Britain Moves Forward on Harrier Support Agreements
“Future Contracting for Availability” involves the removal of traditional “parts and hours” maintenance contracts in favor of fixed-price long-term support for vehicles throughout their service lives, plus performance awards based on number of vehicles available. It has become a fixture in the British defense industry, and a pillar of British procurement policy going forward. As our in-depth coverage of the ATTAC Tornado support contract shows, however, it isn’t a “big bang” process. Smaller contracts are signed for sub-components, trust and knowledge are built up, and the contracts become more comprehensive over time.
BAE Systems has won a number of these contracts, and back in January 2006, they were on their way to adding Britain’s vertical/short takeoff and landing Harrier GR7/GR9A fleet to the list. The UK MoD continued to expand these contracts, culminating in a new half-billion pound contract to support the fleet through to the end of its life… which is coming a lot sooner than the contracting parties thought.
Contracts & Key Events
In the UK, Harriers are based at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland and RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire, as well as operating as required from Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Some Harrier GR9A aircraft with uprated engines have also operated from Kandahar airfield, Afghanistan.
June 15/11: British Harriers, sold! With the F-35B behind schedule, and under minimum production orders until testing solves some problems, the US Marines will need to continue operating their AV-8B Harrier IIs longer than previously planned. They’ll have a long-term source of spare parts for the fleet now, thanks to a GBP 110 million ($180 million) deal to buy Britain’s fleet of 72 recently-upgraded Harrier II GR7 and GR9 V/STOL(Vertical or Short Take-Off and Landing) fighters. Some of the planes were in the middle of the fleet’s GBP 500 million Joint Upgrade and Maintenance Programme (JUMP), but the sale was confirmed in November 2011.
Britain’s sales fee for the 72 jets would buy just 1 F-35B STOVL(Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) stealth fighter from the current production line, but the Telegraph says that only 40 Harriers were full-serviceable due to wear and tear. Rather than spend the money repairing and operating them, Britain’s naval jet capabilities were eliminated in the October 2010 strategic defence and security review.
The Harriers were shipped across the Atlantic by ship, and subsequently transferred to the AMARG “Boneyard” near Pima, AZ. BBC | Daily Mail re: destination and upgrades | Daily Telegraph | Defence Management | The Guardian | Sky News.
Oct 18/10: Britain’s new government releases its 2010 Strategic Defense and Strategy Review [PDF]. The result is the end of the Harrier fleet, and of British fixed-wing naval aviation, after 2011. The F-35C may pick that baton up after 2020, but the immediate future for the Harrier fleet and its carriers is retirement:
“Over the next five years combat air support to operations in Afghanistan must be the over-riding priority: the Harrier fleet would not be able to provide this and sustain a carrier-strike role at the same time. Even after 2015, short-range Harriers – whether operating from HMS Illustrious or HMS Queen Elizabeth – would provide only a very limited coercive capability. We judge it unlikely that this would be sufficiently useful in the latter half of the decade to be a cost-effective use of defence resources… in the transitional period, retain a reduced Tornado fleet, but remove Harrier from service in 2011 as the fast jet force moves to two operational types – Joint Strike Fighter and Typhoon. Retaining the Tornado fleet allows a fast jet contribution to be sustained in Afghanistan and support to concurrent operations which would not have been possible if Harrier was retained instead.”
HMS Ark Royal will retire almost immediately, and Britain’s MoD will decide whether to keep the LPH HMS Ocean or the carrier HMS Illustrious as its sole helicopter carrier and command ship.
April 23/09: The UK Ministry of Defence issues a new GBP 574 million support contract to BAE Systems for “depth maintenance” of the RAF and Royal Navy’s Harriers. The contract will last for the remainder of their service lives, which is currently expected to be 2018. While exchange rates are very unpredictable over that time span, the British Pound’s fall mean that at current rates, this contract would amount to about $840 million.
