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New engine team-up eyes European market for M-346

GEOFF THOMAS

FiatAvio and Honeywell's International Turbine Engine (ITEC) signed a teaming agreement at Le Bourget yesterday to build and provide aftermarket support for ITEC's F124-GA-200 turbofan engine for the under-development Aermacchi M-346 advanced trainer aircraft. This is the first time that the two companies have co-operated on a project other than APUs.

The agreement effectively gives FiatAvio a third of the project including the low pressure module, accessory gearbox, exhaust system and other components. The Italian engine company will also be responsible for production assembly and testing as well as repair and overhaul for Italy and potentially other M-346 buyers.

After signing the agreement with Honeywell¹s Steve Bradley, president of ITEC, FiatAvio chief executive Saverio Stratis said that he was delighted to be cooperating with Honeywell and entering the realm of 7,000lb (31kN) engines.

Advanced

Both Aermacchi and Honeywell believe that around 600 M-346 next generation advanced trainers will be delivered over the next 30 years and that the F124 engine and its derivatives could power more than 1,000 military aircraft worldwide.

The M-346 is effectively a ‘Westernised' version of the Yakovlev Yak-130 and a convincing-looking mock-up of it appears in Le Bourget's static park. This is representative of the planned production configuration, is rather smaller than the Yak-130D demonstrator seen at previous Paris airshows and lacks that aircraft's distinctive winglets. The production aircraft was previously expected to have dramatic ‘dog-tooth' discontinuities on its tailplane leading edges but these are absent on the Le Bourget version. Instead, the mock-up has unusual ‘finlets' at the junction of the wingroot LERX and the leading edge. It's assumed that these weaken the vortices generated by the LERX, reducing wear and tear on the structure. They had previously been tested on the Yak-130D and were thought to have been dropped.

The M-346/Yak-130 is a twin-engine, transonic, advanced trainer capable of sustained high angle-of-attack operations.

Ideal

Aermacchi and its Russian partner Yakovlev are optimistic that it will be the ideal candidate for the future ‘Eurotrainer' expected to enter service across the continent within the decade. Yak hopes that its -130 will be selected as the ‘trainer of choice' for the Russian air force which still has to choose between the Yak product and the MiG-AT - if and when it raises the necessary cash, largely dependent upon an export order for either aircraft. The F124 engine will provide a nominal rating of 6,300lb of thrust although growth to 6,800lb is currently being considered. In Yak-130 form, the aircraft will be powered either by the AI-222-25 engine or Slovakia's DV-2 unit, both of around 2,500kg thrust, the winner being chosen, according to a Yak spokesman, on the basis of "whoever offers the engine earlier and at a more attractive price".

Le Bourget 2001 is the first Paris airshow attended by FiatAvio since 1986, although it did have a small stand in one of the halls in 1999. The company has an annual turnover of $1.3 billion and it currently enjoys a year-on-year growth rate of around 12%, with 10% of profits being invested in R&D.
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