£125 million air crew contract supports UK jobs in the Southwest

Photographer: POPhot Kyle Heller Copyright: UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023. GL (Open Government License).

A new £125 million deal between Ascent Flight Training and the MOD will ensure the continuation of training of key military aircrew – creating five new roles at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall and sustaining 43 local jobs across the supply chain.

The training will take place at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall under the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS).

This critical venture will prepare Royal Navy observers and RAF weapon system officers to operate onboard Wildcat, Merlin, Poseidon and Rivet Joint aircraft.

Their training will be conducted by a collaboration of civilian instructors and military staff operating from 750 Naval Air Squadron. The continuation of this contract will also create five new roles at RNAS Culdrose and sustain 43 jobs across the supply chain. delivering on the Prime Ministers priority of growing the economy.

Lasting three years, the contract will run until June 2026 the future intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) and Rear Crew Training System (FIRCTS) programme replaces it.

Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge said:

“It is through our talented people and our partnerships with industry that we can deploy cutting-edge capabilities wherever they are required.

“Not only will the new Rear Crew contract ensure the continuation of a vital intelligence gathering capability, but also secure dozens of jobs in the south-west.”

By replacing the current training system with a new Airborne Mission Trainer, the Rear Crew Sustainment programme will keep aircraft in service for longer. The Avenger aircraft that is currently used will be extensively modified to accommodate an electronically scanned array radar, an electro optical camera, and reconfiguration of the cabin area and mission consoles, extending its service life 10 years from 2023 to 2033.

Additional upgrades to the ground-based training equipment will ensure better coherence across training systems.

DE&S General Director Air, Vice Admiral Rick Thompson said:

“The provision of this contract will ensure the continuation of the critical training required for the production of qualified mission aircrew needed for front line duties.

“Rear crew observers in the Royal Navy are a key part of a flight crew on board Wildcat and Merlin helicopters, where they are expected to navigate, operate communications systems and on occasions control the weaponry.”

In the RAF, a Weapon Systems Officer manages the sensors and weapons of their aircraft during operational missions, whilst at the same time gathering intelligence and supporting forces on the ground.

UKMFTS team leader at DE&S, Michelle Ostergaard said:

“This contract award is a major achievement by the UKMFTS Delivery Team, in collaboration with our industry colleagues. The continuation of Mission Aircrew training at RNAS Culdrose and obsolescence removal programme over the next three years will pave the way for the Future ISTAR and Rear Crew Training System (FIRCTS), which will significantly uplift the training system capability and capacity.”


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