Paul Lewis/Singapore

Daimler-Benz Aerospace (Dasa) is facing an uphill battle to drum up international support for its proposed AT-2000 advanced jet trainer, ahead of the start of a planned year-long definition phase.

Following the conclusion of an initial conceptual study at the end of July, Dasa is preparing to launch a DM40 million ($22.5 million) definition stage. "We intend to start the joint definition phase in early 1998-we think 12 months is required to define an acceptable level of risk for full-scale development," say vice-president training systems, Franz-Josef Enzinger.

The German manufacturer is hoping first to firm up support for the programme from prospective risk-and-revenue sharing partners, Denel of South Africa and South Korea's Hyundai. Neither, however, appears to be anywhere close to committing to development of the tandem-seat seat jet aircraft.

Denel says that it has held talks with several competing international suppliers apart from Dasa, including British Aerospace and Russia, and any partnership decision hinges on the South African air force's final selection of a new jet trainer. "We continue to make ourselves available-but I do not anticipate Denel getting into a formal agreement. It would be illogical for us to do so," adds new managing director Seshi Chonco.

Hyundai's position on the AT-2000 appears to be even more in doubt, following the South Korean Government's decision to back development of the Samsung Aerospace and Lockheed Martin KTX-2 advanced trainer/light-strike aircraft. Enzinger concedes: "This will have a significant influence on Hyundai's participation-the chances are very high that they will be completely out."

Dasa has also held exploratory talks with a range of European aerospace manufacturers, including Aermacchi, CASA, Dassault and Saab. It further claims that BAe has recently expressed some interest in the AT-2000, as a possible future successor to the Hawk advanced trainer/light fighter. "They have approached us at a high level," says Enzinger.

BAe, however, denies having gone beyond regular industry talks on the AT-2000. It claims to be concentrating on continued investment in the Hawk series in the near to medium term. "We do not see a customer that is prepared to invest in a new-aircraft development," says BAe Defence managing director John Weston..

Source: Flight International