Aermacchi and Yakovlev are to push ahead with developing a "Westernised" version of the Yak/AEM-130 advanced/lead-in fighter trainer programme. The companies are expected to announce their selection of the Honeywell F124 engine at the show for an aircraft renamed the Aermacchi 346.

The Italian company has 50% of the Yak/AEM-130 programme, with Russian design bureau Yakovlev and production complex Sokol each holding 25%. More partners may join the project.

The twin-engined Aermacchi 346 will be assembled in Italy. A launch order for up to 15 of the trainer aircraft for the Italian air force is a possibility.

Last year, Aermacchi said it would take responsibility for the design and manufacture of the aircraft's wing, empennage, cockpit, canopy, nose section and avionics, plus weapon systems integration for non-CIS customers.

The Russian partners are expected to handle the fuselage work, powerplant integration, fuel system, ejection seats and flight control actuators, as well as weapons system integration for the CIS market.

Honeywell, which is to supply the 36-150 auxiliary power unit, is also expected to provide avionics equipment for the Aermacchi 346.

Also participating is BAE Systems, which will supply the flight control computers for the fly-by-wire system. The F124 is used by Taiwan on its Ching-Kuo fighter and by Aero Vodochody on the new L-159 trainer.

The joint venture partners had planned to power the aircraft with the Povazske Strojarne DV-2S, but funding problems have stalled development of the engine. The Rolls-Royce Turboméca Adour had also been under consideration.

Flight testing of a prototype equipped with a Russian engine has been under way for about two years, but the programme was hit by wrangling over development funding from the partners. The problems were alleviated after an inter-governmental agreement was signed between Italy and Russia last year.

Other versions of the aircraft are expected to be offered, including the basic Russian version and a "hybrid" variant, incorporating some of the Western updates, but with a lower acquisition cost.

The Aermacchi 346 will face competition from the BAE Systems Hawk and L-159.

Source: Flight International