South Africa is expected to issue formal requests for information for its future combat-aircraft requirement to British Aerospace/Saab, Daimler-Benz Aerospace (Dasa) and Dassault in March or April.

The Dasa-led AT-2000 advanced trainer, the BAe/Saab JAS39 Gripen and Dassault Mirage 2000 are the three types shortlisted to meet its air force combat-aircraft requirements.

According to sources close to the programme, South African AT-2000 partner Denel is constructing a full-scale mock-up, and plans to embark on a promotional tour with the model in March.

The aircraft have been offered as part of larger defence-equipment packages by the manufacturing nations, and the South African side is tending towards combining elements of these separate European packages, say industry sources.

US industry has so far been prevented from competing by its embargo on defence sales to South Africa. This situation may change, when US President Bill Clinton visits the country in March, potentially introducing Boeing and Lockheed Martin into the picture.

The AT-2000 is now in its year-long definition phase, which will only be followed by full-scale development once Government orders are secured.

Source: Flight International