As part of a plan to replace the VIP transport service operated by the Royal Australian Air Force from mid-2019, Defence has confirmed that it intends to enter into contract negotiations with a preferred tenderer for the role of managing contractor, having completed a tender evaluation process.
The managing contractor will manage the establishment, delivery and long-term sustainment of the new service on behalf of the Commonwealth.
“Defence is actively working with industry through a competitive, staged procurement process to develop considered options for the Special Purpose Aircraft fleet beyond current contract expiry in mid-2019,” a spokesperson for Defence told sister publication Australian Defence Business Review on May 4.
“Defence intends to present a range of potential options to Government for consideration, including revised support services and considerations for potential fleet replacement in the future.”
In November 2015, Defence released a request for proposal (RFP) seeking a managing contractor to provide services for the maintenance, support and replacement of the Special Purpose Aircraft (SPA) fleet.
The purpose of the RFP, which closed in February 2016, was to identify and assess the feasibility, risk, affordability, value and overall suitability of the range of available capability options and managing contractor methodologies.
Defence undertook an evaluation, and two companies were shortlisted from the RFP respondents in June 2016.
In August 2016, Defence initiated a project definition study to engage with the shortlisted respondents to collaboratively finalise contract requirements and develop a request for tender (RFT).
The RFT was then released to the two shortlisted companies in December 2016, and in February this year the industry respondents tabled their tenders to Defence.
“This tendering activity does not in itself constrain Government consideration to a replacement Special Purpose Aircraft fleet mix – including aircraft type – or when replacement is to occur,” the Defence spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Defence stated that it has exercised options to extend the current SPA maintenance and support arrangement with Northrop Grumman Integrated Defence Services (IDS) until September 2019 to align with the lease terms of the current fleet.
Northrop Grumman IDS (previously Qantas Defence Services) has since 2001 delivered through-life support to 34 Squadron at Defence Establishment Fairbairn, which operates the current SPA fleet of two Boeing Business Jets (BBJs) and three Bombardier Challenger 604s. All five aircraft, which are leased rather than Commonwealth-owned, entered service in 2002. They are still relatively young aircraft in terms of flying hours, with the fleet recently passing the 50,000 flying hour milestone.
Separate to the SPA process the RAAF’s VIP capabilities are also set to bolstered with the delivery of a KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport modified to support long-range government VIP transport needs. It is due for delivery in late 2019.