The UK Armed Forces’ privatised pilot training system is taking nearly seven years to turn new recruits into frontline-ready aviators, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
The NAO investigation into the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) contract, which is let to a consortium backed in part by US arms multinational Lockheed Martin, thundered that the RAF was short of 330 pilots, while almost half of students entering the UKMFTS system last year failed to complete their intermediate training.
“In its worst year (2018-19), 49 students completed Phase 2, an 86 per cent shortfall against the [Ministry of Defence’s] current aircrew requirements. In its best year (2015-16), 182 students completed Phase 2, a 21 per cent shortfall,” said the NAO in its latest report.
Damningly, RAF fast jet pilots, the two-winged master race* who fly the service’s Typhoon and F-35 fighters, were taking more than seven years to get from joining the Air Force to being declared ready for frontline duties.
Part of the underlying cause of the problems identified by the NAO is the contractor’s failure to provide enough aeroplanes and instructors. Originally the post-Cold War era RAF had more than 100 Hawk advanced training jets, 130 Short Tucano intermediate trainers and 89 Grob Tutor basic training aeroplanes. Ascent, the Lockheed Martin-backed consortium, is replacing these with 23 Grob Prefect training aeroplanes, 10 Texan II fast jet trainers and five Embraer Phenom 100s. The MoD itself continues providing modernised Hawks.