During the early eighties it was apparent that the RAF would need a replacement for the Jet Provost basic trainer being used in flying training schools. Various factors including cost, performance and stepped tandem seating and similar cockpit design to the Hawk were required. But with an in-service date set for 1989, the aircraft ordered would likely be an existing type, rather than a new design. In 1984 a short list of four aircraft types had been prepared with each of the companies involved establishing partnerships with UK manufacturers in order to meet the programme requirements.
Shorts and Brazilian manufacturer Embraer submitted a proposal for a modified version of the Embraer Tucano with a more powerful Garret engine, finally winning against the BAE/ Pilatus partnership in March 1985. The significant modifications to the design included the engine with much increased power to improve speed and rate of climb, a ventral air-brake, structural strengthening and new cockpit layout. An optional provision for armament and strike capability was also to be provided.