OTTAWA — Canada’s military has started work on a new multibillion-dollar program designed to train its future pilots over a 20-year period.

Industry representatives are now being asked for feedback on the Future Pilot Training (FPT) project, expected to be worth at least (CAN$4 billion (US$3.2 billion). The project will be put in place over the next five years, with a contract set for 2021. It will cover a 20-year period.

The Canadian government issued details on the project to the aerospace industry on Oct. 29. Companies interested in participating and eventually bidding are asked to identify themselves by Feb. 2, 2016, according to Public Services and Procurement, the Canadian department which oversees military acquisitions.

"Canada invites industry to formulate viable and economical options for discussion," Public Services and Procurement said in the Oct. 29 FPT document issued to industry.

The project will combine two existing current programs into one., It will includeing the (CAN) $2.8 billion NATO Flying Training in Canada Program, which deals with advanced and lead-in fighter training. Besides training Royal Canadian Air Force pilots, that program is open to those from NATO and allied nations. Past participants have included aviators from Denmark, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In 2027, the (CAN) $1.77 billion Contracted Flying Training and Support project, which provides the Canadian Forces with primary flight training, and specialized helicopter and multi-engine, fixed-wing pilot training, also will be brought under the FPT umbrella.

Earlier this year CAE announced it was purchasing Bombardier's Military Aviation Training organization, and with it assuming responsibility for the NATO flying training program. That deal was completed Oct. 1 and CAE is now running the program based in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, said Mike Greenley, vice president for CAE Canada.

He said the Oct. 29 document from the Canadian government on FPT confirms that CAE will continue to operate the NATO flying training program until 2023. Greenley said the winning bidder for the FPT will be expected to gradually prepare from 2021 to 2023 to take over the NATO flying training program. Extending CAE's operation of that program would allow an orderly transition, and CAE would help the winning bidder ease into its new duties.

But that might not be necessary if CAE wins the FPT. Greenley said the firm fully intends to bid on the contract.

"We will be front and center as a prime contactors bidding on future pilot training," he explained said. "This is what we do."

While the Canadian government prepares the FPT project, the RCAF Royal Canadian Air Force is moving forward on a strategy to put increased emphasis on simulation. To accomplish that The RCAF intends to purchase simulators for its CC-177 Globemaster transport aircraft and CC-150 Polaris aircraft and CH-149 helicopters, according to the RCAF Simulation Strategy 2025, released March 13.

Those acquisitions would eliminate the need for the RCAF service to send personnel overseas for such pilot training, according to RCAF officers. Canadian pilots currently must travel to the US to use Globemaster simulators, to Germany to use C-150 (Airbus A310) simulators and to England for CH-149 (EH-101) simulators. No specific timelines for each of the purchases have been outlined.

The full cost of implementing the strategy is estimated at (CAN) $544 million, with the potential for (CAN) $2 billion in savings over 20 years, according to the RCAF.

An RCAF service spokesman said that the standard approach to training, heavily reliant upon the use of actual aircraft, is increasingly economically untenable.

Savings, including in fuel and wear and tear on aircraft frames, are partially driving the initiative. RCAF officers also said using simulation and other training aids to teach personnel will free up more aircraft for operations and reduce instruction time.

A virtual training network would be established across the country by 2025, In April, RCAF Brig. Gen. Phil Garbutt said when he briefed industry representatives in Ottawa on the simulation plan in April, noting that a virtual training network would be established across the country by 2025. The distributed and networked system could have aircrew at several locations across the country participating in a simulated mission or training event. The capability would be enhanced with distributed training with allies and allow for the addition of future devices, he said.

The simulation strategy also will look at RCAF aircraft that could be linked in the distributed mission training network. Among those would be the CP-140 Aurora maritime surveillance aircraft, which could be integrated with the new CH-148 maritime Cyclone helicopter, as well as Royal Canadian Navy training assets.

But Col. Paul Dittmann, director of air simulation and training, pointed out the challenges the RCAF faces in its plan. It is currently running a number of legacy training systems, which are incompatible with each other, making integration difficult to achieve, he saidnoted in a presentation to industry in April 9.

In addition, Companies also want to sell to the RCAF their own unique systems, a situation that is making "networked RCAF solutions unaffordable," Dittmann told industry representatives.