Finmeccanica expects Italy to sign a delayed production contract for the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 advanced jet trainer within the coming days, and is considering offering the aircraft to the US Air Force.
"The Italian air force should soon sign the contract about the first batch of M-346s," says chief operating officer Giorgio Zappa. "We are waiting for the signature, and feel this week could be profitable." Long-running discussions over the 15-aircraft deal have been complicated by "bureaucracy and the delays this causes," he adds.
Sales of the M-346 - also selected for a 48-aircraft deal worth around €1 billion ($725 million) with the United Arab Emirates - are among growth targets for the Finmeccanica group. Other potential customers include Chile, Ecuador, Greece, Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the US, where the type could be offered to the US Air Force in partnership with Boeing.
"The USA in the future will represent an even bigger market for us," says chief executive Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, who now describes the market as second only to Italy by business value. The company also plans to open new sites in seven nations in the near future, including Brazil, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. "The whole idea is to be closer to our customers," he says.
In an example of future business co-operation, Alenia Aeronautica has also announced a joint venture with Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments to design and develop medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicles.
Guarguaglini is optimistic about Finmeccanica's ability to pass through the global economic downturn with its wider business prospects intact. Speaking about overall prospects for 2009, he says: "If this crisis is not going to last a long time then the impact will be limited. If it lasts longer we will have to think of ways of dealing with it. But we are beginning to see a start of the recovery".