Stewart Penney/LONDON

The UK Ministry of Defence is proposing to contract out all Royal Air Force simulators and synthetic trainers not already owned and managed by contractors under the UK's private finance initiative (PFI).

Under the so-called Fully Integrated Aircrew Synthetic Training Service (FIASTS)proposal more than 20 simulators and 65 other training devices will be rolled into a single 18-year PFI contract worth around £250 million ($375 million). Simulators for eight types - BACVC10, British Aerospace Jetstream and Nimrod MR2, Lockheed TriStar, Panavia TornadoF3, Sepecat Jaguar, Shorts Tucano and GKN Westland SeaKing HAR3/3A - at 10 sites are to be included inthe deal. Facilities could be added as new aircraft enter service.

The FIASTS move follows contractorisation of several simulator operations including the BAE Systems Hawk advanced trainer facility at RAF Valley and the CAE-managed Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility at RAF Benson.

PFI deals allow the MoD to update operations and introduce new capabilities while keeping much of the expense off its balance sheet. The ministry pays for the service, transferring the funding to its operational budget.

A recent contract award to Quest Flight Training to manage the Boeing E-3D Sentry airborne warning and control aircraft simulator facility has resulted in a 29% reduction in Sentry air- and mission crew training costs while improving the dynamic flight simulator's visual system, says the Defence Procurement Agency.

The agency is pushing for release of an invitation to negotiate at the end of this year with responses due within three to four months. Selection of a preferred bidder is expected by early 2002.

Companies expected to bid include BAE Systems, CAE, Serco and Thomson Training &Simulation - which built many of the training devices.

Source: Flight International