A trainer is a class of aircraft designed specifically to facilitate flight training of pilots and aircrews. The use of a dedicated trainer aircraft with additional safety features—such as tandem flight controls, forgiving flight characteristics and a simplified cockpit arrangement—allows pilots-in-training to safely advance their real-time piloting, navigation and warfighting skills without the danger of overextending their abilities alone in a fully featured aircraft. Civilian pilots are normally trained in a light aircraft, with two or more seats to allow for a student and instructor. The aircraft may be modified to withstand the flight conditions imposed by training flights.
1 Tandem and side by side 2 Phases
2.1 Ab initio 2.2 Basic training 2.3 Advanced training 2.4 Lead-in fighter training 2.5 Operational conversion 2.6 Multi-engine trainers 2.7 Navigation trainers
Tandem and side by side
Cockpit of the Aermacchi SF.260. Student pilot or PIC in the right-hand seat, where all primary flight instrument are.
The two seating configurations for trainer aircraft are: pilot and instructor side by side, or in tandem, usually with the pilot in front and the instructor behind. The side-by-side seating configuration has the advantage that pilot and instructor can see each other's actions, allowing the pilot to learn from the instructor and the instructor to correct the student pilot. The tandem configuration has the advantage of being closer to the normal working environment that a fast jet pilot is likely to encounter. It is now the norm for pilots to begin their flight training in an aircraft with side by side seating and to progress to aircraft with tandem seating. This, however, has not always been the case. For example, it was usual to find tandem seating in biplane basic trainers such as the Tiger Moth and the Jungmann, and the British used side by side seating in the operational conversion of some of its fast jets such as the English Electric Lightning. Phases
Given the expense of military pilot training, air forces typically
conduct training in phases to eliminate unsuitable candidates. The
cost to those air forces that do not follow a graduated training
regimen is not just monetary but also in lives. For example, for many
Indian Air Force
3Xtrim 3X55 Trener
Typically, contemporary military pilots learn initial flying skills in
a light aircraft not too dissimilar from civilian training aircraft.
In this phase pilot candidates are screened for mental and physical
Those that progress to training for fast jet flying will then progress
to an advanced trainer, typically capable of high subsonic speeds,
high-energy manoeuvers, and equipped with systems that simulate modern
weapons and surveillance. Examples of such jet trainer aircraft
include the supersonic T-38 Talon, the BAE Hawk, the Dassault/Dornier
Alpha Jet, the
FMA IA 63 Pampa
Lead-in fighter training Lead-in fighter training (LIFT) utilises advanced jet trainer aircraft with avionics and stores-management capability that emulate operational fighter planes, to provide efficient training in combat scenarios with reduced training costs compared to moving straight to operational conversion. The on-board avionics system may be linked to ground-based systems, and together they can simulate situations such as infrared or radar guided missile, interceptors, air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft batteries, radars, chaff and flare countermeasures and collision warnings, in low or dense electronic warfare environments. Systems may also be able to re-enact true-to-life combat situations.
A US Marine Corps TA-4F, a two-seat combat capable training version of the normally single seat A-4 Skyhawk.
Most military ground-attack and interceptor aircraft have two-seat
trainer versions. These are combat capable operational conversion
aircraft types to provide on the job training to pilots who have
graduated to this level, and are usually available with little
conversion in times of emergency to a reconnaissance or combat role.
Most operational conversion aircraft retain the full functionality of
the operational version with slight degradations to performance due to
increased weight and drag, and possibly reduced range due to a reduced
internal fuel load.
In some two-seat fighter aircraft such as the Tornado, the operational
conversion unit (OCU) aircraft can be created by duplicating flight
controls in the rear cockpit. In a normally single-seat aircraft, a
second cockpit can be built behind the original cockpit (e.g. the
TA-4S variant of the A-4SU Super Skyhawk) or the cockpit can be
extended to place the instructor in a second seat behind the pilot.
Once they are qualified to fly a specific type of aircraft, pilots
will continue with regular training exercises to maintain
qualifications on that aircraft and to improve their skills, for
example the USAF's Red Flag exercises. Deployments of small flights of
aircraft together with support staff and equipment to exercises
conducted by other nations can be used to develop fighting skills and
interservice and inter unit competitions in bombing and gunnery
between units can also be used to develop those skills.
