Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

Romanian fighter upgrade specialist Aerostar is looking for strategic partnerships in the civil and military sectors, possibly including the sale of equity in the Bacau-based company.

On the military side, Aerostar is hoping to build on its experience in the $300 million MiG-21MF Lancer upgrade for the Romanian air force, by moving on to a potential upgrade programme for the air force's 18 MiG-29Mfighters. This could possibly be done in partnership with the Daimler-Benz Aerospace/MAPO joint venture MiG Aircraft Production Support (MAPS), says Aerostar president Grigore Filip. Aerostar has already started investing money in the programme, and preliminary talks are under way with MAPS, he says.

To date, 56 upgraded MiG-21 MFs have been delivered out of 100 aircraft covered in the deal with Israeli company Elbit. Aerostar is marketing the upgrade outside Romania, and Filip says the target is to upgrade a further 200 MiG-21s. At the Farnborough air show earlier this month, Aerostar revealed its upgrade of the MiG-21 bis, known as the Lancer III, for the first time, although none are operational in Romania.

In the civil field, Filip says the company has recognised that its future as a manufacturer of the Yak-52 piston trainer is limited. As a result he sees the company's future as a subcontractor and subassembly manufacturer to Western aircraft companies, and says that preliminary talks on a possible partnership have begun with Boeing, Bombardier, Messier Dowty and Israel Aircraft Industries.

Aerostar has begun the restructuring process, floating 18% of the company's capital on the Bucharest stock exchange. The Romanian State Property Fund retains a 70% majority, and the remaining 12% is held by private investor Moldova.

Filip says that there are plans to privatise the company fully, with the government retaining a golden share, although he concedes this may take some time.

According to Filip, Aerostar is in talks with Thomson Communications to establish a joint venture to be called Aero-Thom Electronics, which will continue a programme started last year to equip the Romanian air force with identification friend-or-foe transponders.

The company will initially integrate transponders manufactured by Thomson, but will later manufacture the equipment itself. Aerostar has already established an avionics joint venture with Elbit Systems, called A-E Electronics.

The joint venture will carry out depot-level avionics maintenance for Romania's MiG-21 Lancers and other combat and training aircraft, says Filip. It will initially manufacture multifunction displays and electronic interfaces.

Source: Flight International