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Boost for Culdrose 750 NAS - MOD signs contract with Ascent Flight Training

Published: 10 Jun 2023

New jobs and upgraded aircraft have been announced in a £125 million agreement for the Royal Navy’s 750 Naval Air Squadron.


The Ministry of Defence signed the contract with Ascent Flight Training, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin UK and Babcock International, to continue training the next generation of aircrew.


750 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) is based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall and trains naval helicopter observers and RAF weapon system officers.


Its personnel is a mixture of military and civilian instructors and pilots, civil servants and civilian contractors.


The new contact will create five new roles at RNAS Culdrose and will sustain 43 jobs across the south west.


Lieutenant Commander Dan Breward, the commanding officer of 750 NAS, said: “This announcement involves a continued and substantial investment in this squadron and RNAS Culdrose. It comes in the form of new jobs and a major upgrade to our fleet of King Air Avenger training aircraft giving them modernised radars, mission systems and sensor capabilities. 


“The programme will ensure that observers and weapon system officers continue to operational conversion units and onwards to the UK’s frontline aircraft.


“Here at 750 NAS, our Royal Navy personnel and staff from Ascent Flight Training, the Civil Service, and companies Draken, Babcock and CAE, all work closely together to deliver these training programmes. It is an exciting time for us as we expand our operations and increase the number of trainee aircrew who pass through our doors.”


The training takes place under the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS). This critical venture prepares Royal Navy observers and RAF weapon system officers to operate onboard Wildcat, Merlin, Poseidon and Rivet Joint aircraft.


Lasting three years, the contract will run until June 2026 when the future intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) and Rear Crew Training System (FIRCTS) programme replaces it.


Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge said: “It is through our talented people and our partnerships with industry that we can deploy cutting-edge capabilities wherever they are required. Not only will the new Rear Crew contract ensure the continuation of a vital intelligence gathering capability, but also secure dozens of jobs in the south-west.


“By replacing the current training system with a new Airborne Mission Trainer, the Rear Crew Sustainment programme will keep aircraft in service for longer. The Avenger aircraft that is currently used will be extensively modified to accommodate an electronically scanned array radar, an electro optical camera, and reconfiguration of the cabin area and mission consoles, extending its service life 10 years from 2023 to 2033.”


Vice Admiral Rick Thompson, General Director Air for the Ministry of Defence’s DE&S (Defence Equipment and Support) added: “The provision of this contract will ensure the continuation of the critical training required for the production of qualified mission aircrew needed for front line duties.


“Observers in the Royal Navy are a key part of a flight crew on board Wildcat and Merlin helicopters, where they are expected to navigate, operate communications systems and on occasions control the weaponry. In the RAF, a weapon systems officer manages the sensors and weapons of their aircraft during operational missions, whilst at the same time gathering intelligence and supporting forces on the ground.”


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