AleniaAermacchi CEO Carmelo Cosentino describes how industrial partnerships and expertise in training aircraft are driving the Italian aircraft maker into world markets.
At Farnborough AleniaAermacchi is displaying the first series-production example of its latest M-346 advanced trainer, which flew for the first time at the beginning of this month with a new fly-by-wire flight control system.
“We are working to deliver the first two production aircraft to Italian air force before the end of 2010”, says Carmelo Cosentino, AleniaAermacchi’s Chief Executive Officer. A contract to acquire 15 M-346s, plus logistics support, is being finalised with Italian Ministry of Defence, and is expected to be signed by year-end. “At full speed our production line will be able to deliver 18 aircraft per year,” says Cosentino, “but thanks to its advanced capabilities, there are growth margins to be exploited.”
With around 2,000 aircraft delivered in the past 40 years, has a great heritage and experience in developing training aircraft. And it’s taking that expertise to the world through parent Finmeccanica group, and a series of industrial partnerships.
Recently AleniaAermacchi selected Canadian company CAE as the preferred full-mission simulator supplier. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems’ support systems division will be responsible for programme’s logistics support and associated training. “The agreement with Boeing is part of a wider plan to internationalise the M-346 programme,” says Cosentino.
“Boeing is already supporting Aermacchi in aircraft sales and promotion activities in Singapore and Saudi Arabia, and follow-on campaigns will be decided together. However the agreement does not cover US and Europe at this stage,” he says.
AleniaAermacchi also signed recently an MoU with Chile’s Empresa Nacional de Aeronautica de Chile (ENAER) to promote and manufacture jointly both M-346 and M-311 trainers South America continent. “We are not excluding the possibility for a local assembly lines in other world regions, as well as a deeper involvement of local industries,” says Cosentino.
AleniaAermacchi is already involved in a series of sales and promotion campaigns for the M-346 around the world. “We have been shortlisted for the UAE tender, where we expect a request for proposal (RFP) in 2008 and a contract announcement in 2009. The M-346 is also a strong contender for the Singapore’s Fighter Wing Course competition, where the shortlist is expected soon.”
AleniaAermacchi signed an MoU in 2005 with Greek MoD and an industrial cooperation agreement Hellenic Aerospace Industry, while in 2007 an agreement was reached with Portuguese OGMA industrial group.
Different countries’ requirements, in terms of the time it takes to get an aircraft into service, brings uncertainty to development programmes, says Cosentino. “We expect an acceleration of US DoD advanced trainer programs, today envisaged for 2016-2018, if they decide to retire early the current fleet of aircraft”.
The M-346 has so far been evaluated by test and operational pilots from Austria, UAE, France, Greece, Poland, Singapore, Taiwan and Italy, and has attracted the interest of other countries including Algeria, Chile, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US.
The Venegono based company is also working on the basic-advanced M-311 jet trainer, a revised and modernised version of the S-211, which Cosentino says offer true jet performance at costs comparable with turboprop aircraft. But the M-311 faces significant competition from turboprop trainers that are already in service.
“AleniaAermacchi’s focus is currently on the M-346 programme, so we have decided to wait for a launch customer in order to complete development of the M-311.”
The current-generation M-339 advanced trainer and lead-in-fighter continues to attract market interest, with the latest order from Malaysian air force for 8 MB-339CMs, and an Italian MoD upgrade contract for the first batch of MB-339s to latest CD version, improving capabilities and maximising fleet efficiency.
Another well-established aircraft, the SF260 primary trainer, is also still winning business. So far 880 aircraft have been produced directly or under licence for 27 different military customers, and recently AleniaAermacchi won two new contracts, for the with Libyan MoD for aircraft refurbishment and with Philippines MoD for 18 new aircraft. “We are looking the possibility of revamping this aircraft, but any decision will market driven,” says Cosentino.
Source: Flight International