Tamworth Regional Council is in deep negotiations with an unnamed organisation to take over the vacant BAE System facilities, once the flight school leaves the city.
In 2015, BAE Systems missed out on a lucrative 25-year, $2 billion defence contract to provide basic pilot training, but council is expected to make an official announcement regarding its replacement in the coming months.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said due to a confidentiality agreement, he couldn’t reveal too much.
However, he did say negotiations with a new proponent were “progressing solidly”.
“My understanding is we’ll be looking to make an announcement in the next couple of months,” Cr Murray said.
“Hopefully, the pilot numbers will be an increase to what’s happened there in the past. It would appear that as BAE winds back its operation, the new proponent will start to gear up.”
On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and New England MP Barnaby Joyce was singing from the same hymn book in his state of the nation address at a Tamworth Business Chamber lunch.
“Make no mistake about it, we have a plan to make this bigger and better, and we will have more people here than otherwise with the Air Force,” Mr Joyce said.
“That will be great for this city.”
In July, Mr Joyce echoed his comments, telling The Leader “people were worried about BAE not getting the tender for the renewal”.
“Well I’ve found a process and working with the council, I strongly believe when the Air Force leave, it’s not going to close down, it’s going to get bigger,” he said.
While it remains to be seen who will take over the BAE facilities, the Singapore Air Force and Adelaide-based flight schools have both been mentioned in the past.
BAE has been training Australian Defence Force pilots in Tamworth since 1992 and the Tamworth facility is also used by other defence groups, including the Republic of Singapore and the Royal Brunei Air Force.
The flight school is considered a vital part of the Tamworth community. More than 100 people are employed with BAE, with an estimated economic impact of up to $25 million per annum.
BAE will continue to provide basic pilot training in Tamworth until the end of 2019 under the interim contract, before the training system is up and running from the RAAF Base at East Sale.