Alenia Aermacchi is to support a €3 million ($4.1 million) refurbishment of 12 SF-260 primary trainers for the Libyan air force. Implementation will be carried out jointly by Alenia and Tripoli-based Libyan Italian Advanced Technology, a joint venture between the Libyan Company for Aviation Industry and Finmeccanica established in early 2006.

Alenia says the contract covers the "overhaul of the airframe and systems of the SF-260 aircraft, including their propellers and engines". Work is to start late this year and is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.

The company describes the deal as potentially a precursor to an expanded programme in Libya, "particularly with respect to future procurement in the military trainers field".

The aircraft date to 1978, when Libya purchased 240 SIAI Marchetti (then a wholly owned subsidiary of Agusta) SF-260s in the original military model. These were supplied as 60 complete aircraft and 180 kits that were locally assembled at a facility near Sebha.

Between 1979 and 1985 SIAI Marchetti also provided training support for 350 Libyan pilots. The SF-260MLs were later fitted with under-wing pylons capable of carrying up to 300kg (660lb), allowing their operational use in Chad. Some were lost or captured to be reused by Chad and some were provided to Nicaragua and Burkina Faso, while others were sold in Europe.

The SF-260 was initially conceived as a sports aircraft and is powered by a 260hp (195kW) six-cylinder engine. Its flight characteristics and performance levels allow it to screen student pilot candidates while also covering effectively the entire primary training phase, says Alenia. More than 880 SF-260s have been sold the type is in use by 27 military organisations and many commercial flying schools.

Source: Flight International