The Textron AirLand Scorpion has been selected by QinetiQ and Thales to provide a large proportion of the platform capabilities for their planned ASDOT bid (ASDOT is the UK Ministry of Defence’s Air Support to Defence Operational Training program). The three company CEOs involved signed a memorandum of understanding at Farnborough yesterday to launch the bid.
An ASDOT contract is due to be awarded in September 2018, with delivery of the service to run for 15 years starting in January 2020. The program aims to deliver a new training capability to meet the needs of a modern force, with increasing emphasis on a mix of live flying with simulation and synthetics. As such, ASDOT is closely linked with the Defence Operational Training Capability—Air (DOTC—Air) program, which is primarily concerned with synthetic training.
The exact nature of ASDOT has yet to be revealed, although a URD (user requirements document) was issued earlier this year through the Niteworks MOD/industry partnership, providing QinetiQ and Thales with enough information to begin formulating a bid. An MoD SRD (system requirements document) is due to be issued in January. In the meantime, the QinetiQ/Thales team has been studying the potential needs of ASDOT, which cover elements such as ‘red air’ aggressor, missile simulation, forward air control training, and electronic warfare training.
To answer these expected requirements, the team evaluated more than 50 potential aircraft types, selecting the Scorpion to perform many of the expected missions. Rather than use retired military aircraft, a state-of-the-art new design was desired to cover a program that will run to at least 2035, if not beyond. The Scorpion’s operating costs of less than $3,000 per hour and better than 98 percent reliability to date are also seen as attractive factors.
While the Scorpion would undertake much of the flying portion of the ASDOT proposal, the team recognizes that there are some tasks that would be performed by other aircraft, including a business jet type. Also, the MoD has signaled its intentions to keep some older Tranche 1 Typhoons in service to act as high-end aggressors.
The Scorpion can be easily configured with new sensors and systems, and is being displayed at Farnborough with a QinetiQ modular electronic warfare pod. The ability to mount the Thales RDY-3 multi-mode radar is also being promoted. The aircraft already has some unrelated experience in the training support role, having been invited to partake in Royal Navy exercises during its visit to the UK in 2014.
Later this summer, the sole example of the Scorpion, to date, should be joined in the air by a second aircraft. This is in the final stages of being completed to a production-representative configuration and will be the aircraft used for certification purposes.