Howard Gethin/LONDON

The Royal Air Force has been offered a wide variety of aircraft for its short term strategic airlifter requirement (STSA)with contenders offering aircraft including the Airbus A300 and Beluga, Antonov An-124 and Boeing C-17, by the clearing date for submissions on 29 January.

Five companies are bidding for the contract, which is for a seven- year lease "plus or minus one or two years".

Airbus Transport International has offered a mixed fleet of a single Airbus A300 Beluga and four Airbus A300F freighters. The A300F is the only aircraft offered not to have been originally listed in the MoD's invitation to tender.

IBP and Air Foyle are offering lease packages with Antonov An-124s. Both firms have extensive experience of operating the aircraft on heavy cargo lift work internationally. Boeing, widely seen as the favourite and certainly the RAF's preferred candidate, is offering the C-17 Globemaster III for the STSA contract and the RAF's Future Transport Aircraft contest for a Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules replacement, submissions for which were also due by 29 January.

Rolls-Royce is also bidding, with an offer of "an airlift capability and managed fleet service". The company will not specify the aircraft involved.

The MoD wrote to the participating companies in the STSA contest in December following a bidder's conference, stating that certain elements of the request for proposals (thought to include a two-man cockpit requirement and rough field capability) would be relaxed to generate more interest. Some potential suppliers felt the requirement was weighted in favour of the C-17.

The MoD is likely to have to consider the value of the operational merits of the C-17 against what are likely to be cheaper rivals, some of which have their own operational merits.

Source: Flight International