Led by Lockheed Martin UK, the Ascent consortium also comprises VT. The team is offering a Lockheed training management information system that already supports the instruction of 20,000 aircrew a year in the USA, including 16,000 on the Lockheed C-130 transport at nine sites.

Ascent has entered the home stretch in the MFTS contest buoyed by Singapore's recent selection of a Lockheed-led team to deliver the nation's Basic Wings Course, a move it hopes could yet influence the UK decision. Singapore will operate 19 Pilatus PC-21 turboprops under the 20-year public-private partnership deal.

Pilatus's anticipated receipt by year-end of a second production order to build another six PC-21s for the Swiss air force could also place the type in a strong position for the basic training element of MFTS, which seeks a replacement for the RAF's Shorts Tucanos.

The Swiss platform will face competition from the Alenia Aermacchi M-311, Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano and Raytheon T-6B that it defeated in Singapore, with the M-311 and T-6B yet to secure launch orders. However, sources suggest the small number of BAE Systems Hawk 128s on order for the UK could enable the Ministry of Defence to also acquire both the PC-21 and M-311 to spread its training requiements.

Ascent team member VT has much experience in supporting the UK flight training system, as it is responsible for the Tucano fleet at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. Forty aircraft are available on the flightline each day, and as VT Aerospace business development manager Adrian Thomson says: "If the aircraft aren't available, we don't get paid." The fleet provides basic training totalling 18,000 flight hours per year. VT Aerospace also provides 94 Grob G115E Tutor trainers to the RAF at 12 bases, plus five supporting Royal Navy and air experience flight activities flown by 727 NAS at Plymouth-Roborough airport.

VT has experience of major private finance initiative deals as part of the AirTanker consortium chosen to deliver the UK's Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft.

PC 21 Singapore risk   
Lockheed Ascent could pitch Pilatus's PC-21 to replace the UK's Tucanos

Source: Flight International