MCDONNELL DOUGLAS' (MDC) failure to dispose of surplus Kuwaiti A-4K Skyhawks is undermining the company's efforts to sell the country its AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.

Kuwait's 1988 order for 40 MDC F/A-18 Hornets included the proviso that the manufacturer found a buyer for its A-4s. The 23 surviving aircraft, including three tandem seats TA-4Ks, remain unsold and many of them are now in storage.

According to Kuwaiti sources, the unresolved issue has soured relations with MDC and affected its long running and so far, unsuccessful campaign to supply 16 AH-64s.

Senior MDC sources argue that the original contract pre-dated the 1990/1 Gulf War and that many of Kuwait's A-4s and stock of spares were either damaged or lost. The company further claims to have approached some 15 potential buyers and to have secured at least one serious offer, to which Kuwait did not respond.

Despite the continued impasse, MDC is preparing to submit a second, updated, proposal to Kuwait, based on the improved AH-64D version. US Government release of the helicopter for sale to the region, however, does not include the helicopter's Martin Marietta Longbow millimetre-wave radar.

The release has also complicated Sikorsky's competing offer of 16 export-variant MH-60Q Black Hawk special forces' helicopters. The US defence department has refused to clear the helicopter's Hughes AAQ-16 combined forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) imager and laser designator for export.

Negotiations are continuing between Kuwait and the US Government on the pricing and content of a Black Hawk letter of offer and acceptance. Attention is focused on replacing the AAQ-16 with a downgraded and lower-cost version, which is now under development, or an alternative system from FLIR Inc.

Source: Flight International