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Venezuela selects MB339FD and AMX ATA combination

Andrea Spinelli/GENOA

Venezuela has chosen a mix of the Aermacchi MB339FD jet trainer and the new ATA version of the Alenia-Aermacchi-Embraer AMX trainer/attack aircraft to meet its advanced jet trainer and light strike fighter requirements. The purchase of the AMX will be the first export order for the aircraft.

The MB339FD will replace the Venezuelan air force's obsolete Rockwell T-2D Buckeye aircraft used for training. The decision to select the Italian aircraft opens the way for detailed contractual negotiations to begin, and a contract signature is expected by the first quarter of 1999.

Some $110 million has been allocated for the programme in Venezuela's 1998 budget, with $300-400 million expected to be earmarked for procurement in the following two years.

The air force intends to order eight MB-339FDs initially, with deliveries beginning in the first quarter of 2000. Between 20 and 40 aircraft - a mix of MB339FDs and two-seat AMXs - are expected to be procured.

In June, the Venezuelan air force chose the Aermacchi SF260E piston-engined trainer to replace its ageing Beech T-34 Mentor, with 12 aircraft to be delivered starting in 1999. Further options could see up to 18 more SF260s purchased.

The SF260E is the first step in a three-aircraft training philosophy that also includes the Embraer Tucano as an intermediate trainer before students can move up to a lead-in advanced jet trainer.

The MB339FD and the AMX will fulfil two roles - advanced training and light strike. The AMX is likely to be used mainly as a strike platform.

Israel's Elbit and Elta are emerging, respectively, as potential avionics and radar suppliers for the new ATA version of the AMX. This latest development of the AMX is based on the Italian air force Block 3 configuration, further updated with a full digital cockpit and upgraded avionics. The Venezuelan MB339FD has a similar configuration to the Italian air force's MB-339CD, apart from the Rolls-Royce Viper 680 engine.

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