Stewart Penney/LONDON

The UK Ministry of Defence is on the verge of placing all UK military fixed-wing flying training under private ownership, as part of a private financing proposal that could be worth at least £15 billion ($22.7 billion).

The Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) launched the Military Flying Training System (MFTS) proposal at a presentation to about 40 interested companies last week. This could be the largest private finance deal yet floated by the UK Government.

DPA is considering three solutions to meet future training needs and to reduce the capability gap between training and frontline aircraft. Under consideration are two forms of the UK Government's private financing programme and the conventional acquisition of new trainers.

MFTS will provide training for pilots, navigators, air loadmasters and air electronics operators from post ab initio to pre-operational conversion for the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Also included will be the management of five airbases and nine other airfields. Not included is ab initio or helicopter training, which are already contracted out.

Companies attending the meeting included BAE Systems, Boeing, Bombardier, Cobham's FRAviation subsidiary, Hunting, Lockheed Martin, Pilatus, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce and Serco.

One consideration is whether the contractors will replace the fixed-wing fleet - Shorts Tucano basic trainers, BAE Hawk advanced trainers, BAe Jetstream multi-engine trainers and BAe Dominie navigation trainers - immediately or whether new aircraft will be phased in over time.

ADPA source says it is too early to determine when a contract could be signed, but a "transitional in-service date" is expected towards the end of this decade. Industry sources expect a 25-yearcontract with a five-year option. The value would be well above £15 billion if the trainer fleets are replaced.

The winner will acquire some simulators and provide instructors and maintenance staff.

The move comes at a time of increasing concern about UK training. Although the Hawk fleet is receiving new fuselages, structural life remains an issue, while the gap between the glass cockpits of many frontline types and the conventional round dials of the Hawk is also raising questions.

BAE will offer the Hawk 100, and the Tucanos could be replaced by the Raytheon T-6A Texan/Harvard - a combination that would mirror Bombardier's NATO Flying Training scheme in Canada - or the Pilatus PC-21.

Source: Flight International