mr Quin said: “The planned out of service date for the Hawk T2 aircraft is 2040 and there are no plans required yet for its replacement.”

The Hawk T2, which is a trainer aircraft for fast jet pilots, has only been in service for around eight years and is made with a life span of more than 30 years.

However an RAF source said it was likely that due to the synthetics now involved in training pilots, the trainer jet could be less crucial to training within 20 years.

He said: “Synthetics and training in virtual engagement means you can do the majority of things virtually.”

Ever advancing virtual training means that pilots can now “miss out steps” that usually involve multiple aircraft, enabling training to be carried out “much more efficiently”, as well as saving money.

The source added that it was “conceivable” that a person could one day become a trained pilot without setting foot in an aircraft, but cautioned that it would not be for some time due to the fact that “environmental pressures that affect the human body such as G forces can be emulated accurately”.

Earlier this year Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston told an Air and Space Power Association webinar he was in “no doubt that by 2040 the skill base of RAF people will be entirely different to what it is today”. 
He also said the role of the traditional aircraft engineer in the RAF will become all but redundant in 20 years and be replaced by digital experts.

In the Defence Review earlier this year the MOD announced that the RAF will retire its fleet of 76 Hawk T1 aircraft as it seeks to save money to invest in future capabilities.

However, the Red Arrows display team will continue to fly the HawkT1 until 2030, it was confirmed.

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