Discussions between the defence ministries of Italy and Israel over the latter's possible future use of the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 trainer have included a suggestion for Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to supply the NATO nation with four airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system aircraft.
Talks have intensified over recent weeks in a bid to prepare "a full package" before the end of this year, according to sources.
The release of a request for proposals (RFP) linked to the selection of an advanced trainer for the Israeli air force was recently delayed indefinitely because of severe budget cuts.
© Alenia Aermacchi
The M-346 had been facing competition from the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 for the long-anticipated requirement.
An Elbit Systems/IAI joint venture company, TOR, had been due to issue the RFP to the rival manufacturers, before acquiring the selected trainer and selling flight hours to the Israeli air force.
Bilateral talks have led to the Italian government being offered a package that includes the purchase of four AEW&C/electronic intelligence aircraft made by IAI.
© Israel Aerospace Industries
The company has previously delivered several such aircraft to the air forces of Israel and Singapore based on the Gulfstream G550 business jet (above).
Italy's air force had an opportunity to form an impression of the G550-based system during a recent joint exercise conducted from Uvda air base in southern Israel. The service sent several of its Panavia Tornado strike aircraft to Israel to participate in the manoeuvres.
Israeli sources expect the USA to encourage Italy to instead consider a solution based on the Boeing 737 AEW&C system already sold to Australia, South Korea and Turkey.