Jet trainer manufacturers worldwide have responded to a Greek request for information (RFI) covering a replacement for the Greek air force's ageing Rockwell T 2E Buckeye fleet.

Respondents include Aermacchi with the MB339, Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody with the L-159T, British Aerospace with the Hawk and Alenia/Embraer with the new AMX-T. There is also a Daimler-Benz Aerospace proposal offering a fleet of refurbished ex-German air force Alpha Jets, mothballed since their retirement.

The German company says it has offered to modernise the aircraft according to Greek requirements, and describes the Alpha Jet as "a proven aircraft with further growth potential at low cost".

While the German option is certainly the cheapest, rival bidders comment that it could leave the Greek air force with a fleet of advanced jet trainers equipped with avionics a generation behind its turboprop primary trainer fleet, the selection of which is imminent.

The candidates for the turboprop trainer requirement are Embraer with the Super Tucano, Pilatus with the PC-9, and Raytheon with the T-6 Texan II derivative of the PC-9.

The Greek air force is interested in buying about 50 turboprops and another 50 jet trainers, say the bidders. The jet trainers could be in service "anything from 24 to 36 months after they place the order".

All the candidates in the two contests are expected to offer at least 100% offset packages: in Embraer's case, this could include Hellenic Aerospace Industries (HAI) involvement in the Brazilian company's regional jet programmes, as well as Super Tucano and AMX-T production work, says executive vice-president for the commercial-military market Romualdo de Barros.

Embraer is pointing out the commonality between the "fourth generation" avionics suite of the Super Tucano and the AMX-T to meet the dual trainer requirements. The Brazilian company's ERJ-145 regional jet is also being proposed as a platform to meet the Greek airborne early warning requirement.

BAe says it hopes for a decision on the jet trainer this year, but is proposing further talks with the Greeks because it believes that the Hawk could meet Greek requirements with fewer than 50 aircraft.

Aero Vodochody has delayed L-159 weapons testing until the start of next year because of "legal aspects", which led to hold-ups in the release of some US munitions to the Czech Republic. The tests are to include Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder and AGM-65 Maverick missiles.

According to Aero, all the weapons systems release hurdles have now been cleared and "significant progress" has been made in talks which should allow the tests to be held at Eglin AFB, Florida, in the USA. The weapons testbed will now be prototype number two, the first single-seat L-159, and the first with the full Boeing-integrated avionics suite.

Aero says it is still on schedule to deliver five L-159s to the Czech air force in 1999 and now says that all 72 aircraft ordered to date will be single-seaters, contrary to earlier expectations that the order would include an unspecified number of trainers. Instead, the air force intends to continue training on the Aero L-39 and L-59.

Source: Flight International