The Sterling consortium is formed of Thales, with support provided by Boeing. The US company had originally intended to work as a full partner in the process, but downgraded its participation before initial bids were made in August 2005.

Thales is promoting its major experience in supporting UK flying training via three synthetic training contracts it holds at the pperational conversion unit (OCU) level. The company provides 5,400h of training services a year to the Royal Air Force's Panavia Tornado GR4 force at RAF bases Lossiemouth and Marham, with the work to run until at least 2020. Students typically conduct their first 11 missions using a simulator, which Lossiemouth site training manager Dave Bolsover says saves two or three sorties with real aircraft. "The students also need the simulator to teach them to work as a crew," he adds.

Additional awards cover the delivery of Lynx AH7/9 training and services in support of an additional nine fast-jet, transport and training aircraft and search-and-rescue helicopter types.

While there is no questioning Thales's pedigree in delivering training services at the OCU level, it remains to be seen whether the MoD will be happy to trust its ability to operate further down the training pipeline. Sterling says it is offering a training management information system already used by the UK armed forces, but declines to provide further details.

Thales says it will use its experience in delivering current training services to streamline the system. It will also draw on lessons learned through its roles in the UK's Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft and Future Aircraft Carrier projects and via its selection to deliver the British Army's Watchkeeper unmanned air vehicles, it says.

Thales hopes to secure a deal to provide synthetic training devices for the UK's new Hawk 128 fleet, regardless of the outcome of the current MFTS selection process.

© Thales   
Thales provides the RAF with Tornado GR4 training

Source: Flight International