BAE Systems has been awarded a contract extension that will see the company continue to support the RAF’s Tornado GR.Mk 4 fleet through to the type’s planned out-of-service date in 2019. BAE has been supporting the aircraft through the ATTAC (availability transformation: Tornado aircraft contract) program since 2006, but the initial 10-year period was due to expire in 2016. The extension adds a further three years and approximately £125 million ($210 million) to the deal.
“I am delighted that we have been able to agree terms to continue to support the RAF’s Tornado fleet until their out-of-service date,” said Nigel Whitehead, group managing director for programs and support. “The original ATTAC contract has proved highly successful. It’s an excellent example of partnering as it provides an agile and responsive solution to our customer’s needs. This extension will mean we continue to play an essential role in helping the RAF gain operational advantage no matter what the challenge.”
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond added, “This investment will ensure our Tornados to be battle ready for the next five years, as a key part of the RAF’s fast-jet fleet. They currently play a vital role in supporting troops on the ground in Afghanistan, and they will continue to form the backbone of our ground-attack capability until the Joint Strike Fighter arrives and the Typhoon’s ground-attack capability is fully mature in a few years’ time.”
ATTAC was introduced as an innovative support package under which BAE Systems guarantees a level of aircraft availability. The contract also provides for upgrades to ensure aircraft effectiveness and capability throughout its service life. While ATTAC is to be worth £490 million ($825 million) to BAE Systems over the remaining five years, the company has also saved the UK Ministry of Defence approximately £90 million ($151 million) through fleet management efficiencies, as well as safeguarding some 600 jobs. Overall ATTAC has delivered an estimated £1.3 billion ($2.19 billion) saving to the UK taxpayer.The company supports aircraft at their home bases at Lossiemouth and Marham through maintenance and capability enhancements.
One concept that is being applied to the Tornado that is driving useful cost and time efficiencies is 3-D printing. Small plastic parts have been produced for the Tornado using this process for some time and, while the parts themselves are relatively cheap, the ability to produce them on site improves timely availability and saves money. BAE Systems estimates that the process can save approximately £1.2 million ($2 billion) over the next five years.
In early January, a Tornado flew for the first time with a metal part (a camera bracket) produced by 3-D printing. The extension of 3-D printing technology to metal structures will drive even more efficiencies in the near future.