Advanced Jet Training at RAF Valley was the first “training service package” to be signed by Ascent–the contractor that is taking over the UK Military Flying Training System–with the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Another to train the Royal Navy’s rear aircrew (“observers”) followed. It was implemented in 2011-12 at RAF Barkston Heath on the MoD’s pre-existing contract-provided Grob 115E elementary trainers, and at RNAS Culdrose, where four King Air 350ER twin turboprops acquired by Ascent are based.
Five more packages were due to be signed by Ascent, covering elementary flying training (EFT); basic flying training (BFT); multi-engine pilot training (MEPT); rotary-wing training (RWT); and RAF rear crew training (RCT2). But they were delayed by various reviews and the uncertainty over numbers to be trained caused by the downsizing of the RAF.
It was eventually decided that Ascent would seek one provider of fixed-wing aircraft for the EFT, BFT and MEPT requirements. It also would seek providers of new helicopters for RWT. Lockheed Martin would evaluate proposals for ground training equipment and courseware. Babcock would manage competitions for the training infrastructure.
Three bids for the fixed-wing aircraft provision were submitted:
• A BAE Systems/Babcock/Gama/Pilatus team recommended keeping the Grob 115E for the EFT, plus Pilatus PC-21s for BFT and Cessna Citation Mustangs for the MEPT;
• An EADS Cassidian/CAE/Cobham team proposed the Grob G120TP and the Beechcraft T-6C for EFT and BFT;
• Elbit Systems and KBR teamed as the Affinity Group also recommended the G120TP plus the T-6C for EFT and BFT, plus the Embraer Phenom 100 for MEPT.
A reliable source told AIN that only the Affinity Group bid was found to be compliant. Paul Livingston, managing director, Ascent, told AIN that “a revise-and-confirm RFP has been issued. Announcement of a preferred bidder is expected in the third quarter of 2014.” On the previously released schedule, the new EFTs and MEPTs were due to be delivered from 2017, with the new BFTs to follow as of 2018.
The way forward for rotary-wing training has now been agreed. Ascent was due to issue an RFP for new helicopters this month. It also has begun the process of acquiring new aircraft for RAF rear-crew training, for service from mid-2016.