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Published on February 8th, 2016 | by FII Reader

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£1.1 billion investment by the UK MoD in future military flying training

On 2nd February, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced a £1.1 billion (around €1.43 billion) investment to continue the modernisation Military Flight Training System (MFTS) infrastructure and effectively privatises the remaining fixed-wing elements of military flying training in the UK. Making the announcement, Minister of State for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne, said that the new Fixed Wing flying training system, will provide modern training aircraft, as well as up-to-date ground based training devices, such as simulators and classroom learning for aircrew across the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm and Army Air Corps.

The £1.1 billion contract has been placed with Ascent Flight Training. The contract is to design, deliver and manage the Fixed Wing training service until 2033 and is expected to provide roughly 200 jobs across the UK, particularly at the key training bases. Ascent is a 50/50 joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Babcock International. Under the contract, Ascent, who was selected as the Ministry of Defence’s flying training partner in 2008, will be required to deliver the instruction, infrastructure and support required to provide flying training across the three Armed Services. Multi-Engine Pilot Training will be in place from mid-2018 and Basic Flying Training element up and running by early 2019. Once fully operational, fixed wing flying training will see students conduct Elementary Flying Training on the Grob 120TP – to be named the ‘Prefect’ for the UK – before going on to complete either Multi Engine Pilot Training on the Embraer ‘Phenom’ 100 or Basic Flying Training on the Beechcraft ‘Texan’ T-6C.

Minister of State for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne

Minister of State for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne

Ascent says it “is fully committed to this unique task, and with its shareholders, has the depth of experience to deliver excellence. This contract represents a world-class, efficient and innovative partnering agreement between the finest air and aviation forces, a committed MoD and leading industry partners”. It will provide “an integrated, coherent tri-service training solution. Everything from training needs analysis, acquisition of training aircraft, training design and curriculum development, provision of site facilities, hangars, classrooms, training devices and simulators. And, most importantly, delivery of training. Safety and efficiency guides each step of the process”.

The Minister of State said that the announcement was fantastic news “for the future of our military aircrew, providing them with a modern training system which will equip them to deliver on the front line”.

“With our strong commitment to air power as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review and our investment of £178 billion (around €231.35 billion) in equipment over the next 10 years, this contract is further proof of our commitment to invest in the UK’s defence capabilities for the future, ensuring that we continue to be a world leader in military flying training” he added.

Managing Director of Ascent, Paul Livingston said: “The award of these contracts marks a key milestone for the Fixed Wing element of the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS). Modern training aircraft selected specifically to meet the bespoke needs of the UK’s Armed Forces will deliver optimised training alongside high tech simulators and classroom trainers.”

Air Marshal Sir Baz North, the ‘Senior Responsible Owner’ for the UKMFTS, added: “The UK MFTS Fixed Wing Contract provides enhanced synthetic and live flying training for the UK’s military aircrew out to 2033. The service employs modern, adaptable and sustainable systems which exploit the advantages of the simulated environment to prepare our aircrew to meet the challenges of future combat operations”.

Air Vice-Marshal Sue Gray, Director of Combat Air at the MoD’s Defence Equipment & Support said: “This contract will replace legacy fleets of aircraft with new, modern platforms that better replicate the aircraft used by front line operational squadrons”.

“Up-to-date training methods will also be developed to ensure that students are able to progress to operational training more efficiently and provide value for money” he added.

Uk pilot training infograhic (MoD)As part of this investment, a contract worth approximately £500 million (around €650 million), has been signed with Affinity, who will provide the aircraft that will be used at different stages of the training. Affinity, itself is a joint venture between Kellogg Brown and Root Ltd (KBR) and Elbit Systems UK. It will provide the three aircraft types as well as their maintenance and support. Thirty-eight modern, glass cockpit aircraft will be delivered in a phased approach over the next three years comprising 23 Grob G 120TP ‘Prefects’, 10 Beechcraft ‘Texan’ T-6Cs and five Embraer ‘Phenom’ 100 jets-all featuring digital cockpits, exposing students at an early stage to the technologies they will rely on at the operational level. They will replace the UK’s in-service Grob G115 Tutors, Short Tucano T1s and Beechcraft King Air 200/350s. Embraer says its subcontract with Affinity “includes support services and an option for additional, follow-on aircraft”. Additional demand is expected to stem from the MoD’s late 2015 decisions to retain some of its Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports in service, and also to acquire nine Boeing P-8A maritime patrol aircraft as announced in the latest UK Strategic Defence and Security Review.

The Beechcraft ‘Texan’ T-6C military trainer is an advanced version of the original T-6A, with updated cockpit avionics. Its new cockpit includes a Head-Up Display (HUD), Up-Front Control Panel (UFCP), three-color Multi-function Displays (MFD), Hands-On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS), as well as advanced synthetic air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons training capabilities. The integrated glass cockpit and a state-of-the-art avionics suite greatly expands its capabilities, enabling the advanced systems and information management skills training required in current and future military aircraft. The ‘Texan’ is being used to train pilots, navigators, and weapons systems operators from more than 20 countries around the world, and to date Beechcraft has delivered more than 900 of these trainers, which have amassed more than 2.6 million flight hours.

Future RAF Embraer ‘Phenom’ 100

Future RAF Embraer ‘Phenom’ 100

Built by Embraer Executive Jets, the Phenom 100E incorporates the same Embraer design philosophy and engineering experience that goes into building Embraer’s larger corporate and commercial jets, This makes it a very reliable, cost-effective and easy to operate aircraft that was also selected to provide flight training services to major international airlines. This high-performance entry-level jet offers seating for up to seven occupants, an unsurpassed ramp presence, and the economics of a turboprop.

LIBRARY IMAGE: A pilot demonstrates one of the range of simulators used to train RAF and RN pilots as part of the UK's advanced fast jet programme. The increased use of simulators, known as synthetic training, alongside live flying in the UK-built Hawk T2 means that graduates from the course are better prepared for frontline squadrons than ever before.

A pilot demonstrates one of the range of simulators used to train RAF and RN pilots as part of the UK’s advanced fast jet programme. The increased use of simulators, known as synthetic training, alongside live flying in the UK-built Hawk T2 means that graduates from the course are better prepared for frontline squadrons than ever before.

The Grob 120TP is the next generation elementary training aircraft and simplicity in pilot operation and system functions make the G 120TP the only sophisticated mission training platform that can accommodate typical elementary, basic and advanced pilot training segments. Full Virtual Tactical Training capability also including HOTAS, combined with high dispatch reliability, make the G 120TP not only the most cost efficient solution for the future, but also the best integrated training system overall. To be known as ‘The Prefect’ in RAF service in honour of the Avro 626 single-engined biplane trainer used by RAF pilots before and during the Second World War. The Irish Air Corps also received four of these aircraft, which served until 1941.

Contracts have also been awarded to Lockheed Martin and Babcock who have been selected to deliver all of the ground based training equipment and infrastructure to support the delivery of the fixed wing training capability.

Other parts of the tri-service MFTS infrastructure already in use include the Royal Air Force’s BAE Systems Hawk T2 advanced jet trainers and King Air 350 Avengers used by the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm for observer training.

Flightglobal, referencing unnamed Industry sources suggest a contract for the rotary-wing aspect of MFTS could be signed within two months. This will provide replacements for the Airbus Helicopters AS350s and Bell Helicopter 412s operated by the tri-service Defence Helicopter Flying School. Candidate types include models on offer from AgustaWestland and Airbus Helicopters.

Article by Michael Whelan.

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