PARIS: Interview: Alenia chief executive Giuseppe Giordo

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Giuseppe Giordo is chief executive of Alenia Aeronautica and responsible for Finmeccanica's Aeronautics division. He talks to Flightglobal about the company's presence at the show, the status of current programmes and the company's plans for the future.

On which themes is Alenia Aeronautica focusing at the show, and what programme developments are being highlighted?

The Finmeccanica aeronautics sector is presenting a complete integrated training package conceived to meet a wide range of financial and capabilities requirements for the different phases of the training syllabus, including suitable aircraft from screening (SF-260) through basic (M-311) and up to advanced/lead-in fighter trainers (M-346), in addition to ground based training systems and related integrated logistics support.

alenia aermacchi m-346 trainer, alenia aermacchi
 © Alenia Aermacchi

In partnership with other companies, we intend to establish regional training centres in at least two continents, including Europe. On the operational side, Finmeccanica is unveiling an air-transportable command and control centre developed by sister company Selex Sistemi Integrati, capable of being embarked on board a C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft for both peace-keeping and disaster relief operations.

Which milestones have you reached in Finmeccanica's four-year restructuring plan for the aeronautics sector?

We are respecting the established agenda, having almost completed the fusion of Alenia and Aermacchi organisational structures and responsibilities, while the business controlling model integration will be achieved by the end of 2011.

Agreements have been reached with the confederated unions, achieving the headcount reduction level of 1,000 personnel (including 50 senior managers) in one instead of the two years planned. We are also on track for engineering, industrial and supply chain rationalisation, which is expected to add €110 million ($160 million) savings by 2013, to the already achieved €15 million fixed operating cost reduction. We have already integrated the engineering area and offloaded non-core activities, closed two sites in southern Italy (Brindisi and Centro Bonifacio/Naples) and shut one of two Turin-based sites. In terms of rationalisation of the industrial base, we expect to unveil an industrial plan soon. Moreover we plan to reduce first tier suppliers and share target cost savings.

Which military platforms and support programme milestones have been reached in the last year?

We are well ahead on the 15% off-price overall cost reduction plan for C-27J tactical transport aircraft production. Moreover we have obtained Federal Aviation Administration certification for the aircraft to comply with the Joint Cargo Aircraft programme contract, allowing the aircraft to be available also for law-enforcement duties procurement. The advanced/lead-in fighter trainer M-346 programme is on schedule with certification of the Italian air force T-346A configuration to be achieved within the first-half of 2011, while production of the Republic of Singapore Air Force's M-346s has been launched last February to deliver the first aircraft by mid-2012.

Both air forces' production aircraft are being assembled on the advanced semi-automated assembly line recently put into operation at Venegono and capable of reaching a production rate of four aircraft a month. A replica of this facility is targeted for the US DoD T-X programme with an increase of US supplier content. The F-35 Lighting II final assembly and check-out being established at Cameri, near Novara in northwestern Italy is progressing as scheduled, much to the satisfaction of both Lockheed Martin and the US Department of Defense, in addition to production of wing section components by Alenia Aeronautica facilities in Foggia and Nola.

Final assembly of wing sections, as sole second source for all three F-35 versions in the JSF programme, will be achieved at Cameri. The latter also incorporates a facility dedicated to the stealth/low observable coating application, a unique feature of the Italian MoD final assembly and check out site. The first locally assembled F-35, in the guise of the CTOL version, is expected to be delivered in 2014. Moreover we are discussing with Lockheed Martin about the follow-on final assembly and check-out capabilities to became a regional support centre and production facility for other customers, including the Netherlands.

What about on the civil side?

As part of Superjet International, our joint venture with Sukhoi Holding, we have signed the first contract for Western markets with Mexican airline Interjet, with deliveries planned for the second half of 2012, while as a member of the ATR consortium, in 2010 we have delivered 51 ATR 42/72s and obtained orders for 80 aircraft.

More Superjet 100 orders are expected to be unveiled here, while the ATR order backlog has reached 189 aircraft representing about three years of production. The criticalities regarding the Boeing 787 Dreamliner composite-made fuselage sections and rear horizontal stabilisers production respectively at Grottaglie and Foggia facilities are over, and we are on target with the production rate for both components now listed at 3.5 sets a month. In 2010 we have delivered 24 fuselage barrels and 17 horizontal stabilisers, while we are investing in the -9 version of Dreamliner components production. In the meantime we have launched the non-recurring activities for the rear horizontal and vertical stabiliser sets for the Bombardier CSeries, as we reached an agreement with Bombardier Aerospace in March 2009 for the production of 1,000 shipsets.

The work will be conducted at Alenia Aeronautica facilities in Foggia, Pomigliano d'Arco (Naples) and Nola, over the next 20 years. We are also involved in the Boeing 767, 777, Airbus A380, A321, A340 and Dassault Falcon 2000 and 900EX composite and traditional aircraft components, as well as nacelle production at Aermacchi facilities in Venegono.

Which projects is Alenia pursuing for the future?

We are looking to four business areas, including international co-operation in the military field, legacy products, aerostructures and regional aircraft. In terms of international military co-operation, we are involved in the Eurofighter and JSF programmes, but we are planning to expand our footprint in the unmanned air systems sector beyond the current European Neuron unmanned combat air vehicle and internal Sky-Y demonstrator programmes.

Working side-by-side with the Italian MoD, we are looking to launch a new MALE (medium-altitude long-endurance) UAS programme, together with at least one overseas manufacturing partner, which could come from outside our traditional relationships, to be put into service around 2017.

Although sister Finmeccanica companies would be involved in the design of the new aircraft's technologies, Alenia would be the "system integrator", based on the internally developed key technologies, such as the flight- control system for the Sky-Y demonstrator. As part of the Eurofighter consortium, we are discussing a slowdown of Eurofighter production to catch up with export opportunities that are arising on the international markets, as demonstrated by the downselect of the pan-European aircraft in the Indian MMRCA competition and launching of programmes, such as in Japan and eastern Europe, in the later cases for transferred upgraded Eurofighters.

However to compete in the international arena, the aircraft has to receive enhancements such as the EASA-equipped radar. We have already discussed the international JSF and legacy product (C-27J and M-346) programme developments, while in the training platforms domain, we are establishing an upgrade roadmap for the M-311 basic jet trainer, enlarging the cockpit, improving the avionics and providing a more powerful engine.

Moreover in the regional aircraft sector, we are looking to keep our partnership in both the ATR consortium and Superjet International joint venture, but we would like to invest in the development of a new 90-seat regional aircraft, where we think there is a market for 1,500 turboprops.