All four Beechcraft King Air 350ERs to be converted for use as observer trainers for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm have arrived in the UK, following delivery flights from Wichita, Kansas.
Selected in mid-2008 to deliver the Rear Crew Stage 1 element of the UK's tri-service Military Flying Training System (MFTS), the twin turboprops will now receive their mission equipment at Cobham Aviation's Bournemouth airport facilities in Dorset.
© Ascent Flight Training
Modifications will include the addition of a radome-housed Telephonics 1700 search radar, a tactical mission training suite comprising two student consoles and two instructor operator stations, and a jump seat just aft of the cockpit. The equipment will provide navigation, tactical and sensor training using both live and simulated radar data.
Featuring Rockwell Collins' Proline21 integrated avionics suite and already carrying UK markings, the new aircraft will replace the RN's remaining nine British Aerospace Jetstream T2 trainers in delivering ab initio rear crew training services from RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall from 2011.
Operations of the current type have been extended from earlier this year, due to previous delays in the Ministry of Defence signing a 25-year MFTS contract with so-called training system partner Ascent Flight Training; a joint venture between Lockheed Martin UK and VT Group.
"The [King Air 350ER] aircraft will deliver a step change in capability in training Royal Navy observer aircrew," says Ascent managing director Sir Barry Thornton. The acquisition is worth £57 million ($94 million), with this sum also covering modification activities and an initial five-year support package.