Singapore confirms order for M-346 trainer

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Singapore has confirmed that it will buy 12 Alenia Aermacchi M-346 advanced jet trainers for delivery from 2012.

Boeing will supply the training system, while Singapore Technologies Aerospace has been authorised to purchase the aircraft and manage the entire AJT programme on behalf of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

"The acquisition of the M-346 aircraft and the ground-based training system marks a significant milestone in the RSAF's force development, enhancing the capabilities and operational readiness of the Singapore armed forces," says the country's defence ministry.

The acquisition cost of the aircraft, ground-based training system and associated spares are worth S$543 million ($410 million), says ST Aerospace.

"The signing of the contract with Singapore is a source of great pride for us and an important sign of appreciation of the qualities of our aircraft from one of the world's most sophisticated air forces. It affirms the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 as the leading training aircraft available today on the global market and the ideal platform for a state-of-the-art, integrated training system," says Carmelo Cosentino, Alenia Aermacchi chief executive. The company's involvement in the deal is expected to value €250 million ($340 million), sources say.

 
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"Boeing is pleased to support the Republic of Singapore Air Force on the advanced jet training programme. We look forward to providing the RSAF with a state-of-the-art ground-based training system incorporating the first application of our revolutionary constant resolution visual system in the full mission simulators," says Mark McGraw, vice-president, Boeing Training Systems and Services.

In 2008, ST Aerospace teamed with Alenia Aermacchi and Boeing to form a consortium to jointly offer the M-346 for the AJT requirement. They beat a Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin team that offered the T-50 for the contract.

Singapore has been conducting its AJT training at Cazaux, France, using its Douglas TA-4SU Skyhawk fleet. ST Aerospace has been providing maintenance support for those aircraft since 1999. The defence ministry has not said whether the air force will continue to perform training in France, but industry sources suggest that the relationship will continue at Cazaux.

Alenia Aermacchi has said that it would welcome the opportunity to host Singaporean pilots in Italy, where its headquarters are located.

Singapore's order confirmation is the second major setback for the T-50, which also previously lost out in a battle to meet a 48-aircraft requirement with the United Arab Emirates. A BAE Systems proposal using the Hawk 128 was also rejected in both competitions.

The UAE, however, has yet to sign a deal with Alenia Aermacchi following its selection of the M-346 in late 2008, and the T-50 is understood to be back in contention.

Alenia Aermacchi is already under contract to produce an initial batch of T-346As for the Italian air force, with the first two due for delivery in December. The company is also offering the twin-engined design to meet the future requirements of the US Air Force, as the T-100 Integrated Training System.

Additional reporting by Luca Peruzzi in Genoa