UK to acquire remainder of MFTS training fleet

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The UK has launched the process to acquire the remaining three major elements of its tri-service Military Flying Training System infrastructure, with expressions of interest being sought from potential bidders.

Issued by the Ministry of Defence's training system partner, Lockheed Martin/VT joint venture Ascent Flight Training, the new requests seek solutions for the programme's fixed-wing, rotary and rear-crew elements, each for periods of up to 25 years.

Likely to be awarded to a single contractor, but possibly divided into component parts, the fixed-wing aircraft service provision requests "fully supported and maintained aircraft that will be used to provide elementary, basic and multi-engine pilot training for the UK armed forces incorporating all aircrew disciplines", the MoD says.

The process will deliver replacements for types including the Royal Air Force's Shorts Tucano turboprops and Hawker Siddeley Dominie rear crew trainers, with the selected types to be used at several locations around the UK. The basic trainer requirement is likely to draw offers using types including Beechcraft's export-standard T-6C and the Pilatus PC-21.

Describing its design as a "low-risk and cost-effective" solution, Beechcraft says a T-6C fleet would be capable of delivering 18,000 flight hours or 25 years of operation before requiring depot-level maintenance.

 
© Craig Hoyle/Flight International
The RAF's Tucanos will be replaced under the deal

The MoD says its procurement strategy for the more than £400 million ($599 million) fixed-wing deal is still being finalised, but that "it is likely that the contract/s will require supplier-sourced funding through a private finance initiative arrangement".

Also seeking contractor-supplied and maintained aircraft, the new rotary-wing requirement will replace the training activities now provided by the FB Heliservices-run Defence Helicopter Flying School, also at multiple locations. "The requirement encompasses the UK military tri-services and all aircrew disciplines," the MoD confirms, also describing this element as worth more than £400 million.

Prospective bidders are also being sought to deliver rear-crew training services from a single UK location under a deal worth between £100 million and £400 million. "Either Ascent or the rear-crew aircraft service provider may be responsible for the selection of the aircraft," the MoD says, with its strategy to be confirmed in a formal request for proposals.

Ascent is seeking expressions of interest for all three project elements by 12 April, and will host an industry event for interested parties early next month. The company will shortlist potential suppliers after reviewing their responses to a pre-qualification questionnaire.

Major parts of the MFTS deal already under contract include a non-competitive contract with BAE Systems to supply the Hawk 128/T2 advanced jet trainer, and an agreement with FR Aviation to provide observer instruction for the Royal Navy using Beechcraft King Air 350ERs.