Alenia Aermacchi believes its M-346 twinjet will be in a two-horse race with the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 for the US Air Force's T-X trainer requirement, with the company to host an "industry day" around the Paris air show.
Alenia Aermacchi general manager Alessandro Franzoni expects a technical evaluation phase in the first quarter of 2012, by which time the Italian company hopes to be well down the road of selecting a prospective US manufacturing site and domestic suppliers for a T-100 version of the M-346.
The fact that the customer has said it wants a "non-experimental platform" for T-X rules out unproven designs, said Franzoni, who believes the BAE Systems Hawk could also be edged out on performance grounds. The UK company has countered his claim, however, by saying that it has "absolutely no concern" about its candidate's ability to meet the air force's performance requirements.
© Alenia Aermacchi
Finmeccanica subsidiary Alenia Aermacchi is in the process of shortlisting 15-20 locations for a factory, which Franzoni said will be a "replica" of the highly automated M-346 assembly line in Venegono, near Milan, which has the capacity to build 48 of the advanced trainers a year.
Alenia Aermacchi will hand over the first of what is likely to be a total of 15 M-346s to the Italian air force during the Paris show as part of an integrated training package that should see the aircraft formally enter service in January 2013. The first of 12 aircraft for Singapore is also in production and will be delivered in May 2012.
The M-346 has been selected by the United Arab Emirates, although an expected order for 48 aircraft has yet to be signed. Franzoni also expects to bid for competitions in Israel and Poland.