The previous JUMP (Joint Upgrade and Maintenance Programme) support contract, and other related Harrier contracts, will now transfer to the new HPAC (Harrier Platform Availability Contract), securing about 300 civilian jobs on site and at BAE Systems’ sites at Warton, Samlesbury and Farnborough. HPAC covers depot-level repair, maintenance, spares provision, upgrade work and technical support, all of which will be undertaken jointly with the RAF and Navy at the Harrier fleet’s main operating base at RAF Cottesmore, in Rutland. The RAF and Royal Navy will continue to carry out day-to-day flightline maintenance. UK MoD | BAE Systems
Feb 6/09: BAE Systems announces 2 UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) contracts worth GBP 119 million. Under CAPS (Commodity Availability Procurement Strategy), the current ATTAC Tornado contract is amended to include key primary warning and defensive protection equipment for both the Tornado GR4 and Harrier fighter fleets. At present, key commodity items are managed by individual Integrated Project Teams within the UK MoD; CAPS will transfer those responsibilities to BAE. The UK MoD expects it to result in savings of about GBP 20 million.
This first availability service contract, worth GBP 103.5 million, will see BAE Systems assume responsibility for the provision of spares and repairs, and technical, software and test equipment support for a range of Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM) equipment.
A second GBP 15.5 million contract will provide wheel, tire and brake service across the Harrier, Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol, Hawk trainer, and VC10 tanker/transport fleets.
Work will be carried out at Sealand in North Wales, Edinburgh in Scotland, Luton north of London, RAF Cottesmore in Rutland, and RAF Marham in Norfolk. BAE Systems and the UK MOD will continue to develop CAPS, in order to cover other commodity items that will support in-service aircraft. Ultimately, the UK MoD believes that CAPS could cover up to 73,000 stock items. UK MoD | RAF | BAE Systems.
Feb 4/09: Britain’s Telegraph reports that Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Glenn Torpy has suggested that the UK Ministry of Defence could save GBP 1 billion in support costs if the Harrier was phased out of service within the next 5 years, closing Joint Force Harrier, removing fighters from Britain’s remaining aircraft carriers, and possibly retiring the carriers themselves.
The proposal would also end the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm’s career with fixed-wing aircraft. When the new carriers enter service, RAF pilots would fly their F-35Bs.
The UK MoD’s Director of Development, Concepts and Doctrine, Maj. Gen. Paul Newton, has been selected to resolve the dispute. As things currently stand, it seems very possible that depending on his decision, a resignation will follow: either Chief of the Air Staff Sir Glenn Torpy, or of First Sea Lord Sir Jonathon Band.
Jan 28/09: The UK MoD signs a new GBP 198 million support contract with Rolls-Royce to support the Harrier fleet’s Pegasus engines over the next 10 years, which means for the expected remaining life of the Harrier fleet. Rolls-Royce Defence Aerospace will be managing the new contract from its site at Bristol, with some work being carried out at RAF Wittering and the main repair and overhaul being carried out at the Rolls-Royce site at Ansty in Leicestershire.
Defence Equipment and Support Harrier Project Team Leader, Group Captain Andy Ebdon:
“Awarding this contract to Rolls-Royce for complete through-life support of Pegasus is a very significant achievement. It not only assures affordable engine availability, but also incentivises both industry and the MOD to actively work together to improve efficiency. The end effect is better value for money and improved support performance for the front line.”
June 24/08: The UK’s Harrier Integrated Project Team (IPT) awards QinetiQ a contract worth almost GBP 24 million over the next 10-years by for Harrier through-life support, through to the Harrier II’s planned Out-of-Service Date in 2018.
Under this contract QinetiQ will provide Independent Technical Services. Three key capability delivery and support areas are included: Independent testing, evaluation and flight test services, capability assurance and technical capability support. QinetiQ release.
March 11/08: Parliament’s “Tenth Report of Session 2007-08, Defence Equipment 2008, HC 295” states that the Royal Navy no longer believes that they will have a carrier’s worth of 36 fully equipped and operational F-35Bs in 2014, when the first 65,000t CVF Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier is expected to be ready.
