Romanian aircraft repair and overhaul company Aerostar is in talks aimed at setting up avionics joint ventures with Elbit of Israel and France's Thomson-CSF.

According to Aerostar technical director Grigore Filip, the talks are aimed at importing technical know-how into Romania, leading to avionics manufacture at the company's Bacau plant. The joint venture with Thomson would specialise in communications equipment, adds Filip.

Aerostar says that the two separate ventures could be established this year. The company is already the main subcontractor to Elbit for Romania's MiG-21MF Lancer upgrade programme. Deliveries of the aircraft to the Romanian air force began in October, and eight units have been handed over.

The air force has ordered 110 aircraft at a cost of $300 million, and Aerostar is counting on further upgrade orders from other air forces, pointing out that there are still about 2,000 ageing MiG-21s flying worldwide. The company also hopes to become involved in "other upgrade programmes" for as-yet-unspecified types.

"All Russian platforms need upgrades, but it remains to be seen which deserve them," says Filip.

Elbit is also working together with Aerostar on avionics for Romania's 24-unit IAR-330 Puma helicopter combat-upgrade programme, led by Brasov-based IAR. At the same time, the Israeli company is negotiating to supply avionics for the planned AH-1RO Dracula derivative of the Bell AH-1W Supercobra - also to be made in Brasov.

Aerostar has overcapacity in its avionics division, which was set up in an over-ambitious drive to develop and manufacture radar and other avionics indigenously.

Aerostar is only partially privatised, with 70% of shares held by the Romanian State Ownership Fund. Filip says that "-there are plans" to privatise further.

Source: Flight International