Finmeccanica is planning to expand and upgrade its military aircraft product line as it seeks a greater share of the Middle East defence market, said Alenia Aeronautica/Aermacchi CEO Giuseppe Giordo.

Business opportunities in the region are being pursued by an integrated sales and marketing team in three main aeronautics product areas, including training, transport and special mission aircraft, in addition to the Italian manufacturer's participation in the Eurofighter and ATR regional airliner programmes.

Giordo told Flight Daily News that the plans include an avionics upgrade for the SF-260TP turboprop screener, the introduction of a new turbofan-powered basic trainer derived from the M-311 platform and a new version of the M-346 Master capable of being used for advanced trainer/LIFT (lead-in fighter trainer) and combat missions. The company is exhibiting an M-346, a T-346A and a C-27J Spartan at the show.

Alenia Aermacchi T-346

 © Alenia Aermacchi

The evolved M-311 would feature a new and more powerful turbofan, an enlarged and advanced cockpit, together with airframe structural enhancements. The project is open for industrial partnerships, "where Middle East customers could play an important role looking to reinforce their developing aerospace sector", said Finmeccanica.

Alenia Aermacchi is expected to deliver the first two T-346A advanced trainers to the Italian air force by the end of 2011, after which they will be subjected to a one-year-long initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) phase by the service's test wing, with the participation of Singapore air force observers. Italy's ministry of defence is receiving six (plus nine option) T-346As while Singapore is buying 12 M-346s. Both contracts include a comprehensive ground-based training system.

Alenia Aermacchi is willing to launch the development of a dual (training and combat) capable version of the M-346 Master advanced trainer/LIFT by the beginning of next year. The new version will feature an enhanced avionics and mission systems package including Selex Galileo's active electronically scanned array radar, the Selex Elsag communications suite based on secure radios and data Link 16, a helmet-mounted display and an electronic warfare suite based on Elettronica's RWR, and including a chaff and flare dispensing system. The dual-role M-346 will exploit the aircraft's capability to carry on nine stations an external 3,000kg load including air-to-air and air-to-ground missile and gun pods, such as new air-launched MBDA Marte Mk2/S-A anti-ship and Brimstone air-to-ground missiles, in addition to auxiliary fuel and targeting/recce/EW/training pods. The new version could be ready for production in 18-24 months from launch date, according to Alenia Aermacchi.

Source: Flight Daily News