In response, it says that the UK MoD plans to keep the Harrier GR9 in service until around 2018, 2 years after the second ship of class HMS Prince of Wales is expected to enter service.
July 17/07: Britain’s NAO issues its report regarding the new Tornado and Harrier support arrangements. “Transforming logistics support for fast jets” gives the new programs a stamp of approval, and notes that:
- The Tornado and Harrier Integrated Project Team’ costs fell from a total of GBP 711 million in 2001-02 to GBP 328 million in 2006-07, including cumulative savings of GBP 109 million or the Harrier over the period 2001-02 to 2006-07.
- The pulse line at RAF Cottesmore reduced the time taken to perform minor Harrier maintenance by 19% since 2002, and the commencement of the Joint Upgrade and Maintenance Programme at RAF Cottesmore achieved a 43% decrease in the time taken to upgrade Harrier GR7 aircraft to GR9 standard.
- Operational availability of Harrier aircraft was below target before the change. It dropped further in April 2003 with the start of the Harrier upgrade program, but improved as work was transferred to the new depth repair hub at RAF Cottesmore. In the last half of 2006 aircraft availability has been at or close to 100% against a revised target, mainly because there were fewer aircraft under depth repair.
- The new maintenance arrangements that reduced depth repair made an extra 11 aircraft available to the front lines. The Department has also met a significant surge requirement for repair associated with operations in Afghanistan.
- Improved repair processes on the pulse line for the Harrier’s Pegasus engine have reduced turn around times by 59%.
June 6/07: The Harrier Component Support Package is a GBP 34 million contract that builds on the existing Mech 1A Lite contract, and will provide supply chain support for avionics equipment on the new GR9 Harrier IIs until 2014, via the provision of component spares and repairs. The goal, and the metric, is availability – jets ready to fly more often. In the UK MoD release, Captain Paul Bishop, the Harrier in-service support project manager, said that:
“This contract… takes us closer to the long-term goal of availability contracting at the platform level. [It] also guarantees the continuity of supply for more that 4,000 other components at a significant saving compared to current support arrangements.”
Oct 18/06: Flight International reports that 25 of the UK’s planned 70 GR9 Harriers have now been delivered, and that the type has officially entered operational service.
“The UK’s current GR9s are now available in the so-called Capability B2+ software standard, which includes improved navigation and communication equipment, a ground proximity warning system and the ability to fire the Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile. A Capability C release is planned for December, with this to add Raytheon’s Paveway IV precision-guided bomb and a successor identification friend-or-foe system.
Capability D will add MBDA’s Brimstone air-launched anti-armour missile, a Link 16 datalink and cover the digital integration of the Harrier’s current Joint Reconnaissance Pod in 2008. An E-standard software package is also in its assessment phase, to introduce capabilities including a tactical information exchange capability…”
Britain’s revised maintenance approach often involves inserting upgrades during scheduled maintenance times, to reduce costs and improve availability.
Oct 01/06: Flight International reports that BAE Systems is to receive a GBP 400 million ($706 million at current conversion) availability-based contract to provide support for the UK’s Harrier II GR9/9A until the type leaves service around 2018.
The Joint Availability Support Solution (JASS) deal will apparently be agreed with prime contractor BAE by May 2007, following the completion of an assessment phase launched in July 2005. The contract will reportedly have BAE oversee the in-service support of “repairable avionics, structures, general systems components and consumable articles” for the 60-aircraft GR9/9A fleet, while Rolls-Royce will receive a contract to support the Harriers’ Pegasus engines.
- DID (Jan 16/08) – The UK’s GR9 Harriers to Add ‘Capability E’
- DID (March 5/07) – British Harriers to Get Advanced Targeting Pods
- DID (Sept 29/06) – The Major’s Email: British Harrier Support in Afghanistan, Revisited
- Flight International (May 9/06) – Harrier High