LONDON — Rotary pilot and rear crew training capabilities for the British military have been given a lift with an order for additional Airbus helicopters in part of a wider boost to a package of improvements announced Jan. 21 by the Ministry of Defence.

The £183 million (U.S. $238 million) deal will see Airbus supply four of its H145 helicopters to the rotary wing element of the U.K. Military Flying Training System program. UKMFTS is run by the Babcock-Lockheed Martin joint venture Ascent Flight Training Management in partnership with the MoD.

Aside from the H145 helos, known in Britain as Jupiters, the MoD has funded the acquisition of another simulator, made by Canadian vendor CAE, and infrastructure improvements at Royal Air Force Shawbury, the headquarters of Britain’s tri-service helicopter training effort.

“The new H145 helicopters and simulator will enable students to learn how to fly a range of missions, covering expected scenarios on operational deployment. In addition, the H145s enable students to practice winching tasks and rear crew activities,” the MoD said in a statement announcing the deal.

“It is part of a wider program to increase training capacity for UK military pilots overall, as part of the £3.2 billion UKMFTS program and helps address the increased demand for pilot training identified in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review,” the statement added.

The helicopter element of MFTS currently operates 29 Airbus H135s for basic training, and three H145s for more advanced pilot training and particularly for rear crew work like winching. The H135 is known in Britain as the Juno.

All four aircraft are expected to be delivered to the MFTS program by the end of this year.

The more than doubling of the H145 fleet reflects the increasing number of rotary rear crew and pilots required by the British military. Crew shortages in fixed- and rotary-wing sectors have caused concern at the MoD, with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace saying late last year that fixing the problem is a top priority.

To help meet demand, additional fixed-wing aircraft may also be added to a fleet that already includes T-6 Texans, Phenon multi-engine trainers and King Air rear crew trainers.

Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.

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