A consortium of Qinetiq and Thales have chosen Textron Airland’s Scorpion light attack aircraft as the platform for its bid into a major U.K. live flying training program.

The companies want to offer the Scorpion for the U.K. defense ministry’s Air Support to Defense Operational Training (ASDOT) program.

CEOs from the three companies signed a memorandum of understanding at the Farnborough International Airshow on July 11. The ASDOT requirement will see the selected commercial operator deliver red air and electronic warfare (EW) training across the U.K. armed forces, replacing a number of individual contracts with a single umbrella contract with a single operator.

According to the bidders, the contract is expected to be awarded in September 2018, with a service delivery start in January 2020, and could be worth up to GBP1.2 billion (US$1.5 billion) over 15 years.

Several other companies have also expressed an interest in bidding for the contract, which will replace Cobham Aviation’s Falcon 20s and Fleet Requirements and Aircraft Direction Unit BAe Hawks operated by Babcock.

The consortium says the Scorpion was selected after evaluations of 50 different aircraft types.

Qinetiq’s role would be the provision of both the fleet and its pilots as well as aircraft maintenance. The company would also get involved in the integration of sensors and jamming pods as well as ensure that the program complies with the complex U.K. Military Aviation Authority rules. Qinetiq wouldalso ensure the aircraft have provisions for synthetic training and airborne aerial target towing.

Thales would install sensors onboard the aircraft to boost situational awareness, threat replication and targeting training as well as some electronic warfare capability.

Last year, British pilots from both the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy evaluated the Scorpion after the Paris Air Show. As part of that evaluation, they participated in a number of exercises in the close air support and intelligence-gathering missions supporting ground troops. As part of the trials, Thales I-Master synthetic aperture radar was integrated into the aircraft.

The Scorpion also operated with the Royal Navy’s Sea King airborne early warning helicopters.

Victor Chavez, Thales U.K. CEO, said: “Through this unique partnership with Qinetiq and Textron and the complementary expertise within our respective fields, we have the opportunity to offer all three armed services the most effective, cutting-edge technology coupled with world-leading training and services expertise.

Steve Wadey, Qinetiq CEO, said: “Collaborative working of this nature is vital within the aerospace and defense industries, and I believe this partnership puts us all in a strong position to succeed.”