A major part of fighter pilot training is learning the handling of the aircraft itself. On the other hand, automatic controls on modern fighter jets take away a lot of the pain and hassle. I am curious about the extent to which such ease of use plays a role in choosing the Lead In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) platform for an airforce.

Usually, it is assumed that the manufacturer supplying fighter jets will also supply the LIFT platform. But an airforce could buy jets from multiple vendors. It would be extremely cost ineffective to buy a different LIFT platform for each type of fighter jet. So airforces should try to standardize the LIFT platform they use.

Assume an airforce buys both single and twin engine fighter jets, from two different manufacturers. Neither aircraft has a twin seater version, so the first time pilots fly in them, they don't have an instructor sitting behind them giving instructions. Obviously, the aerodynamics and general handling of a twin engine fighter jet ought to be quite different from a single engine fighter jet. Now in making a decision on standardizing the LIFT platform, would this airforce take into account the presence of both single and twin engine fighter jets in its inventory? Would it procure two different LIFT platforms, one for training pilots towards single engine fighters, the other for training pilots towards twin engine fighters? Or does it make any practical sense for the airforce to choose only a single engine LIFT platform, or only a twin engine LIFT platform? What would be the pros and cons of such a decision?

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    $\begingroup$ I am not from the army, but I'd assume the trainer is to prevent the pilot from killing himself very fast in a very expensive airplane while learning how to fly. And it's cheaper to fly it for sure. (Some armies use even gliders for the start). The trainer just should have similar handling characteristics as a fast jet. Anyway the pilot will need to go through "type rating" and really train with an airplane he/she will be using. $\endgroup$
    – gusto2
    May 8 '17 at 8:06
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    $\begingroup$ There is no 8-engine jet trainer for B-52 pilots. $\endgroup$
    – DeepSpace
    May 8 '17 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ @GabrielVince the question is for that phase of training where the pilot has graduated from basic and advanced flying using basic trainers and has to convert to jet fighters through a LIFT platform. I'll edit the question to reflect this. $\endgroup$ May 8 '17 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ @DeepSpace So? The pilots surely train on a multi-engine plane before being sat in a B-52. $\endgroup$ May 9 '17 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ @AviationCurio Welcome to Aviation.SE! Can you please update your title so that it is a (grammatically correct) question that covers the general gist of your post in one sentence. See this meta discussion. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    May 9 '17 at 10:29

Fighter lead-in isn't about becoming an expert in the training jet, it's about learning the fundamentals of flying tactical aircraft -- air combat maneuvering, strafing, bombing, etc. So the difference between the aircraft flown in LIFT and the aircraft that the pilot will go to next isn't all that important.

I've never heard of any issues the US Air Force had with students flying AT-38's (2 engines) in fighter lead-in training then going to F-16 training. The unique aspects of operating the single-engine F-16 are all covered during the F-16 course, and there are LOTS of differences between that and the AT-38. Removing one of those differences, the # of engines, wouldn't be worth adding a whole new aircraft to the LIFT course -- a very expensive proposition for negligible gains.

So no, the number of engines in the eventual aircraft vs in the LIFT trainer is immaterial.

  • $\begingroup$ The F-16 has a two-seat version that can be used for operational conversion. I want to know about the case where there is no two seat version of the aircraft available. $\endgroup$ May 9 '17 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ @AviationCurio your question focuses on # engines, hence the answers do the same. if you care about the # seats, ask a different question. (but I am still not sure what you really want at this point) $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    May 9 '17 at 10:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Federico, please re-read my edited question carefully. If a two seat version is available for an aircraft, it is obvious that operational conversion would be easy and the LIFT platform doesn't matter much. If a two seat version is not available, would an airforce try to match the number of engines more closely between LIFT and operations? $\endgroup$ May 9 '17 at 11:04

The answer to your question is "No"

does the number of engines needs to be the same as on the Lead In Fighter Trainer?

No. It does not need to be.

I'll offer two examples.

The USAF used the T-38 pilot (twin engine) as the advanced jet for pilots who then flew F-16's(single engine) and F-15's(double engine) for 30+ years.

The USN used the TA-4J(single engine) to train jet pilots who F-8's and A-7's(one engine) and F-14's(two engines) for decades.

How many engines are in the training aircraft does not drive how many engines a pilot flies in front line aircraft, and vice versa. How many engines are on a given jet aircraft is driven by the intersection of requirements, performance, and host of other factors in the development process.

A further example is the Hawk to Tornado progression in the RAF.

Now that your question has been changed, the question has to be called out as incorrectly framed. There is an entire phase of conversion training that is covered by high fidelity simulation; a pilot transitioning from a training jet into a fleet jet first goes through extensive systems and basic performance training before taking a jet into the air. Unless you account for the impressive advances in flight simulation for jet training in your question about how to get from one jet type to another, you are missing the point.

Again, the number of engines is not a major issue at that point in a pilot's development: it becomes a part and parcel to the aircraft systems and procedural knowledge imbedded in the training syllabus for a given type.

  • $\begingroup$ F-16, F-15, F-8, A-7, and Tornado all have a two seat version available that can be used for operational conversion. What about the case where there is no two seat version of the aircraft available? $\endgroup$ May 9 '17 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ The number of seats isn't what the question was originally about, it was the number of engines. Given the state of the art in simulation, for the past 30 years, I think your question misses the point. Once you develop a certain level of mastery, your course conversion begins in high fidelity simulation and then you fly the aircraft. $\endgroup$ May 9 '17 at 12:05

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