Denmark to terminate NATO flying school pact

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Copenhagen to withdraw from Canadian scheme and could increase use of US system

Denmark has dealt a blow to the long-term health of the NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) scheme by announcing that it intends to stop sending pilots and instructors to use the Bombardier-run system from early 2011.

To mark the termination of a 20-year contract at the halfway point, the requested step could see Copenhagen instead focus its training activities in North America using the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training system at Sheppard AFB in Texas, where it also currently sends students. Negotiations with Canada's Department of National Defence (DND) continue over its proposed withdrawal, which Ottawa says is possible - following a "financial readjustment" - under the terms of a bilateral memorandum of understanding.

Denmark was the first overseas customer for NFTC and was pivotal in the project's launch late last decade. Its current commitment of around six students a year places it third in utilisation terms behind Canada and the UK, with the latter also expected to stop using the system when its Military Flying Training System becomes fully operational early next decade.

Other existing users of the NFTC framework are Hungary, Italy and Singapore.

Danish students currently pass through Phase IIA/B basic and Phase III advanced jet training elements at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan using the Raytheon T-6 Harvard II and BAE Systems Hawk 115, before completing Phase IV lead-in fighter training work on the Hawk at Cold Lake, Alberta. Around 25 Danish students have graduated from NFTC since training started in 2000, with Copenhagen also having seven instructors assigned to the multinational system late last year.

Lt Col Marc Moffatt, the DND's head of international training programmes, says Ottawa will have to deal with "some financial implications" if Denmark withdraws from the NFTC system, but that the scheme will continue to deliver training services as planned until 2020-21.

Bombardier and the DND meanwhile hope to conclude negotiations soon with three nations - including two current Hawk users - which have shown recent interest in participating in elements of the NFTC programme, says Moffatt.