LONDON — Potential suppliers of fixed-wing training aircraft for the U.K. armed forces face an April 19 deadline to reply to a request for proposals from Ascent Flight Training, the Ministry of Defence’s training service partner.
Ascent is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Babcock International, a U.K. company that provides a range of engineering, equipment support and training services for the country’s armed forces. It issued the RFP to support the latest stage in delivering the U.K. Military Flying Training System.
The latest RFP is intended to procure assets for use in elementary, basic, multi-engine and fixed-wing rear crew training for the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Army Air Corps.
“The emphasis on an output-based specification within the RFP will ensure that we utilize the most efficient methods to deliver high-quality training more effectively,” said Ascent’s managing director, Jim Keeler. “Within the Ascent training system, we are seeking to increase the use of synthetic training technology whilst continuing to train key tasks via live flying to ensure best value for money.”
UKMFTS is a 25-year framework contract, launched in 2008, to provide a broad range of training disciplines. The system is a partnership between the MoD and Ascent, with the ministry supplying the airfields, fuel and instructors, and Ascent responsible for its overall management plus acquisition of aircraft and simulators.
The MoD anticipated announcing a preferred bidder for this section of the UKMFTS by mid-2012. However, the U.K. defense budget is under considerable strain, with yet further cuts having recently been announced under the coalition Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration’s austerity program aimed at reducing the nation’s financial deficit. Ascent says that a decision on a preferred bidder will now take place some time in 2015.
The first two major components of the system became operational last year. An advanced jet ab-initio student course commenced training on newly acquired BAE Systems Hawk T2s, and the Hawker Beechcraft Avenger T Mk 1 (the military variant of the Super King Air 350ER twin-turboprop executive aircraft) began serving as a Royal Navy Observer Training platform. The four Avengers are also intended to meet the UKMFTS program’s additional multi-engine rear-crew training requirements for the Royal Air Force.
Parties interested in the RFP are expected to give their proposals for aircraft, aircraft-related infrastructure and support out to 2030 and beyond.
Several consortia are expected to put forward proposals. These include a BAE Systems-led team that incorporates Babcock, Gama Aviation and Pilatus; Team C3, involving Cobham Aviation Services, CAE U.K. and Cassidian Air Systems; and Israel’s Elbit Systems teamed with U.S. infrastructure provider KBR.