Helicopter capability - Defence Committee Contents

Memorandum from Vector Aerospace International Limited


  1.  The Vector Aerospace Corporation is a maintenance, repair and overhaul business that serves the civil and military aerospace market worldwide.

  2.  Vector Aerospace International Limited (VAIL) has now been operating for just over 12 months in the UK, since the acquisition on 1 April 2008 by the Vector Aerospace Corporation, of the legacy Defence Aviation Repair Agency (DARA) helicopter and components support businesses.

  3.  The three primary programmes undertaken in the UK are in support of the Chinook, Lynx and Sea King fleets. These are supported by Vector's Helicopter Services business at Fleetlands, Gosport and its Component Services business at Almondbank, Perth. Lynx support is contracted directly to Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), through their Lynx Project Team. Chinook support is contracted through Boeing, under the Through Life Customer Support (TLCS) Programme. Sea King support is contracted through AgustaWestland, under the Sea King Integrated Operational Support (SKIOS) Programme.

  4.  VAIL has achieved a successful first year of operations, delivering against its commitments and being awarded various accolades, including a commendation from the Commander Joint Helicopter Command (JHC), in recognition of its partnered support with Boeing to the Chinook fleet. Also, its Component Services business was one of only three companies outside the USA to receive the Boeing Gold Supplier Award for its performance from September 2007 to September 2008.

  5.  VAIL is investing for the future, seeking to grow its UK military business through partnered support solutions with AgustaWestland and Boeing and other OEMs.

  6.  Vector Aerospace believes that it offers some key benefits to the MoD in support of helicopter capability, in terms of its:

    (a) Independent status.

    (b) Retention of specialist maintenance facilities that safeguards the skills and know-how to offer long-term, onshore support for helicopters and their engines and components.

    (c) Flexibility and agility to operate in different support scenarios and geographic locations, for all of the UK MoD helicopter types.

    (d) Ability to draw on its global experience of helicopter, components and engines maintenance.


About Vector Aerospace

  7.  Vector Aerospace Corporation is an independent provider of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft operators around the globe. Vector's service portfolio includes support for various types of engines, dynamic components, structures and avionics. From facilities in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa, Vector's employees serve a global customer base consisting of private and commercial operators, government agencies and defence departments.

  8.  Vector holds approvals from some of the world's leading OEMs, including Boeing, AgustaWestland, Sikorsky, Rolls Royce, Eurocopter, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Bell Helicopters, General Electric, Turbomeca, Sagem Avionics, Rockwell Collins and many other manufacturers and suppliers.

Vector UK

  9.  Vector's first footprint in the UK was in 1998, when Hunting Airmotive was acquired and subsequently became Sigma Aerospace. When the MoD offered to sell the helicopter and components deep repair elements of the former DARA, Vector expressed an interest. After a prolonged period of down selection, due diligence and negotiation, the sale to Vector of the helicopter business at Fleetlands and the components business at Almondbank was concluded on 1 April 2008. So, the Vector business in the UK is now made up of the following physical locations:

Vector Aerospace Helicopter Services—Fleetlands

  10.  Situated in Gosport, Hampshire and employing some 900 people. The three main programmes of work are:

    (a) Chinook—The Through Life Customer Support (TLCS) contract to Boeing for depth maintenance of the RAF Chinook fleet.

    (b) Lynx—An incentivised three-year contract directly with DE&S, with the option to extend to out of service date. This covers all marks of Lynx.

    (c) Sea King—The Sea King Integrated Operational Support (SKIOS) contract through AgustaWestland for depth maintenance and support of all marks of Sea King.

Vector Aerospace Component Services—Almondbank

  11.  Situated close to Perth in Scotland and employing some 300 people. The principal programmes of work are:

    (a) Chinook—Dynamic and hydraulic components in support of the TLCS contract to Boeing, for depth maintenance of the RAF Chinook fleet. In addition, work is carried out for several Chinook international customers, through Boeing.

    (b) Lynx—A contract with AgustaWestland for deep maintenance of Lynx components. In addition, some Lynx structural and hydraulic components are supported through a contract directly with DE&S.

    (c) Sea King—Dynamic and hydraulic components are maintained in support of the SKIOS contract with AgustaWestland for depth maintenance of the MoD Sea King fleet.

    (d) Tornado—Support for Tornado gearboxes, through Rolls Royce Deutschland and Tornado hydraulic components, through BAE Systems and Claverham (Hamilton-Sundstrand).

