OF MILITARY AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT AND MILITARY COVENANTS
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
29 Oct 14. Confirmation that ‘Project Marshall’ which interestingly had begun life as the ‘Joint Military Air Traffic Service’ programme back in 2005 with an aim of delivering a modern and reliable military air traffic management to all MOD operated sites has finally been awarded will come as a great relief to all those involved. The award to ‘AQUILA’, a joint venture between NATS and Thales, means that the winning consortium can begin the process of delivering a programme intended to transform terminal air traffic management at military airfields.
I understand that the contract award to the Aquila consortium is valued at around £1.5bn over a period of 22 years. From the outset ‘Project Marshall’ had at its heart the aim to provide a safe, efficient and sustainable Air Traffic Management (ATM) system and service for the whole of the UK Armed Forces whether at home or abroad. The intention is that Air Traffic Management across over one hundred different MOD locations at home and overseas, including more than 60 airfields and ranges, will be substantially modernised and upgraded.
As the winning consortium, AQUILA will be expected to deliver system-wide modernisation and rationalisation of what is currently a fragmented Air Traffic Management system whilst at the same time establishing a flexible service that complies with known regulatory requirements and that is also future-proofed to meet any potential change in the regulatory and technological landscape. The contract scope will support all Air Traffic Management terminal operations that will continue to be delivered by military air traffic operators.
AQUILA will be expected to deliver new equipment, system upgrades, maintenance, support services and training through the life of the contract and my understanding is that they plan to introduce four new Air Traffic Management hubs that will allow services to be centralised, and thus effectively streamlining the delivery process making better use of new technology. As far as overseas airfields, Royal Navy Air Stations, Army plus others more geographically isolated UK airfields and ranges the plan is that these will continue to operate on a stand-alone basis but will have fully modernised approach and visual control rooms.
The award to the Thales/NATS Aquila consortium comes at a very interesting time in the defence calendar and it has rightly been warmly welcomed by the winning team.
Richard Deakin, CEO of NATS, said: “Marshall promises a genuine transformation for the UK’s military Air Traffic Management” while Thales CEO, Victor Chavez, said that “AQUILA brings together the best-in-class providers of Air Traffic Management systems and services to deliver the optimum solution for UK military air operations adding that Thales will draw on its extensive experience of delivering mission critical services to the MOD, and from other infrastructure projects that have demanded 24/7 service availability and required significant upgrades on infrastructure that is in constant use.
For the losing ‘Fusion’ consortium that included Lockheed Martin UK, Cobham and Selex the loss of Project Marshall is clearly disappointing but in saying “that although our bid for Project Marshall has been unsuccessful, we will continue to work closely with the MOD supporting other programmes where we support a wide range of mission critical systems” Lockheed Martin is showing a responsible attitude and approach.
Project Marshall will showcase the best in UK innovation with leading-edge technology deployed at UK controlled military airfields across the UK and overseas. As I had written a few weeks ago in regard of the CAE run helicopter training establishment at RAF Benson, this is yet another example industry working in long term partnership with the MOD for the wider benefit.
Promises made b