Hawk 128 and M346 trainers in frame alongside T-50

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) could select a new advanced jet trainer (AJT) as early as the second quarter of this year following evaluations of the Aermacchi M346, BAE Systems Hawk 128 and Korea Aerospace Industries T-50. Greece is also expected to move forward its AJT programme later this year with a request for proposals while Malaysia, Qatar, Singapore and Thailand and are being targeted as potential medium-term customers.

Over the last two years, the UAE has been considering the purchase of 30-40 T-50s. Industry sources say UAE VIPs flew in the T-50 at the Dubai air show last November and plan a more formal evaluation in South Korea in March or April. But the competition has recently opened up, with the M346 and Hawk 128 now under consideration, they add.

Aermacchi chief executive Carmelo Cosentino says the UAE will send a delegation to Italy in early March.

BAE Hawk sales director Mike Rudd says it began discussing the Hawk with the UAE last November and has been invited to bring its Hawk New Demonstrator Aircraft to Dubai next month for evaluation. The demonstrator, which features developmental avionics from the 128, made its Far East debut last week at Asian Aerospace, where it was flown by the Royal Brunei and Singapore air forces. Customer evaluation flights are scheduled for Malaysia, Thailand, the UAE and Greece over the next five weeks as the demonstrator makes the return trip to the UK.

Aermacchi is considered the favourite for Greece’s 45-aircraft requirement, but its attempt to convince Athens to award it a sole-source contract has failed and a request for proposals is now expected in the third quarter.

Cosentino claims Aermacchi is still the frontrunner in Greece because last month it appointed Hellenic Aerospace Industry an industrial partner in the M346 programme. In Malaysia, Aermacchi is offering MB339CDs instead of the M346 because it believes Malaysia lacks the funds for M346s or additional Hawks although BAE believes funds for AJTs could be available in the five-year budget to be released next month.

Source: Flight International