Alenia Aermacchi expects Singapore to make a decision on its much-anticipated advanced jet trainer competition by the end of April.

The island is assessing the Italian company's M-346 and Korea Aerospace Industries' T-50 for its requirement, and Alenia Aermacchi chief executive Carmelo Cosentino says that it "needs a few more months".

He adds: "Singapore is at the final stage of the bid. The contract is not just for the airframes, but for 25 years of service as well, and we are showing that we can provide both effectively.

"We will provide the aircraft. We anticipate that between 11 and 14 aircraft are ideal for their requirement. We partner ST Aero [Singapore Technologies Aerospace], who will provide maintenance and service for the 25 years. Boeing will provide the ground-based training system, as well as the simulator and flight school."

M-346 LRIP
© Alenia Aermacchi

Singapore has not confirmed if it will continue to conduct its advanced training activities at France's Cazaux air base, where it now uses modified TA-4 Skyhawks. Aermacchi has said that it would be willing to accommodate Singaporean students at its M-346 training facility in Italy, while Lockheed officials indicated that they would welcome the nation's AJT activities to the USA, where the Republic of Singapore Air Force pilots already train on the Boeing F-15 and Lockheed Martin F-16.

The M-346 was selected over the T-50 by the United Arab Emirates in 2009 to supply 28 trainer aircraft and 20 in the light combat variants, but a contract has not been signed. "We are working with the customer to define the requirements of the light combat aircraft version. We are confident that a contract will be signed in 2010, within a few months."

Around Asia, Aermacchi says that it is looking forward to requirements in India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. "There is a lot of demand for jet trainers and for light combat aircraft in many parts of the region," says Cosentino.

In the USA, the M-346 is also likely to be up against the T-50 for an AJT competition. Cosentino says that the company has still not decided on a US partner, and that it is likely to be either Boeing or Northrop Grumman. "It is most important that the partner is exclusive with us," he adds.

While Boeing has an international marketing contract with Aermacchi for the M-346, it is considering the development of an advanced jet trainer to compete in the US tender to replace its T-38s.

Aermacchi expects the USA to select an aircraft in 2014 in time for initial operational capability in 2017.

Source: Flight International