A Royal Air Force contractor has signed a deal that paves the way for a pay-as-you-go training system for fighter pilots.
AirTanker, which rents Voyager refuelling craft to the RAF, has signalled that it is interested in renting out jet trainer aircraft that could be used to train fighter pilots.
It has signed a deal with Aeralis, which is positioning itself to provide a replacement for the RAF’s Hawk trainer aircraft. As well as training, its modular jets can be fitted with different suites of weaponry to also serve as attack aircraft.
AirTanker and Aeralis say they can provide cost-effective training for British warplane pilots and their allies and will discuss a “model” for doing so.
In 2008, AirTanker signed a £13bn, 27-year contract with the Ministry of Defence to deliver and maintain 14 tanker transport aircraft, which operate as Voyager while in RAF service.
Based on the A330 jet, they can also be used as airliners and are often rented out to ferry ministers and the Royal family.
As well as teaching pilots to fly in a jet-powered aircraft, the platform is capable of being fitted with twin engines and training pilots in combat scenarios.
Aeralis said its jet should offer “significantly lower financing, acquisition and operating costs for aircraft compared to incumbents, paving the way for enabling a wide range of ‘on-demand’ operational air support services as part of the future of air force fleets.”
The jet is still in development but will fly in the next three years. Last year it won the backing of Rolls-Royce and ejector seat firm Martin Baker, as well as investment from the Royal Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office to test its system to allow electronic components to be swapped in and out and upgraded without the aircraft needing a costly recertification by regulators.
Its modular craft, sharing 85pc common parts, should help shave 30pc off costs over the life of the craft compared to a bespoke jet, which requires specific training and parts to maintain.
AirTanker started off as a collaboration between Airbus, Babcock, Cobham, Rolls-Royce and Thales, but Rolls, Babcock and Cobham sold out. It is now owned by Airbus, Thales and Equitix Investment Management.
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