The British Ministry of Defence today signed a widely-anticipated deal with BAE Systems for an upgraded version of the Hawk trainer jet.
The 158.5 million pound ($304 million) contract covers the aircraft’s initial development phase. “Exact aircraft numbers, delivery schedule and in-service date will all be set at the time of the main investment decision, currently planned for the first half of 2006,” the ministry said in a statement.
The contract award confirms what the ministry has indicated for many months, that it intended to buy the upgraded Hawk rather than look overseas for its next advanced jet trainer. The ministry is believed initially to be looking to purchase around 20 jet trainers.
The new Hawk will become a key part of the U.K. Military Flying Training System (MFTS), a massive program that will be managed by industry and which will take air crew personnel from all three services through all of their basic and advanced flying training needs, whether on fast jets, helicopters or multi-engine aircraft.
Three industry teams are competing for the MFTS contract. Ascent now consists of Lockheed Martin and VT Group after former partner Rolls-Royce decided in November to withdraw. Sterling brings together Thales and Boeing, while Vector consist of Kellogg Brown and Root and EG&G/Lear Siegler.
Ascent’s head of customer relations, Paul Livingston, said Rolls-Royce made the decision to leave, with the full support of Ascent, after it felt it could no longer meet the MFTS requirements as a team member once those neds became more clearly defined. “There are no hard feelings because it was the right time to make the decision,” he said. The program’s Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) will be issued in February, from which time the three teams will each have about six months to submit their proposals.
MFTS is planned to begin initial service in 2007, with full service by 2012.