Public Accounts Committee holds a session on military flying training Wednesday 14 October at 2.30pm.
Scope of the inquiry
Having highly trained aircrew is essential to UK defence capability. Training aircrew is expensive and it can take many years before they are ready for front-line operations. For example, it costs at least £2 million and takes around 4 years to train a fast-jet pilot. An National Audit Office report in 2000 identified that flying training was taking too long and costing more than it should due to inefficiencies in the training system. In response, the Ministry of Defence awarded industry provider Ascent a 25-year contract to develop and manage a new approach. Ascent is responsible for providing aircraft and simulators for training, running training courses and training an agreed number of aircrew each year. However, the Department still controls many factors that affect training, such as student selection, and provision of military instructors and airspace for training.
The full implementation of the new training system for military aircrew has been delayed by nearly six years. Delays have been caused by a number of events. These include the government’s decision to reduce the size of the front line fleet of aircraft, resulting in a substantial reduction in the number of aircrew entering training each year; a decrease in overall funding from a forecast of £6.8 billion to £3.2 billion; changes to the funding approach (from PFI to conventional funding); and poor contractor performance between 2008 and 2012. These events have taken the MOD time to resolve and the new core training is now scheduled to be running at full capacity by December 2019. Although the MOD has taken action and contractor performance has improved, this inquiry questions whether the Department uses data effectively to better understand training performance and how to secure improvements. It gains an oversight of the programme and establishes how the Department could manage better the uncertainty in such long-term contracts and examines how the Department plans to work more effectively with Ascent to achieve the expected benefits of the new core flying training.