Thales is in the lead on OneSky deal

Airservices chief executive Margaret Staib reports that the common air traffic management system is on track to start in 2015

The bidding war to command an influential role in the future air traffic management regimes of both the United Kingdom and Australia appears to have created significant winners and losers.

Thales looks set to carve itself a huge role in the landmark oneSky Australia contract – a once-in-a-generation opportunity to field a joint civil and military air traffic management system by 2020 – after industry rumours suggest it has reached the final contract negotiation phase.

If those prove correct, it will come as a significant blow to the US-based Lockheed Martin which back in February 2013 launched its SkyLine Enterprise ATM platform specifically targeted at the Australian project which is valued at between A$300-500 million ($306-510 million).

The requirements for the oneSKY programme resemble modernisation initiatives in both Europe (the Single European Sky ATM Research programme) and the United States (NextGen) to deliver satellite-based ATM instead of radar-based coverage.

A unified system will remove the inherent limitations from separately managed pockets of airspace and the constraints of operating different systems with separate databases. It will therefore enable Airservices and its defence forces to manage airspace volumes dynamically, providing improved management and prioritisation of an increasingly complex traffic mix.

Already the incumbent provider of Australia’s civilian air traffic management TAARTS system, if Thales is chosen to deliver the harmonised national system, it will cement its position in a region where it claims to enjoy a 70 per cent share of the market in en-route ATM systems throughout Asia. A decision on the preferred technology should be known in the first quarter of 2105.

In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, Aquila, a joint venture between UK provider NATS and Thales, secured a hotly contested £1.5 billion contract in October to deliver the Marshall programme to transform terminal air traffic management at British military airfields over the next 22 years.

Three bidders had been in the running to modernise how air traffic is managed at over 100 defence locations, in the UK and overseas, including more than 60 airfields and ranges.

A BAE Systems-led team comprising Indra, Altran Praxis and LFV Aviation Consulting pulled out of talks in 2013 leaving Aquila and Fusion, the Lockheed Martin-led team which had partnered with Selex Systems Integrati, Cobham, Moog Fernau, Park Air Systems and Frequentis to go head to head to win the contract.

Under the Marshall contract Aquila will deliver new equipment, system upgrades, maintenance, support services and training, delivering a flexible service which is future-proofed against regulatory and technological change while military air traffic controllers will continue to deliver the service. Maintenance services will be delivered through six UK regional centres with teams supported 24/7 by ATM engineers at NATS’ control centre in Hampshire.

The Marshall system-wide overhaul of today’s fragmented system in the UK should save the British Government an estimated £1 billion over the life of the contract which starts on 1 April. Airservices chief executive Margaret Staib told delegates at Airservices’ annual Waypoint conference in Canberra earlier this year that oneSky would similarly save Australia in the ‘order of several hundred million dollars’.

Posted in CAAs/ANSPs, Contracts, Military ATC, News

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