Boeing and Alenia Aermacchi have joined forces to offer two of the Italian company's jet trainer products to non-US customers, forming a potent new team in an increasingly competitive and crowded market.
In the near term, the companies will focus on immediate contract opportunities in Saudi Arabia and Singapore, where the M-346 faces tough competition from the BAE Systems Hawk 128 and Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50, respectively.
Torbjorn Sjogren, vice-president for Boeing's International Support Systems unit, says there are no plans for the partnership to pursue a future US Air Force requirement to replace a fleet of 500 Northrop T-38C supersonic trainers. But nothing in the terms of the new deal would preclude the companies from responding to a future USAF contract opportunity, Sjogren says.
A T-38 replacement deal is not expected to emerge until the middle of the next decade, but with two fatal accidents involving T-38Cs since 23 April, the air force could reconsider this timing, says Sjogren.
Boeing's role in the partnership is to offer training services and logistics support, bolstering Alenia Aermacchi's role as airframe designer and manufacturer.
Either company may take the lead on any particular contract, depending on the specific requirements sought by the customer, Sjogren says.
Earlier this year, US-based market research firm Forecast International projected the jet trainer market will peak in 2009. Estimated annual production is expected to fall from 212 units next year to 105 in 2017, it says, as with air force fighter fleets declining in numbers, fewer jet trainers are needed as replacements.
Boeing and Finmeccanica subsidiaries including Alenia Aeronautica and AgustaWestland are already partners on a variety of programmes, ranging from the 787 airliner to the CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter and the KC-767 tanker.
Boeing also has a standing partnership with BAE Systems on the Hawk-based T-45 Goshawk naval trainer, but its agreement will expire in 2010.