Money, prestige and emotions – Italy against South Korea

The secret war behind the competition aimed at selecting an advanced trainer for the Israeli air force (IAF), reached a new peak last week, when officials of KAI, which manufactures the T-50 competing against the Aermacchi M-346, accused the Israeli ministry of of defence (MoD) of closing a deal before the request for proposals (RFP) was even issued.

KAI officials said they suspect “someone” in Israel instructed the Israeli MoD to close a deal in which Israel will select the M-346 and Italy will purchase two to three AEW aircraft on a Gulfstream G-500. I reported on this proposed deal some weeks ago.

These claims were rejected by the MoD’s spokesman.

The war of words can be attributed to the indefinite delay in issuing the RFP for the selection of an advanced trainer. The delay is a result of problems formulating a new defence budget for the Israeli defence forces.

So without an RFP, the competition has dissolved into a turmoil of accusation and counter accusation. South Korea wants the contract desperately and so does Italy, but the current situation further complicates the process.

The two aircraft received similar ratings from Israeli air force test pilots.

Last week’s incident has put a grey cloud over the competition and sources said on 5 December that all parties should “calm down” and leave the professional teams to issue the RFP and make a selection.

Will that happen? Will that put the competition on a normal track? I doubt very much. When emotions are involved in such a competition, the process can be derailed.

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