Italian manufacturer to step up promotion effort for S211 derivative at Paris air show
Aermacchi expects to conduct the first flight of its prototype M311 primary jet trainer in May, before exhibiting the aircraft at the Paris air show in June and conducting trials for potential launch customers. A new derivative of the Italian company's S211 trainer equipped with an avionics suite supplied by Canada's CMC, the aircraft is already being promoted to countries including Singapore, Turkey and the UK.
Singapore will issue a shortlist within the next few months for a 20-aircraft trainer purchase, with the M311 facing competition from turboprops including the Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano, Korea Aerospace Industries KT-1C, Pilatus PC-9M and PC-21 and Raytheon's T-6B Texan II.
Industry sources say Turkey is also considering the M311 for its long-standing 40-aircraft requirement to replace the Cessna T-37. The purchase has been planned for over two years but has been held back by budget constraints and internal debate over whether to pursue a direct acquisition or to launch a formal tender. A decision is expected within months.
The UK has no requirement for a new primary trainer but is reviewing an unsolicited offer from Aermacchi to buy as many as 90 M311s to replace its Shorts Tucanos, around 50 of which are set for disposal by late 2006. Aermacchi is trying to convince the UK that the M311 would be a better fit with the BAE Systems Hawk 128, and sources say it has expressed interest in test flying the aircraft.
Aermacchi's first M311 was originally the S211A prototype used by Agusta and Grumman in the USA's Joint Primary Aircraft Training System competition, ultimately won by Raytheon's T-6A Texan II. Three multifunctional displays and two independent mission computers have been added to the cockpit, while the thrust on the Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D engine has also been increased. The S211 had a lacklustre sales run, with only 30 acquired by Singapore, 12 by the Philippines and four by Haiti.
BRENDAN SOBIE / SINGAPORE
Source: Flight International