Bidders line up for FC-1 Super 7 avionics

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Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Group (CAC) plans to select an international risk-sharing partner to supply the radar and avionics for its planned FC-1 fly-by-wire fighter aircraft early next year. The three leading bids for the contract are from European companies, according to the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC).

The key competitors are: GEC-Marconi with an avionics package featuring the Blue Hawk radar; Thomson-CSF with the RC 400 radar and an avionics package from Sextant Avionique, and a Sagem avionics package allied with a Fiar Grifo 7 radar. Russia's Phazotron is also understood to have offered the 105kg Komar variant of the Kopyo radar family.

The Grifo 7 is in service on the CAC-built F-7P Airguard fighter used by the Pakistan air force, while GEC's Super Skyranger radar is fitted on the F-7MG variant now being offered for export.

The UOMZ SH-3UMI helmet-mounted sight, used on the MAPO MiG-29, is also expected to be integrated into the FC-1.

The aircraft is being developed in a 50-50 partnership with Pakistan's defence ministry, to meet a Pakistani light fighter requirement thought to number 150 aircraft. Sources close to the programme express doubts about whether Pakistan can fund this procurement, and suggest the project may suffer further delays.

"The most important thing for this aircraft is whether there is another customer," says an industrial source. "The PLA says it does not want the aircraft, so the question is whether we can get Pakistan to fund any of this."

CATIC says Pakistan industry's involvement in manufacturing the aircraft is not yet decided, but it is likely to produce the wings and fin.

Potential radar and avionics suppliers have still not finalised proposals, and doubts remain over how much of the development and integration costs would be covered by the supplier under a risk-sharing deal.

At least three prototypes will be built, the first due to fly with a partial avionics fit in 2000, with series production beginning in 2002-2003, according to CATIC. Industry observers say this is extremely optimistic, as is the target price of $15 million.

The FC-1's aerodynamics have been developed in co-operation with Russia's MAPO, and the aircraft will be powered by a single 81.4kN-thrust Klimov RD-93 turbofan, possibly licence-built by Liyang Machinery (LMC).