PARIS AIR SHOW: Finmeccanica eyes US prime role for T-X contract

Washington DC
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Finmeccanica's North American unit may eschew partnering a US prime contractor to compete for the US Air Force's future T-X lead-in trainer contract.

Giuseppe Giordo, co-chief operating officer of Finmeccanica and chief executive of Alenia North America, says offering the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 for the T-X may present an opportunity to compete at the prime contractor level.

The T-X requirement aims to start replacing about 600 ageing Northrop T-38C trainers starting in 2015, but may also expand to encompass a replacement for the US Navy's Boeing/BAE Systems T-45 Goshawk.

European companies have generally sought to enlist support from US-based prime contractors to compete for major Pentagon contracts. The Alenia C-27J won the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) competition with L-3 Communications as the prime contractor.

EADS North America initially broke the transatlantic trend by winning the US Army light utility helicopter contract with the Eurocopter EC145-based UH-72.

Over the past decade, Finmeccanica companies in the USA have become a real economic force, Giordo says, particularly since the acquisition last year of DRS Technologies. The company now employs 13,800 people on US soil and collects $3 billion in revenues, Giorgo says.