Alenia Aermacchi is positively addressing the world trainer market arena in a period of economical downturn, providing a reassuring signal for Italy's aeronautical industry, according to the company's chief executive Carmelo Cosentino

The 48th edition of the Le Bourget air show comes in a period of world economical downturn, which is affecting the aerospace sector. How is Alenia Aermacchi approaching this situation?

The Le Bourget air show represents an important international showcase for the aerospace sector. Although the economical downturn is hampering this world, Alenia Aermacchi is providing a positive signal against the current trend, thanks to the company's latest product in its core business, the M-346 Master advanced/lead-in-fighter trainer.

Considered the most advanced aircraft in its class on the market, the M-346 has been selected by the Italy and United Arab Emirates air forces for a total of over 60 aircraft, to be built in the forthcoming years.

Carmelo Cosentino - CEO Alenia Aermacchi 
© Alenia Aermacchi

This is a reassuring signal for all national aeronautical industries at a time of strong difficulty.

Which are current and future M-346 programme milestones? The M-346 has also been selected in an operational armed version. Which are its main items and what are its market prospects?

We have two M-346 prototypes and one series representative aircraft on the line, in the final stage of flight envelope verification testing. The fourth aircraft is completing full-scale aircraft static tests at Alenia Aermacchi facilities in Venegono, while the fifth aircraft is ready to begin fatigue tests.

The M-346 production and assembly line will be ready by year-end, characterised by advanced technical solutions and high-level automation. It will deliver the first aircraft for the Italian air force from the end of 2010, with a full initial production regime of 18-24 aircraft a year, according to market request. We are also ready to conclude industrial agreements for aircraft final assembly, components production and maintenance abroad.

The United Arab Emirates has requested 48 aircraft, including 20 in an operational armed version. These aircraft will be equipped according to the specific customer requirements, including a radar system, for which contacts are already ongoing with Selex Galileo's Finmeccanica company.

The global market prospects for the latest-generation trainer aircraft indicate a requirement for around 2,000 aircraft, with Alenia Aermacchi believing it can capture a share of around 600-700 units. No precise estimates are available for the armed operational version, although we believe it will add more aircraft to the already mentioned market share. This version is attracting interest from the Middle and Far East, as well as South America.

In which current world advanced trainer competitions is Aermacchi participating with the M-346 and what are its short- and medium-term prospects?

We are awaiting Italian air force contract signature and we are in the final stage of negotiations with the United Arab Emirates for an integrated training solution deal, which is expected to be reached before this summer. Alenia Aermacchi is also in competition for the Singapore Fighter Wing Course programme, including 10-12 aircraft and a comprehensive training and support package, for which we are tendering together with Boeing and ST (Singapore Technologies) Aerospace.

Other countries including Austria, Greece and Poland are showing strong interest in our aircraft, in addition to Eurotraining group members. A request for information for that programme is expected very soon.

At which markets is Alenia Aermacchi looking for additional MB-339 sales?

We are working to complete a Malaysia order for eight aircraft and an option for an additional four, of which two MB-339CMs have already been delivered and the third was flown for the first time recently.

The Italian air force has received the first two of 14 CD version upgraded aircraft. We are continuing to pay attention to the MB-339 opportunities on the markets and to satisfy the needs of our aircraft clients.

Source: Flight Daily News