Warplanes: Saudis Training A Lot More Fighter Pilots


March 13, 2016: Saudi Arabia recently ordered another 22 Hawk 128 AJT (Advanced Jet Trainers). This is in addition to 22 ordered in 2012. The Saudis already have 45 Hawk 65 trainers delivered in the 1980s and 90s. The Mk 128 models have proved worth the expense (about $30 million each) because they contain advanced cockpit controls and instruments, making it very similar to the jet fighters trainees will soon be expected to master. Saudi Arabia also ordered 80 new basic (prop driven) trainers.

The Saudis are increasing the number of jet pilots not just because they are increasing their fighter force 50 percent (to 450 aircraft) but because Saudi warplanes have seen a lot of action since 2014 and it was noted that more pilots mean they can fly more combat missions per aircraft. If there is a war with Iran the Saudis will need all the pilots they can get. The older Hawk 65s will also be retiring soon and that means even more Hawk 128s will probably be ordered.

The Hawk advanced jet trainers are the most successful Western aircraft of this type, at least in terms of sales (over a thousand so far). The U.S. Navy uses the Hawk, along with sixteen other nations. The nine ton, single engine aircraft are used to train pilots who will eventually fly jet fighters. The Hawk can also be armed and used for ground attack. In this mode they can carry up to three tons of weapons, including a pod with a 30mm autocannon.


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