Each of the original three contenders to supply the UAE Air Force with an advanced jet trainer (AJT) offered unique selling points that could have tipped the balance in their favor. But following the recent rejection of the BAE Hawk submission, a final selection is expected imminently and could even be announced before the end of the show.
Two BAE Hawk AJT’s flew here three months ago for evaluation by the UAE Air Force & Air Defence, undergoing a stringent examination in very high temperatures. However, having previously taken some earlier models, the UAE was not unfamiliar with the aircraft. More recently, some Air Force students and instructors flew Hawk 115s at the Nato Flying Training Canada (NFTC) facility.
Although continuously upgraded, the Hawk is a 35-year-old design and has not made it though to the final selection, leaving the choice between two next-generation advanced trainers: Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 and the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50. While the latter boasts no service record to speak of, it may well be regarded as an ideal lead in to the F-16 fighters currently in service with the UAE.
KAI’s limited experience in export markets must be balanced by the fact that the company has produced the F-16 in quantity. Since 1992, as an offset for selection of the F-16, Lockheed Martin has provided aid in the design and production of the KTX-II, which became the T-50 now going to the Republic of Korea air force. This too has flown demonstrations in the UAE, where it could ensure many years of service preparing pilots for the F-16.
The UAE’s interest in advanced design to meet its future trainer requirement became apparent when its air force joined with EADS in developing the AT-2000 Mako project a few years ago. However, failure to find a partner willing to help fund the program led to its demise and, having earlier worked with a German company on an AJT project from which it subsequently withdrew, Alenia Aermacchi has become one of the two finalists for the UAE order with its M-346.