The UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) was established in 2006 as a turnkey operation under which British military pilots and aircrew are trained in elementary, basic and advanced phases in preparation for joining operational military units. UKMFTS is run by Ascent Flight Training, a consortium of Babcock International and Lockheed Martin, under a Private Finance Initiative contract for the UK’s Ministry of Defence or a period of 25 years. The main elements of the system include fixed-wing elementary, multi-engine and fast-jet pilot training, rear crew training and rotary-wing (helicopter) training.
In 2016, Ascent selected Airbus Helicopters to supply 32 helicopters – 29 H135 airframes and 3 H145s – known locally by their code names Juno and Jupiter respectively – and these were all delivered on time for operational commencement on 1st April 2018.
In an interview at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford last June, Air Commodore Simon Edwards, Royal Air Force programme director for MFTS, was quoted as saying the H135 is “not large enough for all rear-crew training tasks” and that “a future acquisition creates the opportunity to rebalance the fleet mix”.
From HeliHub’s monitoring of the world’s helicopter production lines, and other research, it appears that four new Airbus H145s are being procured. Our analysis would suggest delivery to the UK around February/March 2020. The four will initially be delivered from the Donauworth factory in Germany to Airbus Helicopters UK, where a short programme of modification work will be done to meet specific UKMFTS training requirements. This has previously been achieved in around 6-8 weeks per airframe.
It is unclear at this time whether these four new deliveries are for a fleet expansion, or whether the H135 Juno fleet will be reduced by four in a sort of “part exchange” deal. We will report further once this becomes clear.
Airbus Helicopters UK declined to comment on this subject when requested.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
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