U.S. Navy Seeks Surrogate Trainers, Matching Air Force Concept

Credit: U.S. Navy

In an echo of a proposed new U.S. Air Force acquisition program, the U.S. Navy is also now interested in buying a new fleet of advanced training jets to give frontline fighter pilots more training opportunities in a cheaper aircraft. 

The Navy could buy 64 Tactical Surrogate Aircraft in fiscal 2024 or 2025, according to a Naval Air Warfare Center sources sought notice published on Oct. 20. 

The new fleet would augment frontline aircraft in the pilot training role, provide adversary air support and serve as a flight lead aircraft for Fleet Replacement Squadrons. 

The Tactical Surrogate Aircraft must be able to simulate or replicate the sensor, weapons and tactics of current and future fighters, according to the notice. 

The requirements for the aircraft include a minimum speed of Mach 0.9 at 10,000 ft., a ceiling of at least 45,000 ft., a structure that can endure 7.5g loads and a two-seat cockpit. 

The roles and performance specifications match the Air Force’s week-old solicitation for the Advanced Tactical Training (ATT) aircraft. 

The Navy’s interest in using the Tactical Surrogate Aircraft in Fleet Replacement Squadrons mirrors the Air Force’s plan to assign the ATTs to Formal Training Units. The Air Force and Navy units have different names, but perform the same role.

The goal is to allow pilots to log significantly more flight hours in a cheaper aircraft that still offers a realistic training environment. Modern training jets offer onboard electronics that emulate the capabilities of the most advanced fighters, including the radar, electronic warfare and networking systems. 

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.