Firms looking to bid for privatised RAF in-flight refuelling were invited to an open day this week at the Royal Air Force base in Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.
Industry has shown ‘strong interest’ in a £3.75bn private finance initiative (PFI) deal to replace the RAF’s elderly air-to-air refuelling aircraft, the Ministry of Defence said.
British Aerospace and British Airways are expected to join the bidding.
Instead of buying and operating new planes to replace ageing VC10s and TriStar tankers, the MoD wants industry to examine whether it could run the air-to-air refuelling service.
This would involve design, supply, management, operation and funding of the replacement tanker fleet.
More than 70 organisations expressed an interest in the project when it was announced at the Farnborough Air Show last September. And last month, nearly 50 firms attended an industry day at the MoD Procurement Executive’s headquarters at Abbey Wood, near Bath.
Sponsored reservists from the operating company could be used to crew and maintain the aircraft, the MoD said.
Also, ‘spare capacity for third party revenue generation’ could be possible when tankers were not needed for military duties.
A decision on the project will be made by 2002 and the new tanker could enter service two years later.
The MoD has so far signed 23 PFI projects worth £3bn.