EUROPE IS THE near-term focus for the flight-simulation industry, with several high-proÌle military programmes pending, and the region's commercial-aircraft industry planning new developments.

Production contracts for the Dassault Rafale fighter and Eurocopter Tiger combat-helicopter are expected to be signed at Paris - and planning for the respective training systems will take a step forward. French simulation companies Thomson Training & Simulation (TTS) and Sogitec (2/E9), a Dassault subsidiary, can be expected to provide the Rafale training equipment, but Germany's involvement in the Tiger programme raises interesting possibilities, as the de facto German simulation company is a subsidiary of Canada's CAE Electronics.

CAE already is a strong competitor in Europe. Earlier this year, the company was selected to operate the UK Royal Air Force's Medium Support Helicopter training centre. Under the UK Ministry of Defence's Private Finance Initiative (PFI), CAE will raise the funds required to build, equip and staff the centre. In return, the RAF will pay for training time. The manufacturer had previously won a contract to equip a German helicopter-training centre, and a similar project planned by France has attracted interest from companies including Lockheed Martin.

The UK plans several other PFI training programmes. Bids are now in to build and operate a training centre for the RAF's British Aerospace Hawks, with a similar programme planned to provide aircrew training for the RAF's Panavia Tornado fleet. Competing against CAE for the business are TTS and Reflectone.

TTS is the principal UK simulator manufacturer. The company recently received a contract from British Aerospace to supply training equipment for the Nimrod 2000 programme to upgrade the RAF's maritime-patrol aircraft. Reflectone, meanwhile, is supplying the training system for the RAF's new C-130J Hercules 2 transports under a teaming agreement with the aircraft's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

Reflectone is to become a wholly owned subsidiary of BAe in a move intended to improve its ability to compete for major projects such as the UK's PFI programmes. The company, meanwhile, is anticipating a contract to supply training equipment as part of an Italian air force purchase of C-130Js, which could be finalised on the eve of the show.

There appears little or no likelihood of an agreement being signed at Paris to launch production of the Eurofighter EF2000. This will be a major frustration for the simulator manufacturers, as any further delay will postpone progress on selecting suppliers for the associated training system - expected to be one of the largest programmes of its kind in Europe.



Fighter competitions brewing in Central Europe, and also in Austria and Norway, hold out the prospect of more business for the simulation industry - although exactly when is hard to predict. If the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, and possibly Romania, acquire new or used US fighters, then the US industry is likely to supply the associated training equipment. Hughes Training (chalet 273/B) is the incumbent US supplier of simulators for the Lockheed Martin F-16 and McDonnell Douglas F-18, although TTS has scored notable successes selling devices for the F-16 to European and Far Eastern clients.

FlightSafety International's military business was boosted earlier this year when it was selected to develop the ground-based training system for the Raytheon T-6 Beech MkII Joint Primary Aircraft Training System. The Beech MkII may be offered in forthcoming trainer competitions in Greece and Turkey, which could generate new international business for FlightSafety.

The US company combined its airline-training business with that of Boeing earlier this year to create FlightSafety Boeing Training Inter-national, a 50:50 joint venture which will provide initial and recurrent training to operators of airliners with 100 or more seats, regardless of manufacturer. The combination has reshaped the commercial flight-simulation market and established FlightSafety as a stronger competitor to industry leaders CAE and TTS.

Simulator manufacturers are awaiting news from Airbus and Boeing at Paris on the launch of derivatives of the A340 and 777, respectively. As the ratios of aircraft to simulators are lowest with long-range airliners, launches at this end of the market have a disproportionate value to the training-equipment industry. News that Boeing is studying growth versions of its 747-400, having shelved the rewinged 747-500/600, has been welcomed by simulator manufacturers, as has Airbus' progress on the A3XX large airliner.

While the airlines' pent-up demand for simulators is likely to keep the industry busy for the next two or three years, its long-term health is tied to manufacturers' launch plans, which are likely to become clearer at Paris.

Source: Flight International