Alenia Aeronautica will enter into exclusive contract negotiations with the Slovak defence ministry, after Bratislava selected the C-27J Spartan (below) to meet its future tactical transport requirements believed to be for at least two aircraft.
"Negotiations will start soon, and we are confident to reach an agreement in the short term", says the Italian manufacturer. The Slovak defence ministry says the process will focus on "Payment conditions and offset programmes", and that the shortlisted company has committed to delivering industrial benefits worth 100% of the contract value.
Slovakia issued a tender for new tactical transports last August, seeking replacements for its two remaining Antonov An-26s (one pictured below). EADS Casa offered its rival C-295 to meet the requirement, while the defence ministry says Boeing and Lockheed Martin also showed interest.
© Craig Hoyle/Flight International
"The purpose of the procurement is not only strengthening of transport capacity of the Slovak armed forces and their troops in foreign missions, but also gaining a permanently available transport tool for all Slovak citizens," the defence ministry says. The country's air force lacked the ability to extract its nationals from Lebanon during a 2006 conflict involving Hezbollah militants and Israeli forces, it notes.
"Any other way of securing transport capacity (either from private carriers or participation in international projects for procurement of airlifters) does not guarantee availability of transport capacity in urgent cases," the defence ministry adds.
Slovakia's requirement was also driven by a need to modernise its armed forces following the country's 2004 entry into NATO, and by the January 2006 crash in Hungary of one of its An-24s, which killed 42 personnel returning from peacekeeping duties in Kosovo.
The nation follows Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Morocco, Romania and the USA in selecting the C-27J, which has a cargo capacity of up to 11.5t, or can carry a maximum of 60 troops.