Army plans to outsource pilot training and navy is seeking training machines

Australia is to launch a competition in June to outsource helicopter pilot training for the Australian Army along with the supply of a fleet of twin-engine training machines for the Royal Australian Navy, to replace its Eurocopter AS350BA Squirrels. The project also calls for the supply of replacement training helicopters for the army, although it is seeking to retain its Bell Kiowas until after 2007.

The RAN requirement excludes the provision of commercial training, but seeks to have the new training helicopters in service within 24 months at the latest.

The separate requirements have been linked into a common project as a means of trying to secure greater value for money through an increased scale of work. But officials from the services acknowledge that one possible outcome of the tender could be the award of separate contracts to different suppliers.

Last week Department of Defence officials told an industry briefing held at the Australian Army's Aviation Training Centre at Oakey, west of Brisbane, that a common project management board has been formed to manage the programme. However, separate army and RAN teams would undertake initial tender assessment prior to that board determining whether a single common contract could be awarded.

RAN has a budget of A$11-14 million ($5.5-7 million) for its requirements, while the army has an initial budget of A$7-8 million with a possible increase of A$3 million available after 2007. Funding for the project is being raised through internal savings, rather than new allocations.

Companies attending the briefing included AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter Textron, BAE Systems Australia, Boeing Australia, Bristow Helicopters, CSC Australia, Eurocopter Pacific, Hawker Pacific, Raytheon Australia, Serco Defence Services, Sikorsky Australia and Tenix Defence Systems.

Project schedules call for a draft tender to be issued in April, followed by the full tender in June. Tender assessment is to be carried out between September and November with a decision on the preferred suppliers to be announced in December. Contracts would be finalised by March 2003.

The army is seeking to have a commercial training supplier commence services in June next year with full transition completed by December 2004.

Source: Flight International