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UK signs £1.1bn deal for new military training fleet

The UK Ministry of Defence has signed contracts worth £1.1 billion ($1.58 billion) to cover the remaining fixed-wing elements of its Military Flight Training System (MFTS) infrastructure. The deals span the provision of a trio of new aircraft types and related ground-based training equipment.

Worth around £500 million and awarded to Elbit Systems/KBR joint venture, Affinity Flying Services, on 2 February, the aircraft package will lead to the introduction of the Grob G120TP – to be named the “Prefect” for the UK – Beechcraft T-6C (below) and Embraer Phenom 100.

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Affinity Flying Services

“Elbit Systems and KBR will evenly support and benefit from the programme,” says the former, of the private finance initiative deal. In addition to supplying the new trainers, Affinity will also be responsible for providing maintenance and support services for the entire fleet of types.

Selected in October 2014, Affinity’s fixed-wing package comprises 23 G120TPs, 10 T-6Cs and five Phenom 100s, which will be used for elementary, basic and multi-engine pilot training, respectively. Full operational capability for the system – which will replace the UK’s in-service Grob G115 Tutors, Short Tucano T1s and Beechcraft King Air 200/350s – is scheduled during 2019.

Embraer says its subcontract with Affinity "includes support services and an option for additional, follow-on aircraft". Additional demand is expected to stem from the MoD's late 2015 decisions to retain some of its Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports in service, and also to acquire nine Boeing P-8A maritime patrol aircraft.

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Craig Hoyle/Flightglobal

Also included in the £1.1 billion project cost, which will cover activities until May 2033, are contracts awarded to Lockheed Martin and Babcock. These will “deliver all of the ground-based training equipment and infrastructure”, according to Ascent Flight Training; the MoD’s training system partner for MFTS.

“Modern training aircraft selected specifically to meet the bespoke needs of the UK’s armed forces will deliver optimised training, alongside high-tech simulators and classroom trainers,” says Ascent managing director Paul Livingston.

Ascent says it expects to achieve initial course capability with the G120TP in late 2017, followed by the Phenom 100 in mid-2018 and the T-6C in early 2019.

Other parts of the tri-service MFTS infrastructure already in use include the Royal Air Force’s BAE Systems Hawk T2 advanced jet trainers and King Air 350 Avengers used by the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm for observer training.

Industry sources suggest a contract for the rotary-wing aspect of MFTS could be signed within two months. This will provide replacements for the Airbus Helicopters AS350s and Bell Helicopter 412s operated by the tri-service Defence Helicopter Flying School. Candidate types include models on offer from AgustaWestland and Airbus Helicopters.

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