The German Government is close to a deal to sell 32 reconditioned Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to meet air force training requirements.
Although talks are at an advanced stage, progress is believed to have slowed recently in the face of opposition from Germany's Green Party, a partner in the ruling coalition, which has raised questions over the aircraft's ground attack capabilities.
According to sources close to the negotiations, the Greens were unaware that the aircraft - which the UAE intends to use primarily as trainers - had formerly also been used in the close air support role by the German air force.
Fairchild Aerospace subsidiary Dornier Luftfahrt stands to gain from the success of the current negotiations.
"We have been asked by the German Government to be available to do the necessary maintenance activities to make the aircraft operational again," says Klaus Bauer, vice-president of Dornier International Logistics.
The UAE requires 30 Alpha Jet airframes to be restored to airworthy condition, with the other two airframes used for spares.
Bauer says that the restoration work would amount to a complete overhaul of each airframe, along with its systems, adding that Dornier will "offer its expertise" to the UAE in maintaining the aircraft through the rest of their operational lives.
Dornier has begun similar restoration work on ex-German air force Alpha Jets ordered by the UK's defence research organisation DERA, and the Thai air force. DERA is buying 12 aircraft, seven of which are to be restored to operational condition, while Thailand has ordered 25, 20 of which will be flyable.
Bauer says a UAE deal would complete disposal of all Germany's mothballed Alpha Jets, which were withdrawn from service in the mid-1990s.
He stresses that the restored airframes should still have "at least" another 3,000h of operational life in them by "conservative" German air force standards, and could serve in the UAE for 15-20 years.
The UAE restoration work would be worth a potential $100 million to Dornier, with the German Government charging a nominal $50,000 for each airframe. Deliveries for all three contracts are due to begin in 2000.
Despite the likelihood of the Alpha Jet deal, British Aerospace still hopes for further Hawk sales to the Emirates, citing a "huge" UAE pilot training requirement. The UAE already operates 34 Hawks.
Another competitor is Taiwan's Aerospace Industrial Development, which is offering a modernised version of its AT-3S advanced trainer/lead-in fighter trainer.
Source: Flight International