AgustaWestland, Eurocopter teams to contest UK military training deal

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The UK's requirement to modernise its training system for military helicopter crews has drawn initial bids from two contenders, industry sources say.

Responses to a request for proposals issued by Lockheed Martin/Babcock joint venture Ascent Flight Training were received by a 14 January deadline from AgustaWestland and a new consortium, dubbed Alphar. The latter is formed of Eurocopter, training device supplier CAE and FB Heliservices (FBH), which runs the UK's current tri-service Defence Helicopter Flying School.

Issued by Ascent late last year, the rotary-wing service provision RFP sought draft responses from industry on factors including the total number of flight hours and simulators required, plus related infrastructure. They were also required to outline their plans to fund the system under a private finance initiative model.

AgustaWestland confirms that it has submitted a response as a proposed prime contractor, but declines to provide details about its possible platform solution for the requirement. Eurocopter was not available for comment.

A final RFP is scheduled for release in March, with this to require the companies to submit final bids. A decision is expected in late 2011 or early 2012, along with a selection on the remaining fixed-wing elements of the Military Flying Training System programme. The latter is being contested by a team led by BAE Systems, a Cobham/CAE/EADS Cassidian consortium, and by Israel's Elbit Systems.

New equipment should come into use from around 2015, says Ascent, the Ministry of Defence's training system partner for the deal.

An FR Aviation/Bristow Helicopters company, FBH provides rotary-wing training services for the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy using single-engined Eurocopter AS350s and Bell Helicopter 412 twins.

Its activities are mainly performed from RAF Shawbury in Shropshire, but also take place at RAF Valley on Anglesey in north Wales and at the School of Army Aviation at Middle Wallop, Hampshire.