Textron AirLand’s Scorpion jet has emerged as an early contender for a significant military training deal in the UK, with the versatile type to be offered under a new teaming agreement with Qinetiq and Thales.
First details of the UK’s Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) requirement emerged earlier this year, with a new capability expected to enter use in January 2020. Qinetiq and Thales subsequently performed “a comprehensive analysis of over 50 aircraft”, before selecting the twin-engined Scorpion. This would be equipped with sensors and other equipment such as jamming pods, and used “to provide a broad spectrum of training for all three armed services”, according to Qinetiq – including providing a “hostile” capability during the instruction of fighter pilots.
Thales UK says it will offer “a range of sensors optimised for situational awareness, threat replication and targeting training, as well as electronic warfare capability.” David Beatty, its vice-president sales, notes: "value for money is crucial".
Once introduced, the ASDOT system will also draw on the use of military assets, such as BAE Systems Hawk jet trainers and some of the Royal Air Force’s Tranche 1 production-standard Eurofighter Typhoons. It also will draw on simulation and synthetic training capabilities, believes Textron AirLand military advisor and former RAF chief of the air staff Sir Stephen Dalton.
To be worth an estimated £1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) over a 15-year period, the ASDOT programme will replace the use of current equipment including Cobham-operated Dassault Falcon 20s adapted for electronic warfare training tasks. A formal requirements document is likely to emerge in January, according to Paul Dingley, Qinetiq’s strategic campaign lead, defence operational training.
The new team’s offer will be based around a production version of the Scorpion which is due to make its flight debut soon. “We are finishing the final assembly, and will fly this summer,” says Textron AirLand chairman Bill Anderson. The company’s lone prototype is visiting Europe for the third time for its show appearance, having so far accumulated more than 650 flight hours.