  12.  These two legacy DARA businesses at Fleetlands and Almondbank now comprise a UK business entity known as Vector Aerospace International Limited (VAIL).

Vector Aerospace Engine Services—Croydon & Fleetlands

  13.  This is the first of the Vector businesses acquired in the UK and employs some 220 people. It conducts deep maintenance for a number of Rolls Royce engine types, including T56 (Hercules), Conway (VC10) and Dart. In addition, it supports Honeywell ALF 502/507 (BAE 146, including No 32 "The Royal Squadron") engines and Dowty and Hamilton Sundstrand propellers. Full overhaul capability for the PW 307/308 engine series is being established at the Fleetlands location. Vector's UK engines business currently supports no helicopter engines, but its well-established legacy of supporting MoD engines for 25 years has been of great "learning" benefit to the wider Vector business in the UK.


First year of operation

  14.  In its first year of operation (1 April 2008-31 March 2009), VAIL has:

                (b) Been awarded a commendation by the Commander JHC, in recognition of excellence in Chinook support.

                (c) Been awarded Boeing's Gold Supplier Award for its Component Services performance from September 2007 to September 2008.

                (d) Invested in re-instating engines capability at Fleetlands, which had been shut down by the MoD in 2007. The Honeywell ALF 502/LF507 engine line is in operation and full overhaul capability on the PW 307/308 engines will be achieved by mid 2009. (Neither of these engine types is installed in helicopters, but Vector does, subject to business case, intend to establish capability for appropriate helicopter engines in due course.)

                (e) Provided Contractors on Deployed Operations (CONDO) support through Boeing, to RAF Chinook operations in Afghanistan; this is an ongoing operation.

                (f) Provided a number of working parties for Sea King support, both overseas and in the UK.

                (g) Completed the Lynx Defensive Aids Suite (DAS) and Theatre Entry Level modification programme of 44 aircraft in budget and within contracted time, in addition to routine deep maintenance programme.

                (h) Recruited 19 apprentices in 2008 and is intending to recruit 19 this year.

                (i) Continued to invest in developing its people and will continue delivering the appropriate training necessary to improve our standards of performance in Quality, Health and Safety and Environment, all of which are key to the future success of the business.

              Key features of helicopter and components deep support provided by VAIL

                15.  VAIL is a UK deep maintenance, repair and overhaul provider. We can (and wish to) partner effectively and efficiently with OEMs such as AgustaWestland, Boeing and Rolls Royce, as we do not threaten their core manufacturing business. This has been demonstrated in the Boeing TLCS and AW SKIOS programmes. So whilst it is our strategic intention to strengthen our ties with the respective OEMs, our independence provides an additional level of safeguard to the MoD in terms of assuring an ongoing and dependable alternative on-shore MRO provider for helicopter deep support.

                16.  Our core business is depth maintenance and upgrade of helicopters, components and engines, ie we are different from the "managed service" manpower substitution agencies that adapt their offering/price to suit specific customer requirements, eg from grass cutting to equipment maintenance. We are investing in the capability and know how needed to continue offering a dependable, world class support service to the MoD. We are committed to this business for the long term. We shall continue to invest in the facilities and people, where there is a good business case (eg engines at Fleetlands), but that this relies on maintaining a critical mass of work.

                17.  Our future is only guaranteed by the quality and cost effectiveness of our output and through our involvement with a number of MoD programmes, we can allocate resources effectively to absorb peaks and troughs in demand, and to surge when required. We also have the ability to pursue international military and civil work, which strengthens our position as an established employer of skilled aerospace technicians.

                18.  We recognise the key dependency of an assured pool of highly qualified and well motivated aerospace technicians. To that end, we shall continue to invest in growing our own talent and attracting the best we can, to maintain our status. This is beneficial for the MoD and for the wider "UK plc".

                19.  Although we operate primarily from three sites in the UK, we are not constrained to these physical locations. We are actively seeking new ways to support the MoD both in their UK main operating bases and also now in theatre, with the first CONDO deployment in support of RAF Chinook operations in Afghanistan

                20.  Finally, we have the capability to offer a complete "one stop shop" service, including engine deep maintenance.


                21.  At this relatively early stage in our life, in support of UK MoD helicopters and components, Vector has no recommendations to offer to the Inquiry.

              14 April 2009

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