The UK Ministry of Defence has signed a delayed contract worth £57 million ($96 million) to replace the Royal Navy's British Aerospace Jetstream T2 observer trainers from 2011.
Announced on 3 August, the deal with Ascent Flight Training covers the acquisition and modification of four Beechcraft King Air 350ER special mission aircraft, plus in-service support for their first five years of use. The award forms the "Rear Crew Stage 1" element of the UK Military Flying Training System (MFTS); a 25-year private finance initiative deal between the MoD and Ascent signed in May 2008.
The RN uses nine Turbomeca Astazou-powered Jetstreams to deliver non-pilot aircrew training for future observers for types including its AgustaWestland Lynx HMA8, Merlin HM1 (AW101) and Sea King ASaC 7 helicopters.
© Craig Hoyle/Flight International
The Royal Navy launched Jetstream operations in 1969
Based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, the trainers were introduced to service between 1969 and 1974, says Flightglobal's MiliCAS database. Operations of the type were originally scheduled to end in April 2009 under the MFTS programme, but have been extended into 2011.
The first replacement King Air 350ER has already been produced in the USA, and is scheduled to arrive at Cobham Aviation Services subsidiary FR Aviation's Bournemouth airport site in the UK on 3 September for modification. The work will include the integration of a live radar and operator consoles, and the first students are scheduled to start training with the aircraft in October 2011, says Ascent.
"The rear crew contract will present the opportunity for significant improvements in the training of non-pilot aircrew through the addition of new aircraft, infrastructure and training tools," says Ascent managing director Fred Ross.
Cobham says its combined modification and five-year maintenance subcontract is worth £18 million. Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training & Support will provide ground-based training equipment and a training management and information system, while VT will deliver infrastructure services.
Formed of Lockheed Martin UK and VT, the Ascent consortium says the new RN training system "will ultimately be subsumed into [a] Rear Crew Stage 2" service. This will harmonise the navy's observer training activities with similar non-pilot instruction work for the British Army and Royal Air Force.