Andrew Doyle/MUNICH


DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa) is stepping up talks with potential industrial partners for its proposed Mako light combat aircraft/advanced trainer. It hopes to launch full-scale development later this year.

The aircraft must be launched by the end of this year if significant inroads into the target market are to be made. Industry sources familiar with the project say the market is expected to peak around 2010. They say a substantial delay could weaken Mako's business case.

Efforts over the past few years to launch the aircraft have foundered on Dasa's inability to find a partner. South Korea and South Africa were high-profile targets which the company failed to bring into the programme. The picture is clouded because the German air force has no requirement for such a trainer.

The German company is holding discussions with Spain's CASA, which will become a founder member of European Aeronautic, Defense and Space (EADS) later this year when it merges with Dasa and Aerospatiale Matra. CASA would be a key player in efforts to promote the Mako in Spain, which has a pending requirement for an advanced trainer.

Greece is preparing to launch a competition to select an aircraft for its long-standing trainer requirement, which could require first deliveries in 2006. The country has selected the Eurofighter as its future supersonic fighter. Hellenic Aerospace Industries has developed close ties with Dasa.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates, which recently signed a wide-ranging memorandum of understanding with Dasa, is considered a possible customer as it requires a lead-in fighter trainer to supplement its planned fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60s.

France's Dassault Aviation could be a partner as it does not offer an advanced trainer or light attack aircraft. Dassault will be linked to EADS through Aerospatiale Matra's large minority stake.

Dasa declines to comment on its talks with possible Mako partners.

The Mako would be a fourth-generation, stealthy, single-seat light combat aircraft and a two-seat advanced trainer.

Source: Flight International