All of the world's training and simulation providers have started lining up to compete for a huge block of contracts due to be awarded over the next two years by the US Air Force.
FlightSafety Defence Training Systems vice-president John Marino points out that aircrew training systems contracts for the Lockheed Martin C-5, Lockheed C-130 and Boeing C-17 transports come up for renewal in 2009, while the current ATS contract for the Boeing KC-135 tanker ends in 2010. These multi-year mega-contracts typically come up for grabs only once a decade and this time competition promises to be even more intense than usual as the USAF is in cost-cutting mode.
The playing field has grown in recent years as new military training companies have been established and foreign firms are starting to make inroads in the US market. Thales, for example, says it "is looking at it with interest" and could seek either a prime or subcontractor role in the new ATS contracts.
FlightSafety is the biggest incumbent and is preparing to defend its position. Marino says FlightSafety holds the ATS contracts for the C-5 and KC-135 and also has large parts of the C-17 and C-130 ATS programmes.