Puma helicopter

NATS has received a contract modification to help QinetiQ continue supporting the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) test and evaluation (T&E) air ranges across the country.

Under the contract, the company’s air traffic controllers will facilitate live weapons tests at ranges throughout the UK, including the use of advanced fighter aircraft, armoured vehicles, ships, and remotely piloted air systems (RPAS).

QinetiQ currently operates and manages some of the MoD’s core test and evaluation (T&E) air ranges in the UK at MoD Aberporth and MoD Hebrides and MoD West Freugh, as part of a 25-year long-term partnering agreement that delivers T&E and training support services to the ministry.

"NATS has some of the world’s most respected expertise in managing the atmosphere (ATM) element of these highly specialised and vital trials."

NATS Services managing director Catherine Mason said: "The work at Aberporth and the ranges is hugely important to UK Defence, and NATS has some of the world’s most respected expertise in managing the atmosphere (ATM) element of these highly specialised and vital trials."

QinetiQ MOD Aberport site manager Rik Sellwood said: "By putting this contract out to competition, we have reaffirmed that NATS is well-positioned to meet our requirements, while ensuring that we are getting the best value for money for the UK taxpayer.

"This process will result in efficiency savings over seven years and looks certain to further strengthen our proven relationship with NATS."

Specifically, NATS’ specialists will advise on and devise the air traffic management element of each trial, working to ensure the vehicles such as fighter jets, remotely piloted air system (RPAS), ships or tanks are in their required positions for any particular test to ensure that the right data can be captured for analysis.

In addition, the air traffic controllers will also have to keep the airspace ‘sterile,’ as infringements into segregated ‘danger area’ airspace become more risky where fast jets and live weapon trials are being conducted.

Work under the contract is scheduled to be carried out over the next seven years. The value of the contract currently remains undisclosed.


Image: A trio of the UK Royal Air Force Puma II helicopters with rotors running at West Freugh, Scotland. Photo: courtesy of RAF / MOD Crown Copyright 2014.