Lockheed Martin recruits MFTS contest partners

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STEWART PENNEY/LONDON

R-R and VT Aerospace join bid to become systems integrators for UK training programme

Lockheed Martin has recruited Rolls-Royce and VT Aerospace as partners in a bid to become the integrator for the UK's Military Flying Training System (MFTS). The training systems integrator will run the overall programme.

MFTS will be a private finance initiative (PFI)-funded project to overhaul aircrew instruction for the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Army Air Corps, from ab initio training to operational conversion entry level. BAE Systems, Boeing and EADS are also expected to bid.

James Keeler, Lockheed Martin MFTS project director, says R-R's and VT's participation is important as "we don't want to offer a US solution to the UK". R-R has project management and PFI financing experience, while VT provides outsourced training services to UK and other armed forces.

Keeler says Lockheed Martin trains more than 18,000 aircrew in the USA every year at under- and post-graduate levels – including the European NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training programme. The US company was recently selected, with Cranfield College of Aeronautics and Training Systems Technology, to study the balance in MFTS between real and synthetic training.

Simon Withey, VT Partnerships managing director, says the company has around 35% of existing contracts that will become part of MFTS. The company is responsible for around 140 Shorts Tucano T1 basic trainers and provides a contracted number of serviceable aircraft daily. It also has around 100 Grob 115 Tutors used by the RAF.

Withey says that VT teamed with Lockheed Martin because the pair are complementary and already co-operate in the Middle East, UK and USA. Keeler adds that MFTS is "partnership-based, which will include the Ministry of Defence. We already have a good relationship that should bode well for the future".

An invitation to negotiate is due for release mid-2004. Contract signature is due in early 2006 with a phased service entry between April 2007 and April 2012.

Initially the winning bidder will use the UK's existing training aircraft. Hawker Siddeley Dominie T1 rear-crew and navigator trainers and the remaining BAe Jetstream T1multi-engine trainers should be the first aircraft to be replaced.

The recent decision to order BAE Systems Hawk 128s will not affect the team, says Keeler. "From the integrator's point of view, the Hawk is not unlike any other legacy aircraft. It's not an issue one way or another."