Which Military Training Aircraft Will Dominate The Future?

Credit: Clockwise, from top left: Boeing, AVIC, Italian Air Force, United Aircraft Corp.

For decades, the global advanced jet trainer market has been dominated by three aircraft families: the Northrop F-5/T-38, the BAE Systems Hawk and the Aero Vodochody L-39/59/159. Despite having first entered service in the 1960s (T-38) and 1970s (Hawk and L-39), these three types account for more than half of the worldwide fleet of 3,165 aircraft operating in this role.

The 2020s, however, is looking like the decade when the transition toward the next generation of training platforms will gather pace.

The writing on the wall is most clear for the T-38, with the U.S. Air Force—the world’s largest operator of the type—switching to the Boeing T-7. The L-39 also is set to lose its main backer as the Russian Air Force receives more Yakovlev Yak-130s, although continued production of the latest variant of the type, the L-39NG, will at least partially offset retirements.

Ongoing deliveries coupled with limited retirements in the first part of the decade will similarly slow the decline of the global fleet of Hawk trainers. But the U.S. Navy plans to seek a replacement for the type in the late 2020s, which suggests that numbers will begin to fall before 2030.


The next-generation contenders set to benefit from this transition include the T-7, Leonardo M-346, Hongdu JL-10 and Yak-130. Based on existing contracts, the global fleet of these four types will increase to almost 700 by 2030 from 263 aircraft at the end of 2020. 

Aviation Week Network also has identified opportunities for the supply of a further 298 trainers over the next 10 years, but the type for those aircraft has yet to be specified.

Nevertheless, as fighter fleets shrink, unmanned systems encroach upon fighter missions and synthetic training becomes more realistic, wider trends suggest market demand in this segment may be in decline.  Given the extensive list of next-generation platforms vying to take over from the old guard, competition in this market space is set to be fierce.

Craig Caffrey

Craig works as a senior analyst on Aviation Week Network’s military and commercial forecast databases, specializing in military aircraft markets and…


What about Pilatus PC21?
Unmanned opponents will likely be a part of training.
So what has replaced the 5,000# canary (T37) as primary trainer for USAF?