The two-seat aircraft may itself become the basis of an operational
aircraft, the second seat being used to create a weapons officer or
navigators station in aircraft with originally only a pilot, for
F-15E Strike Eagle
US Navy T-44A Pegasus trainer, used to train pilots of multi-engined aircraft
Those pilots who train to fly transports, tankers and other
multi-engine aircraft begin with small multi-engine aircraft such as
the T-44A Pegasus variant of the Beechcraft King Air. Once they have
mastered this, they may begin to fly in the right-hand seat of an
operational type. Some airforces will seek to use a restricted number
of multi-engined aircraft, with the derivatives of a basic aircraft
filling different roles so that a pilot qualified on one of its types
can easily convert to others in the same family. For example, the
Austrian PC-7 in COIN configuration
In smaller air forces basic trainers, in addition to being used for
training, are used as counter insurgency, airborne FAC and in the
light strike/COIN role.
Most advanced trainers are capable of carrying and delivering war
loads. However most of these aircraft do not have the counter measures
and sensors to survive alone in a modern high intensity war fighting
scenario, for example being vulnerable to MANPADs. However they may
still have a war fighting role in low intensity theatres, and if they
operate in conjunction with more capable aircraft.
Historically many jet trainers were marketed with specialised attack
variants e.g. the BAC Jet Provost/
The demonstrator for the Swiss designed and manufactured Pilatus PC-21
trainer lands at
As the capabilities of front-line aircraft have increased, this has
been reflected in increasingly sophisticated advanced trainers. As the
costs of developing new aircraft have risen in real terms, it has
become more likely that fewer aircraft will be designed specifically
for the training role. The advanced trainer was often seen as a
stepping stone by most nations in developing a fast jet design and
manufacturing capability. With increasing costs, even major air forces
will have difficulty reaching the economies of scale to justify
development of new advanced trainers. Nations will be required to
continue to push the modernisation of existing aircraft (some such as
the Hawk dating from the 1970s) or co-operate in the development
and procurement of advanced training aircraft. Furthermore, they must
better utilise funding available by developing aircraft with an
enhanced combat capability by producing operational single-seat
variants, and better utilise aircraft on inventory incorporating
operational systems either within the aircraft or as external
The trend of programmable electronic systems and datalinks is likely
to continue with the possibility that ground-based radar systems and
processing systems will allow advanced training aircraft to function
as if they truly had onboard radar systems, with the cockpit closely
replicating the look and feel of an air force's more capable aircraft
for maximum familiarity. Programmable engine management and
fly-by-wire flight control systems will allow an aircraft to mimic the
flight characteristics of frontline aircraft with actual
performance being restricted to a pilot's level of ability, with more
power and greater agility becoming available as a pilot's skill
Training is now also carried out on ground-based simulators.
Early trainers were often sport aircraft or obsolete combat aircraft.
The French used a graduated system in which a pilot learned in
progressively more capable aircraft, starting with aircraft that had
been modified to prevent them from flying – called rouleurs or
penguins. Pilots who had mastered ground handling would then graduate
to lower powered two seaters, before finishing on obsolete fighters.
The supply of obsolete aircraft proved inadequate and production of
^ Sharma, Ravi (June–July 2001). "On a crash course". Frontline. The
Hindu Group. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
^ a b Training
^ Phases of Military Pilot Training
^ IAR-99C Soim Lead In Fighter Jet Trainer Aircraft,
^ Lead-in fighter trainers – newcomers take on the old guard
^ IAR 99[unreliable source?]
^ 5367 – Lead-In Fighter Project Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback
^ Elbit ACTS
^ The Border War, SAAF museum Archived 2007-09-04 at the Wayback
^ Chang, Andrei (September 17, 2008). "China exports attack craft to
Sudan". United Press International. Retrieved 14 November 2008.
^ Dilley, Ryan (29 May 2002). "The 'trainer' jet the UK loves to
hawk". bbc.co.uk. BBC. Retrieved 14 November 2008.
^ "Sri Lankan rebels launch air raid". bbc.co.uk. BBC. 26 March 2007.
Retrieved 14 November 2008.
^ "How to Build an Instant Air Force". Time.
v t e
Modern military aircraft types and roles
Balloon Fixed-wing Glider Helicopter Unmanned (UAV)
Electronic warfare (EW) Fighter
Air superiority Interceptor
Maritime patrol Multi-role
Interdictor Fighter-bomber Strike fighter
Early warning and control (AEW&C) Experimental Reconnaissance Surveillance Tanker Trainer Transport