Aermacchi is leading from the front as it bids to land European training deal

Aermacchi used the show to underline its front-runner status in a European contest to supply a new generation of advanced trainer aircraft, fending off rivals BAE Systems, Dassault and EADS and playing down an emerging challenge from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin with the supersonic T-50 Golden Eagle. Senior officials within the Italian company remain upbeat about its prospects of landing the key element of the planned Advanced European Jet Pilot Training, or Eurotraining scheme, which aims to deliver common services to up to 12 European air forces from early next decade.

Eurotraining lure

Already renowned as a training aircraft supplier with over 40 customers worldwide, Aermacchi is playing on its recent integration into Italy’s rapidly expanding Finmeccanica empire to support its Eurotraining campaign, with stablemate Galileo Avionica to supply part of its integrated training system. Aermacchi’s developmental M346 advanced lead-in fighter trainer is at the pinnacle of its proposed infrastructure for the collaborative project, which remains in an extended assessment phase.

“The M346 is the only aircraft that can fulfil all the requirements and specifications of the Eurotraining programme,” Aermacchi chief executive Carmelo Cosentino said at the show, stressing the type’s advanced stage of development compared with its proposed European rivals.

The company took its two M346 prototypes to Le Bourget, with these having logged 70 flight hours by 15 June. A third, pre-series production aircraft is also in preparation, and will support an anticipated 700-flight-hour certification campaign planned to end during 2009. The M346 has so far reached a maximum altitude of 35,000ft (10,700m) and achieved a top speed of 325kt (600km/h) during development testing.

“We are now thinking on how to industrialise the aircraft,” says Cosentino. “Aermacchi will try to widen co-operation so that each of the 12 [Eurotraining nations] has some technology on the aircraft.” The Greek defence ministry has signed for a 20% stake in the programme, with Poland and other European nations eyeing part of the remaining 29% of the project available to international partners. Work on a first batch of aircraft will start in 2007, with Aermacchi’s integrated training package to be available by 2010.

Aermacchi’s proposed training system also includes an embedded simulation capability, jointly developed with Galileo and Israel’s BVR Systems, and its M311 basic trainer, which made its debut flight on 1 June. The company earlier this month signed teaming agreements with Qantas Defence Services of Australia and Tusas Aerospace Industries to support its promotion of the M311 to Singapore and Turkey (Flight International, 21-27 June). “Our challenge is to offer the market a very affordable aircraft with superior performance to turboprops,” says Cosentino, who projects a potential global market for around 300 M311s. Aermacchi has also provided data on the developmental trainer to the three consortia pursuing the UK Military Flying Training System requirement, where the design faces stiff competition from the Pilatus PC-21 and Raytheon T-6 Texan II.

KAI and Lockheed, meanwhile, signed an initial one-year teaming agreement with Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) during the show to assess the T-50 for the future training requirements of the Greek air force, which has one of the most pressing fleet-renewal requirements among the proposed Eurotraining partners. The South Korean/US industry team had been seeking a European partner for almost a year, in an effort to enhance their export prospects (Flight International, 29 June–5 July 2004).

Like Aermacchi, KAI is promoting an integrated training system also including its KT-1 basic trainer, 85 of which have been built, along with the high-performance T-50. Around 90% of the test objectives for the T-50 have been met over almost 1,100 flights using four prototypes, says Alex Jun, KAI’s director of T-50 marketing. Testing will conclude in October – the same month that the South Korean air force’s first production aircraft will be delivered. Ten T-50s are now in assembly for the domestic market.

Other runners

Other aircraft being considered under the Eurotraining study include single- and twin-engine designs from Dassault and the long-touted Mako advanced trainer concept marketed for several years by EADS Military Aircraft. EADS has also signed a co-operation agreement with HAI on possible co-operation on military and civil aircraft production – slanted largely at a renewed sales campaign for the Eurofighter Typhoon – and on future military upgrade programmes. However, the pact does not specifically mention the Mako. BAE Systems’ new-generation Hawk remains an outside candidate for the Eurotraining requirement.


Source: Flight International