The Beechcraft T-6C trainer is part of a bid package by Elbit and KBR to supply the UK with military trainers. (Beechcraft)
LONDON — Three fixed-wing aircraft types — including the Beechcraft T-6C — are set to train British military pilots following the selection of a team involving Elbit Systems and KBR to supply and support the platforms, according to executives familiar with the competition.
The executives said the team, known as Affinity, has emerged as the winning bidder and has been selected for further negotiations by Ascent, the Lockheed Martin-Babcock partnership running a 30-year deal with the British Defence Ministry, to manage pilot and crew training for the armed forces.
Ascent referred questions to the MoD. Ministry officials were unable to respond at press time. The Affinity consortium members also declined to comment.
The Affinity bid included Beechcraft’s T-6C turboprop basic trainer, a modified Embraer Phenom 100 light business jet for multi-enginetraining and the Grob 120TP elementary trainer, executives said.
Under the 15-year availability deal, Affinity will provide and support the fixed-wing flying training element of the UK Military Flying Training System (MFTS) program.
The contract is expected to be worth more than £500 million (US $795 million) to Affinity. It is not clear whether the decision has to be ratified by the MoD and others in government.
Contract signature is scheduled to take place by 2015, assuming Affinity and Ascent successfully conclude negotiations.
If Affinity sticks to the timescale laid out by Ascent, introduction of the new aircraft types could get underway in 2017 with the Grob 120TP, followed a year later by the Phenom 100 and then the T-6C.
Conclusion of the deal will likely spell the end of the road for the Embraer Tucano and Grob G-115 aircraft used by the British to train military crews.
Advanced jet training will continue to be provided by government-furnished BAE Hawker T2 jets.
The combination of Elbit and KBR faced off against rival bids from a BAE Systems-led team that includes Babcock, Gama Aviation and Pilatus, and a proposal from Cassidian.
Elbit already provides flying training services for the Israeli military with the G-120 and the T-6, and KBR has an extensive footprint in the UK supporting the armed forces locally and in hot spots like Afghanistan.
Ascent signed the public-private partnership deal with the MoD to run the MFTS program in 2008.
Originally estimated to be worth around £6 billion over the life of the program, MFTS has been impacted by reduced crew requirements in the wake of defense budget cuts by the British government.
The system replaces separate flying fixed-wing and rotary training programs for the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Army Air Corps.
Ascent reported mid-year that the first Air Force fast-jet students had graduated under the plan.
The system is already delivering Royal Navy observer training using Grob 115 and King Air 350 platforms, along with synthetic training.
A similar plan to provide helicopters and support for rotor-wing training has been on ice but is now starting to gather pace. ■