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  • Slovakia examines options as fighter RFI replies arrive

Slovakia examines options as fighter RFI replies arrive

Andrew Doyle/MUNICH

Slovakia is evaluating responses to its April request for information (RFI) on subsonic trainer/light attack aircraft as it moves forward with plans to issue a formal request for proposals later this year.

The country is looking to acquire up to 50 aircraft over 10 years to replace its Soviet-era equipment. Contenders for the contract include the Aero Vodochody L-159, the BAE Systems Hawk, the RSK MiG-AT and the Yakovlev/Aermacchi Yak/AEM-130. The competition is expected to hinge on aircraft performance, industrial offset arrangements and financing.

BAE executive vice-president central Europe David White says the company plans to propose an initial batch of 12 Hawks, comprising a mix of two-seat Hawk 100s and single-seat 200s, which could be delivered 30 months after contract signature. This would be followed by further tranches of aircraft.

Short-term solutions to boost the Slovak air force's capabilities are also under consideration, including the possible supply of an interim batch of used Hawks. BAE will table a 100% offset package.

Sources close to the competition say Aero Vodochody plans to offer a four-stage solution, starting with a modernisation and life-extension of the Slovak air force's fleet of eight L-39 trainers, to be performed by Slovak industry.

The next stage would see Slovakia take 12 L-159s, previously earmarked for the Czech air force, early next year. The Czech Government has agreed to make these aircraft available as it wants to reschedule deliveries of 72 L-159s it has on order, due to funding constraints.

Aero Vodochody, 34%-owned by Boeing, would subsequently deliver a batch of six aircraft, followed by additional tranches as required, later in the decade.

The Czech offer is also understood to propose the establishment of a pilot training facility at the Slovakian air force's academy at Kosice for use by international L-39, L-139 and L-159 customers. Direct and indirect industrial offsets equivalent to 100% of the contract value would be provided.

The Czechs view the L-159 programme as a key opportunity to help strengthen defence and industrial ties between the four "Visegrad" countries, which consist of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Yak/AEM-130 programme director Massimo Lucchesini says the Russian/Italian venture provided its response based on an assumed total requirement of 48 aircraft. The Yak/AEM-130, significantly, is powered by the Slovakian-built PSLMDV-2S, although a question mark remains over funding to complete development and certification of the powerplant.

With regard to offset, "we have a lot of contacts with local industry", says Lucchesini.

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