Alenia North America has submitted a proposal to sell surplus Italian Air Force AMX ground-attack fighters to the Afghanistan National Army Air Corps for close air support.

A senior Alenia official confirms the company submitted an unsolicited bid for at least 20 surplus Alenia/Embraer AMX fighters last April to the US Air Force.

The USAF buys combat aircraft on behalf of the Afghan military, which has previously included a deal for surplus G222 transports retired by Italian forces and supplied by Alenia.

So far, USAF officials have not formally responded to the AMX proposal, but they have raised concerns about the maintenance requirements for Italian fleet, the Alenia official says.

Alenia officials hope an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan by several of the 52 AMX fighters programmed to be upgraded to the ATOL - an Italian acronym that means "upgraded operational capability and logistics" -- standard will answer the USAF's concerns about maintenance issues.

There is a surplus of AMX fighters because the Italian Air Force plans to retire about 58 AMX aircraft that are not programmed to receive the ATOL upgrade, the Alenia official says.

The AMX bid comes as Alenia readies to deliver the first surplus G222 to Afghanistan on 25 September, and prepares to offer the M346 jet to the USAF for a possible contract to build 100 light attack and reconnaissance (LAAR) fighters.

Alenia has participated in several large US defence contracts, most notably partnering with L-3 Communications to sell at least 38 C-27Js to the USAF and US Army. However, with the M346 also proposed for the T-X trainer contract worth up to $10 billion, Alenia is also working to build a track record with US procurement officials in hopes of becoming a prime contractor.

The G222 deal for Afghanistan represents Alenia's first experience as a prime contractor for a relatively major USAF contract involving several aircraft.

Source: Flight International