Howard Gethin/LONDON

The UK Ministry of Defence has been forced to waive a number of requirements to lease a short-term strategic airlifter for the Royal Air Force in order to generate more interest in the competition. Some potential bidders have criticised the original requirement as being weighted in favour of the Boeing C-17.

"In discussions with the companies involved in the tender, we have recognised that not all the aircraft types listed could comply with the requirement," says the MoD. "As a result of that, we are considering trade-offs between cost and capability."

Although the Ministry denies that any specific parameters are being reconsidered, the requirement for ability to operate from rough strips is believed to be one of the changes under consideration.

The decision follows a recent bidders' conference at the MoD Procurement Agency, at which a number of participating companies criticised the tender, which was seen as favouring the C-17 to the virtual exclusion of any other potential bidders.

Although the Airbus Beluga, Ilyushin Il-76 and Antonov An-124 were also listed in the original invitation to tender, only the USAF operated C-17 complied fully with the requirement, which included a two-man cockpit, semi-prepared field capability and various payload parameters. At one stage, the Ministry of Defence is even believed to have enquired about the availability of Lockheed C-5s.

Most of the contenders listed in the tender invitation are still undecided on whether to bid, but UK cargo airline HeavyLift has already pulled out of the competition.

Source: Flight International