The UK Ministry of Defence has extended the planned retirement date for the Royal Air Force's Shorts Tucano T1 basic trainers from April 2010 until at least 2012, but could extend use of the type by a further four years following the delayed signature of its Military Flying Training System (MFTS) contract.
The MoD has identified March 2014 as the most likely new out-of-service date (OSD) for the Tucano fleet, which delivers basic fast jet flying training services from RAF Linton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire. However, it is also considering a further two retirement options, according to a logistics support contract notice issued during June.
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"A further extension of the OSD may be agreed, therefore any contract resulting from this project will include the option to continue support until 2016," says the MoD. "Alternatively, MFTS may replace Tucano by 2012."
The MoD is seeking an industry partner to support operations of the Tucano beyond its current basic fast jet flying training contract with VT Aerospace. The selected bidder must "provide sufficient airworthy, capable and sustainable Tucano T1 aircraft", plus maintenance, logistics support and flight line operations, it says.
Bidders must register interest in the total support programme deal by 28 July, with a contract award - worth between £20 million ($39.7 million) and £100 million including options - scheduled during September 2009. The winning contractor must achieve the MoD's new Maintenance Approved Organisation Scheme certification standards, it says, and later assist in disposing of the aircraft.
The MFTS project was formally launched in June, when the MoD signed a delayed deal worth a potential £6 billion with the Lockheed Martin UK/VT consortium Ascent (Flight International, 10-16 June). Potential replacements for the Tucano include the Alenia Aermacchi M-311 and Pilatus PC-21.