The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has moved to scrap entirely its GBP1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) project to provide its military pilots with air combat training through a private contractor.
The program referred to as Air Support to Defense Operational Training (ASDOT) has been canceled in an effort to reassess the requirement – a move that comes as the timetable for picking a winning bid and awarding a contract had been slated for late 2018, with the 10-year program to then kick off in January 2020. That contract would have also included an option to extend the program out an additional five years.
The British MoD issued an Invitation to Negotiation to industry in August 2018, receiving submissions from teams led by Babcock Aerospace, Cobham Aviation Services, Leonardo, and Thales UK. However, the selection process continued to be delayed, pushing back operational timetables and forcing the cash-strapped MoD to rethink its plan.
The project would have seen pilots from across the British military receive training – most likely against aircraft types not in U.K operational inventories – in air-to-air combat, air-to-surface combat, joint terminal attack, electronic warfare, ground-based air defense and aerospace battle management, and live gunnery scenarios. The provision of contractor-owned and contractor-operated (COCO) aircraft would progressively replace existing contractor- and military-provided training services as they wrapped up.
Instead the MoD is going back to the drawing board to find an appropriate solution as carrier-borne air strike operations are scheduled to achieve Initial Operational Capability with the HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2020, followed by first operational deployment in 2021. Therefore, time is of the essence.