The UK Ministry of Defence has reportedly cancelled a programme to procure private contractors to provide air combat training for its pilots.
The ministry’s decision to end the programme, known as the Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) project, was first reported by The Telegraph.
Valued at up to £1.2bn, the ASDOT programme required contractors to provide live flying assets to meet training requirements for air to air combat, air to surface combat, joint terminal attack controller / forward air controller (airborne), electronic warfare, and air traffic control.
Equipment would also support ground-based air defence and aerospace battle management and live gunnery.
The programme was planned to replace the existing contractor and military-provided services as they expire.
In May last year, the MoD selected four groups to bid for the ASDOT competition to provide air support services for the airforce, navy, army and joint forces command from 2020.
Three of the groups were led by Babcock, Leonardo and Cobham respectively. The fourth group included Thales and QinetiQ.
The first phase of the ASDOT programme was planned to have a ten-year contract and an option to extend for a further five years.
Final nomination of a contractor was expected in September last year.
According to the Telegraph report, the ASDOT programme was supposed to save money as the contractor would be paid only for the time its jets are engaged in training the UK pilots. The payment would not include maintenance and storage costs.
The training programme was expected to present real-world combat situations to the British Armes Forces to better prepare troops.
The MoD was quoted by the publication as saying: “We received a number of industry proposals in response to the ASDOT invitation to negotiation. We will now re-assess the parameters for the programme.”
Exact reasoning for the MoD’s decision remains unclear although the report stated that the defence chiefs were unhappy with the high price quoted by the bidders.
An unidentified defence source said: “If the MoD wants to save money, then surely ASDOT is a good way to do it as they only pay for what they use.
“It also means our pilots are likely to be better trained, as they fight against different aircraft, instead of the Typhoons that they fly themselves.”
However, there is no clarity about whether the programme has been annulled completely or put on hold temporarily.
An MoD spokesperson told online publication Jane’s ‘that it is re-examining its options’.