The Royal Navy crew will receive an improved edition of basic flying training under a £57m contract signed with Ascent, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and VT Group.

The training for Royal Navy observers – key members of the crew in all maritime helicopters – will provide an incremental approach to basic observer training improving which is an improvement over the current basic flying training course.

Ascent will train the basic observer course in three phases, which include introductory flying training, elementary navigation training and basic flying training, which will be carried out on four new MoD-owned Beechcraft B350ER King Air aircraft.

The contract also includes a subcontract between Ascent and Cobham, which will see FR Aviation, a division of Cobham, integrate a radar and tactical mission training system into the King Air aircraft along with follow on maintenance services.

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Successful graduates from the course will be appointed to their operational conversion units in support preparation of pilots for the operational missions. Graduates will then be employed on front-line Royal Navy Sea King ASaC, Lynx mk8 and Merlin mk1 helicopter squadrons.