Stewart Penney/LONDON

A UK Ministry of Defence Equipment Approval Committee (EAC) meeting scheduled for 6 December is to consider options to meet the Royal Air Force's Short Term Strategic Airlift (STSA) requirement, the Future Transport Aircraft (FTA) competition and the beyond visual range air-to-air missile contest.

The STSA and FTA have always been due for joint consideration as the two dovetail. A competition to meet the STSA was abandoned earlier this year, however. Following the EAC meeting, a list of options will be passed to ministerial level and final decisions will be taken early next year.

Air Foyle director Bruce Bird says the company has submitted two Antonov An-124-based options to the MoD - a best value for money option and a second which assures that no government would be able to prohibit the aircraft's use. The Russians refused to allow the use of the An-124 during Operation Allied Force. Air Foyle has dropped proposals to re-engine the An-124 with Rolls-Royce RB211s and install a new flightdeck.

The first option is an extension of today's lease agreement between the MoD and Air Foyle, with better aircraft and crew standby arrangements, more spares back-up and political support from the Ukrainian Government.

The second option provides maximum assurance, says Bird. Air Foyle, Antonov and a finance house would acquire two An-124s and place them on the UK military register, a process which would take about 12 months. AUK contractor would supply logistics and maintenance support and become the delegated design authority.

Boeing continues to offer the C-17 Globemaster to the RAF for both the STSA and FTA requirements. Other FTA competitors include Lockheed Martin, offering more C-130Js, and Airbus Military Company, offering the A400M. The first of 25 C-130Js will be handed over to the RAF on 23 November, around three years later than planned.

Source: Flight International