Embraer follows BAE Systems out the door as Alenia Aermacchi attacks rival offering

The temperature has risen in the United Arab Emirates' two-tier trainer competition, with the revelation during the show that Embraer has followed BAE Systems in exiting the contest, and as one of the two companies pursuing the programme's advanced jet trainer element launched an open attack on its rival's proposal.

The UAE recently contacted the programme's previous five bidders to inform them of its decision to narrow each part of the competition to two systems, say industry sources, who moved to dampen speculation that the customer could make a decision on the acquisition during the show. A choice between the Alenia Aermacchi M-311 or Pilatus PC-21 basic trainer and the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 or Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 AJT could now move into early next year, they add.

Embraer denies that its EMB-314 Super Tucano has been ruled out, saying: "We have received no news on this [elimination], so believe the competition is still open." However, the company's decision to send no representatives from its defence business sector to Dubai appears to confirm that it is no longer in the running for the estimated 30-40 aircraft deal.

The UAE's correspondence is believed to have launched a new project phase that will lead to a fresh round of discussions on industrial terms including a 60% offset requirement, and an agreement on aircraft specifications and final numbers. AJT deliveries are expected to start around 2011-12, with basic trainers to follow around one year later.

Italy's Alenia Aermacchi has meanwhile attacked the KAI/Lockheed T-50 on offer to meet the UAE's estimated 15-24-aircraft AJT requirement, with chief executive Carmelo Cosentino claiming that its single-engine design is unsuitable for lead-in fighter training, and branding its supersonic performance as not cost-effective.

The KAI/Lockheed design's greater weight is also an issue, believes Alenia Aermacchi test pilot Olinto Cecconello. "The T-50 is an excellent aircraft, but it is a fighter," he says.

Forecasting export sales of around 140 M-346s within the next five years to possible buyers including Chile, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, Cosentino claims: "The M-346 doesn't have any real competition worldwide."

Italy earlier this month approved an expanded launch order for 15 M-346s to be delivered from 2010, while KAI expects South Korea to increase its commitment to the T-50 from a current 72 aircraft to 142 - including 60 T/A-50 light attack examples - by early next year.


M-346 New
 The M-346 and the T-50 (top) advanced jet trainers will go head to head

Source: Flight International