Rome finalises a contract for aerial refuelling aircraft that could benefit its industry by more than$1 billion in offsets

Italy has announced a deal to purchase four Boeing 767 tanker-transports with options for a further two in a deal valued at $700 million (Flight International, 3-9 July). At the same time, the Italian defence ministry is close to concluding a deal for a first batch of five Alenia Aerospazio/Lockheed Martin C-27J tactical transports.

Deliveries of the 767TTs are due to start in 2004 and continue until 2006, replacing the Italian air force's elderly Boeing 707s. Military sources say Airbus made a last ditch offer to try and overturn the Italian decision against its original A330 and A310 bids.

The 767s are to be equipped with three hose-and-drogue refuelling systems with an option for a centreline boom with a Remote Aerial Refuelling Operator station. A choice between General Electric CF6 and Pratt &Whitney PW4000 engines has not yet been made.

Alenia Aerospazio and its sister company Aeronavali have signed partnership agreements with Boeing following the Italian order.

The Italian defence ministry requested a 100% offset package, of which 50% will be direct offset. Elettronica will provide the self-protection suite, Alitalia the maintenance, and Alenia Difesa will also participate in the programme. Aeronavali, which will have a 20% share in the 767TT programme, will invest $20-30 million. Alenia believes Italian participation will be worth L2,500 billion ($1.1 billion).

Venice-based Aeronavali will develop and produce the freighter conversion kit as well as the centreline hose and drogue installation.

The Italian air force, meanwhile, is finalising a deal for an initial batch of five C-27Js with Alenia/Lockheed Martin joint venture LMATTS.

Funding problems are expected to limit the order to five with options for seven more, rather than the original plan to order 12 transports with six options.

Meanwhile, Alenia and Lockheed Martin have agreed a new marketing plan for the upgraded G222 with the Italians taking the lead in most regions. With attempts to sell the aircraft so far unsuccessful, LMATTS is trying to cut the cost of the aircraft and is targeting "old" and new potential buyers.

Old campaigns include Poland and Switzerland. The latter recently shelved temporarily the planned acquisition of EADS Casa C295sin order to reconsider its transport needs within a new army mobility concept.

Source: Flight International