Two teams are vying to provide an aerial tanker service to the UK armed forces for the next three decades

The two teams remaining in the competition for the UK's Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) submitted bids last week to the Ministry of Defence.


AirTanker and Tanker & Transport Service Company (TTSC) are offering new Airbus A330-200s and ex-British Airways Boeing 767s, respectively. The Royal Air Force requires a core fleet of 10 tankers with a surge capacity that will mean the winner needs to have a further 10-15 aircraft available. The surge fleet will be offered to third parties so the aircraft must be readily convertible to commercially registered and certificated airliners.

AirTanker comprises Brown &Root, which will provide support services; Cobham, which has experience of providing company owned, company operated aircraft to the MoD and which will provide the aircraft conversions; EADS, majority owner of Airbus, will be responsible for integrating the aircraft systems for the tanker role; Rolls-Royce Trent engines will power the aircraft; and Thales will supply the mission avionics subsystem, mission planning, datalinks, communications, defensive aids and the synthetic training systems.

TTSC is the result of the merger of a BAE Systems-Boeing team with Strategic Support Management, a Spectrum Capital/Serco joint venture (Flight International, 26 June-2 July). BAE and Boeing have systems integration and tanker experience while Serco has several UK armed forces outsourcing contracts. Spectrum Capital has experience of providing and advising on large scale aerospace deals and the UK's Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

Both teams are offering aircraft without additional fuel tanks in the underfloor holds, relying instead on the airliners' internal fuel capacity.

Although the RAF does not require a freight door for FSTA, at least some of the aircraft could be equipped with such doors to increase third-party revenue as they could be offered as freighters as well as passenger aircraft.

The MoD aims to select a winning bidder towards the middle of next year with contract signature expected in 2003. In-service date is set at 2007.

Source: Flight International