Bids in for British flight training system

Jan. 10, 2011 at 10:22 AM
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LONDON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Three bidders look set to compete in the provision contract for the British armed forces as part of the Lockheed Martin/Babcock Military Flying Training System program.

The program is designed to replace the current elementary multi-engine air crew training equipment.

Britain's BAE System is vying for the deal, forming a consortium for the fixed-wing project with Babcock, Gamma and Pilatus.

Israel's Elbit has also put forward a bid together with the Cobham-led consortia.

Contenders for a similar competition in the rotary-wing sector are to deliver their bids Friday. It is the first time that Cobham and Elbit have been named as contenders.

The contract is estimated at $1.5 billion and the training system program, although part of the British military, is a privately funded initiative run by Lockheed Martin and Babcock under a joint venture called Ascent.

Ascent will be responsible for selecting the next-generation training infrastructure. The program is expected to run over a 25-year period.

The system is also intended to replace the Tucano basic trainer and King Air 200 multi-engine machines.

The rotary-wing competition is also expected to be worth more than $1 billion and interested parties are expected to include the FB Heliservices consortium, which runs the Defense Helicopter Flying School at an air base in Shropshire, plus airframers such as AgustaWestland, the Defense News Web site reported.

Some parts of the new industry-led training regime, such as new aircraft for rear crew training and advanced jet training, along with various parts of the ground-based infrastructure, are already being delivered," it said.

The much-vaunted program remains on scheduled despite a recent call of sweeping cutbacks across the British air force and navy following a strategic defense and security review.

A selection decision is expected later this year or early 2012 with the aim of service entry by 2015.

The BAE-led consortium hasn't named the platforms it will be offering but a company officials said selections were based on "an upgraded Grob 115 with digital cockpit and Pilatus PC21 with a Hawk T2 optimized cockpit."

"For multi-engine training, we have selected the Cessna Citation Mustang, which is widely recognized as the emerging multi-engine training platform of choice by many multi-engine operators around the world," the spokesman said.

Both Cobham and Elbit have declined to roffer details of their bids.

Poor financial planning and failure to take responsibility for over-ordering on equipment projects, are said to have contributed to the British Ministry of Defense's poor finances.

Such failures have precipitated draconian cutbacks and delays to several programs.

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