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Volume 476: debated on Monday 2 June 2008

I am pleased to announce the award of a contract to Ascent valued at £635 million, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and VT Group, for the UK military flying training system, which is designed to meet the long-term flying training needs of the UK armed forces.

Ascent has been appointed as training system partner to work with the Ministry of Defence to incrementally procure and deliver flying training capability, the first part of which is a ground-based training environment, funded under a private finance initiative, for the advanced jet trainer, Hawk 128. Our intention is to add other elements of flying training in due course so that all flying training is brought within a single training architecture, making UK military flying training system the first step in a 25-year programme.

This contract signals our intention to overhaul our training schemes and bring them together into one modern and cohesive programme. The focus, as it always has been, will be on delivering first-class training to produce high-calibre, well-trained personnel for Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army aircrew. We will continue to ensure that our flying personnel are equipped to meet contemporary and future threats, but the new contract should allow us to reduce overall costs and also improve training throughput to frontline units by improving the overall training times for aircrew and reducing delays between flying courses.

This is a significant milestone for UKMFTS, which will enable us to exploit the strengths of the Ministry of Defence, the armed forces and the private sector to deliver outstanding military capability.