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UK to name fixed-wing training system bidder in mid-2012

A decision on the remaining fixed-wing elements of the UK's tri-service Military Flying Training System (MFTS) programme will be taken around the middle of next year, according to the company charged with overseeing the selection process.

Ascent Flight Training managing director Barry Thornton said the Ministry of Defence's training system partner has continued to make progress since three bidders expressed interest in the requirement earlier this year. Dialogue is continuing with each, he said, with cost targets also recently having been established.

A request for proposals for detailed solutions will be issued in October or November, Thornton said, with the rivals to be given around 90 days to respond. An evaluation will then be conducted, before a preferred bidder will be announced around mid-2012.

In addition to a fresh round of dialogue with the contenders, Ascent is placing its current emphasis on assessing their possible ground-based training equipment solutions. The contenders are a BAE Systems-led team also comprising Babcock, Gama Aviation and Pilatus; Elbit Systems; and the Cobham Aviation Services/CAE UK/Cassidian Air Systems Team C3 consortium.

BAE is the only one of the bidding teams to have revealed its proposed solution for the UK military's fixed-wing training needs, with its offer including an upgraded Grob G115E, Pilatus's PC-21 basic trainer and Cessna's Citation Mustang. Team C3 is promoting the Hawker Beechcraft T-6C as part of its proposal, while Elbit Systems has yet to disclose its offering.

A joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Babcock, Ascent is responsible for delivering the planned 25-year MFTS service. "This is about Ascent, working in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, delivering the training, not just providing the assets," said Thornton.

The company also is leading a competitive process to meet the UK's rotary-wing training needs, with AgustaWestland and the Alphar consortium formed of Eurocopter, CAE and FB Heliservices in contention.

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