Fewer companies than expected have responded to the Turkish Government's request for proposals (RFP) for the Avionics Modernisation Program for its Northrop F-5s, say Turkish officials close to the project.

The RFP was issued to 19 international companies in October, and the response date, originally 16 December, 1996, was extended to 15 January this year by the Turkish defence ministry's Under-secretariat for Defence Industries.

The five bidders to meet the deadline are Eidetics, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Technologies, Sogerma and a team headed by Singapore Aerospace, which includes Elbit Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries as major subcontractors.

Other international firms with F-5/T-38 or fighter/bomber modification experience apparently decided not to bid. These include Bristol Aerospace, which has upgraded Canadian CF-5A/Ds; CASA, which refurbished Spanish F-5A/Bs; Lockheed Martin, updating avionics on A-4 Skyhawks for Argentina; McDonnell Douglas, which recently won the US Air Force T-38 avionics-upgrade programme; and SABCA, which is in the process of modernising 12 Indonesian F-5E/Fs.

According to industry sources, further refinement of bidders will occur in mid-February when the defence ministry is expected to select a shortlist of the most viable avionics competitors. The primary shortlist criterion, as outlined in the RFP, is that the bidder will have successfully completed an F-5 avionics-system design and have "-implemented a modernisation programme for a government".

The Under-secretariat and the Turkish air force will visit the end-user government to evaluate the design and aircraft modification. Test flying an upgraded operational aircraft is a major objective.

Turkey wants to conduct a comprehensive avionics and structural upgrade of 48 F-5s to use as lead-in trainers for the Turkish air force's fleet of locally produced Lockheed Martin F-16C/Ds.

Source: Flight International