[Editor’s Note: Much like their American counterparts, the British Royal Air Force has reached a point where it needs to upgrade its military aircrew training apparatus, to include its primary training aircraft. Technology has progressed to such a point where the existing fleet of trainers aren’t able to receive necessary upgrades to prepare student aviators for the cockpits of tomorrow. The Ministry of Defense is looking to rectify that.]

A key part of a contractor-managed program to train future British military aircrew has finally fallen into place with the signing of a deal for a KBR-Elbit Systems joint venture to provide and support three new fixed-wing aircraft fleets as part of the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS).

The private finance initiative (PFI) signed with Ascent, the Lockheed Martin-Babcock joint venture, which runs the UKMFTS program, will see Affinity Flying Training Services procure, operate and maintain 10 Beechcraft Texan T-6C aircraft, and 23 Grob G120TP Prefect turboprops along with five Embraer Phenom 100 jets to train Royal Air Force and Royal Navy air crew. The deal runs until 2033.

Embraer Phenom 100 jet. (Photo courtesy of Embraer)
Embraer Phenom 100 jet. (Photo courtesy of Embraer)

Embraer said in a press release accompanying the announcement Feb. 2 that it’s contract includes “an option for additional follow on aircraft.” Other suppliers are reckoned to have similar arrangements in place.

Iain Chalmers, Affinity’s managing director, confirmed platform numbers could rise subject to future customer requirements.

“We have commercial arrangements in place with our suppliers in the event that the needs of our clients should change in the coming years,” he said.

A decision on a winning contractor for a similar rotary wing service provision deal is expected in the next two months or so.

Affinity estimates its element of the fixed-wing training project will be worth around £500 million (US $720 million) through the end of a deal, which will replace current elementary, multi-engine and basic flying training aircraft by January 2019.

The first aircraft to be delivered in the program, a German-built Grob G120TP, will be handed over to the contractor late this year while the final aircraft, a Texan T-6, is scheduled to be delivered mid-2018.

The deal will see the current training fleets of Grob G115, Beechcraft King Air 200/350s and Shorts Tucano be pensioned off.

From G120TP aircraft, pictured here in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
From G120TP aircraft, pictured here in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

In total, the Ministry of Defence has set aside £1.2 billion for Ascent to provide fixed-wing training under the UKMFTS deal, a figure which also includes ground-based training devices and infrastructure as well as the platforms.

Advanced training on RAF-owned BAE Systems Hawk jet trainers is also part of the UKMFTS program but comes under a separate budget.

Lockheed Martin has been contracted to supply a range of training devices including a full flight simulator for multi-engine pilot training and its Ascent partner, Babcock, will add new infrastructure as part of the fixed-wing training deal.

Ascent was awarded a 25-year PFI contract by the MoD in 2008 to develop and manage a UKMFTS program providing fixed-wing and helicopter pilot and rear crew training.

Affinity’s deal with Ascent is effectively a PFI wrapped inside a larger PFI.

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Andrew Barrie, who leads KBR’s Government Services business in the UK, said he was “delighted that following our selection as a preferred bidder only a little over a year ago we have reached financial closure on this complex PFI.”

A speedy conclusion to the contract, at least by the standards of a complex PFI, ends a competition which has been anything but swift.

Ascent kicked off the competition as far back as 2010 when it issued to potential bidders what was called an outline solution request for proposals.

A Beechcraft (Textron Aviation Defense) T-6C Texan II demonstrator departs for a training flight. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)
A Beechcraft (Textron Aviation Defense) T-6C Texan II demonstrator departs for a training flight. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Affinity was tapped as the winning bidder around September 2013 but was only confirmed as the preferred aircraft service provider in October 2014.

In part, negotiations ahead of Affinity being named preferred contractor were slowed while Ascent and the MoD sought to resolve a series of issues that were dogging the wider UKMFTS program.

The program is a substantial win for KBR and its Israeli partner.

For KBR, it’s a boost to its government services business while the oil and gas industry is facing a dip. It also helps replace the fall-off of in-theater support on deployed operations work for which it is probably best known in the defense sector here.

The UK arm of KBR has secured several government services deals in the last few months, including a contract to act as delivery partner in a £1 billion emergency services mobile communications program for the Home Office.

Elbit already has a footprint in the UK, most notably as Thales UK’s partner in the supply of the Watchkeeper UAV program to the British Army.

“This award attests to Elbit’s leading position as a provider of advanced avionics system and training infrastructure, as well as maintenance and logistics support services,” said Butzi Machlis, the president and CEO of Elbit.

The company already runs a PFI-type pilot training program for the Israeli Air Force.

The original article can be viewed here.