The UK Ministry of Defence has begun negotiations with its preferred suppliers for the Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) requirement, which will see a thorough refresh of the UK’s airborne adversary training capability. An Invitation to Negotiation (ITN) was issued last month to industry, with the MoD confirming to AIN that the program is moving into its negotiation phase.
“The winning bidder entity will be announced once this has completed and internal approval received to place the contract,” a spokesperson confirmed. A contract award is expected in June 2020.
A total of four companies—Babcock Aerospace, Thales UK, Cobham Aviation Services and Leonardo—and their associated teams will negotiate with the MoD on the program. All four companies have formed multinational industry teams to meet a complex set of service requirements laid out by the UK.
Babcock is teaming with Israeli company Elbit Systems, with a partnering agreement announced last December. The two companies have existing experience working together on the UK Military Flying Training System program, which trains both fixed-wing and rotary-wing pilots. Thales announced in 2016 that it had partnered with QinetiQ and Textron AirLand for ASDOT, which includes the potential utilization of the latter company’s Scorpion light fighter aircraft.
Last year Cobham teamed with Draken International, a U.S.-based company specializing in contract air services. In July 2018, it announced that it had also teamed with 3SDL, a specialist in close air support and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance experimentation and emulation for collective training within the UK MoD.
Meanwhile, Leonardo has formed the "Red Aces" team with Inzpire and Canadian contractor Top Aces. According to Leonardo, Inzpire will likely take the lead on the project owing to its experience in delivering large-scale live and synthetic training to the RAF Air Warfare Centre, RAF Typhoon Force, and Air Battlespace Training Centre at RAF Waddington.
The MoD has previously stated to industry that the ASDOT program—which will provide air support services to the RAF, Royal Navy, Army, and Joint Forces Command—will begin in 2020 and cover a 10-year period, with the potential for that to be extended by another five years. This 15-year period, also known as Phase 1, has an estimated value of £700 million ($919.6 million).
A "surge" requirement is also envisioned around 2027, which has the potential to add another £500 million to the program for the successful bidder. All up, it is expected that the program could have a value of around £1.25 billion.
According to MoD documentation, ASDOT covers the provision of live flying assets and “technical capabilities to produce effects in support of training and assurance requirements.” The MoD official, responding to AIN, said it “looked forward to seeing four, potentially very different, solutions to meeting this requirement," adding, “The ASDOT Delivery Team remains agnostic to the potential platform(s) to be proposed for delivery of these effects, and the number of flying hours will be solution-specific.”