BAE Systems has launched a new bid to offer the BAe 146 regional airliner for military transport and airlift applications.

Announcing the proposal at the DSEi exhibition in London on 8 September, the company said its proposed military variants could carry between 80 and 109 passengers, or a cargo of between 11t and 12.5t in freighter configuration.

Dubbed the 146M, the type could be equipped with glass cockpit avionics, additional fuel tanks, steep approach and unpaved runway operating capability, plus defensive aids equipment, says BAE. However, the development would not include the addition of a rear cargo ramp.

 BAe 146M - BAE Systems
© BAE Systems

“The 146M could serve as a complementary utility to support hard-stretched tactical assets, and support such fleets in a very effective manner,” says Andy Whelan, sales director for BAE Systems’ Asset Management business unit.

In addition to supplementing transports such as legacy Lockheed Martin C-130s amid delays to Europe’s replacement Airbus Military A400M, BAE believes that the 146M could also be used for tasks such as medical evacuation, paradrop, surveillance, or even in-flight refuelling.

 BAe 146M side - BAE Systems
© BAE Systems

Describing the 146 as “robust, rugged and reliable,” Whelan says: “We have the ability to supply and support the aircraft with the longevity that would justify the acquisition.”

BAE says an undisclosed number of Asset Management’s portfolio of 47 BAe 146s “are due back off lease from European airline customers over the next few years”. The -200 and -300-series aircraft were manufactured around 1990, and have around half of their service lives still ahead of them, it adds.

“Delivery timescales are very short, so the aircraft can be put into service relatively quickly to meet current airlift shortfalls,” says BAE, which cites an indicative price of around $2.5 million for a passenger version and around $5 million for a freighter.

The company has yet to approach any of the partners involved in the A400M programme with a proposal based on the 146M, but Whelan says “nations may have an interest”.

This is not the first time that the 146 has been offered for potential military service, with British Aerospace having first touted the idea more than 20 years ago. However, BAE officials believe that the low purchase price now being offered means that “the financials stack up”.

Source: Flight International