Lockheed Martin has confirmed that the United Arab Emirates has resumed talks with rival bidders for a contract to supply a fleet of advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft, about 16 months after signing an agreement with Alenia Aermacchi.

The UAE never finalised a planned contract to buy 48 M-346 Master jets after announcing an agreement in February 2009 at the IDEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

The defence ministry called a press conference at the Dubai air show last November to make an announcement about the agreement, but cancelled the event minutes before it was scheduled to begin.

Alenia Aermacchi M346
 © Alenia Aermacchi

The issue raised doubts about Alenia Aermacchi's ability to secure the deal against rivals from BAE Systems, offering the Hawk 128, and Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed with the T-50 Golden Eagle.

Asked whether Lockheed believes the UAE trainer/light attack jet deal is back in contention, Lockheed director of T-50 business development Doug Miller said: "Yes, I believe so."

Miller adds that the discussions with UAE officials are not formally acknowledged in Abu Dhabi. "But there's certainly renewed activity and discussions with the viable candidates," he says.

It's possible that the UAE could simply delay the contract award for a "number of years", Miller adds.

Source: Flight International