Ascent to lead RAF's elementary contest with July deadline for expressions of interest

The UK Ministry of Defence will launch the next phase of its tri-service Military Flying Training System project during July, with expressions of interest to be sought from potential suppliers of an elementary training service to replace the Royal Air Force's current use of 94 Grob G115E Tutors from 2009.

Bidders have until 13 July to express interest in the contest, which will be run by the MoD's MFTS training system partner, the Lockheed Martin UK/VT Group consortium Ascent. An invitation to tender for the delivery of around 25,000 flying hours a year will be issued on 30 July, with responses due by 10 December. The MoD expects the deal to have a value of £100-400 million ($200-800 million).

The RAF currently uses the Grob Tutor to provide around 10,000 flying hours a year to its University Air Squadrons and 20,000h of air experience flights for cadets under a 10-year deal with VT Aerospace which is scheduled to conclude in April 2009. Industry sources suggest that in addition to potentially considering a new aircraft type, the elementary training requirement could be delivered by retaining and upgrading the current G115E fleet.

The MoD has also outlined a potential £20-100 million deal seeking "commercial solutions" for an elementary service to total up to 35,000 flying hours a year, plus the provision of engineering support. An industry source suggests that this process has been initiated in the unlikely event that the MoD fails to sign an MFTS contract with Ascent. The consortium was named preferred bidder for the training system partner role last November and a deal could now be finalised around July.

A competition is meanwhile expected around 2009 to replace the RAF's 56-strong fleet of Shorts Tucano T1 trainers, delivered from 1987 and supported by VT. Possible replacements include the Alenia Aermacchi M-311, Hawker Beechcraft T-6 and Pilatus PC-21, with the selected aircraft to potentially "download" some training from the RAF's 28 Hawk 128 advanced jet trainers, to be delivered from August 2008.

Source: Flight International