RAAF contract hopes

HOPES are high that the Australian Defence Force’s new pilot training system will be coming to RAAF Base, East Sale.

A report on Australian Defence Magazine’s website last week named the Team 21 consortium, led by Lockheed Martin, as the successful tenderer for the Project Air 5428 contract.

The report stated BAE Systems had missed out on the 25-year contract which is worth $2 billion.

If the report is true, pilot training will be provided at East Sale.

BAE, which has been training ADF pilots at Tamworth airport since 1992, had submitted two options to provide Air 5428, on base at East Sale or off base at Tamworth.

No formal announcement has been made, however Tony Windsor, former federal member for New England, which takes in Tamworth, commented an announcement was likely in August.

Under Team 21, Lockheed Martin will provide program leadership and expertise in ground-based training systems, while partner Pilatus will provide its PC-21 aircraft and ongoing engineering and supply services, and Hawker Pacific will provide maintenance support.

A spokesman for Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said the project was still to be considered by government.

“Following government second pass approval, a formal announcement will be made,” he said.

“This decision is not expected until the second half of 2015.”

If Project Air 5428 came to East Sale, Wellington Shire mayor Carolyn Crossley said it would be a boost for the area.

“This project would boost on-base personnel numbers from 870 to around 1100 at any one time, including military, Defence staff, contractors and students; and result in family members of the new personnel relocating to Wellington,” she said.

“That sees new children attending our schools, new staff for our employers and new tenants and home buyers for our real estate market.

“We are hopeful that the immense efforts of council staff, in particular our economic development team, have helped secure Wellington as the natural choice for basic flight training.

“There has been strong local Wellington, broader Gippsland and Victorian state government bipartisan support over a number of years for the relocation of Defence Project Air 5428 and Basic Flying Training from current civilian airport at Tamworth, to RAAF Base East Sale, a military base with Defence controlled airspace.

“The tender process is rigorous and thorough and we are sure that, whatever the final decision announced will be, that it is based on merit as well as Defence operational need and capability requirements.”