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UK extends support helicopter training deal

The UK Ministry of Defence has signed an eight-year contract extension to its long-standing support helicopter synthetic training deal with CAE, ensuring training continuity until at least October 2025.

Announced on 24 October, the deal, worth more than £90 million ($119 million), will continue the work performed at the Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility (MSHATF), at the Royal Air Force's Benson base in Oxfordshire. This has been in use since 1997, under a potentially 40-year private finance initiative arrangement between the MoD and CAE.

Under the extension agreement, CAE and its training partner Serco will provide instruction to Royal Air Force Airbus Helicopters Puma HC2 transport helicopter crews until the type's retirement from use in 2025, and for the service's Boeing CH-47 Chinook fleet.

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Serco, which provides ex-military instructors and ground school training, values its part of the eight-year deal as worth an estimated £26 million, "with potential options to further extend the contract to 2037".

The MSHATF site currently houses six dynamic mission simulators: three for the Chinook HC4/6, one for the Puma HC2 and two for the Leonardo Helicopters AW101 Merlin HM3. "Merlin Mk 3 training for the Royal Navy will continue at the MSHATF for at least two more years, as it transitions the fleet to the Mk 4 [standard]," CAE notes.

Around 10,000h of training services are delivered per year using the current infrastructure at RAF Benson, with additional customers including the Royal Canadian Air Force – which conducts some AW101 and Chinook crew training at the site, and AW101 operator the Royal Danish Air Force.