Alenia Aermacchi expects to soon ink an order for 18 SF-260 primary trainers from the Philippines National Defence Department as part of a package aimed at modernizing the Asian nation’s armed forces. The Philippines armed forces have been using SF-260 trainers since the early 1970s, when they took the first of an order for 46 piston-powered aircraft, replaced in 1991 by 18 SF-260TP turboprops. The latest order calls for delivery of the standard SF-260F version powered by 260-hp, six-cylinder Textron Lycoming AEIO-540 D4A5 engines. The $38 million contract includes provision for ground equipment and spares, as well as pilot and specialist training. Aerotech Industries Philippines Inc., based at the Clark Special Economic Zone, will undertake final assembly. The first four aircraft are to be delivered within one year from the contract signing. Three more four-aircraft batches will then ship at six-week intervals, with delivery of the last two scheduled for within 18 months of the contract signing.
In the Far East, Alenia Aermacchi competes with its M346 lead-in fighter trainer for the Fighter Wings Course in Singapore, which wants a new aerial training platform to replace the aging TA-4SUs in service for the Republic of Singapore Air Force, currently based at Cazaux French Air Force Base. The contract will also provide for training services for a fixed number of years, and it might develop into a private finance initiative. The M346 competes against the KAI T-50 and BAE Systems Hawk 128.
Indonesia is also considering replacing its advanced trainer fleet and has evaluated the M346 as a possible replacement for its Hawk Mk53, although the timing of the potential bid remains uncertain.
As for Malaysia, Alenia Aermacchi won a contract in late 2006 for eight MB339-CMs, which includes offsets for local maintenance providers. The contract calls for delivery of the first two aircraft this November, followed by two more every two months until May 2009. The Royal Malaysian Air Force said it intends to buy four more aircraft of the same model, subject to mid-term review by the 9th Malaysian Financial Plan in the first half of this year. Delivery of those aircraft would take place within 24 months from contract signing.
‘I’m Here About the Position’
The Alenia Aermacchi M346 jet trainer landed in Singapore on February 14 before starting a series of customer demonstration flights and participating in flying displays here at the show. Making its farthest deployment to date, the twin-engine trainer flew 6,500 nm from Venegono, Italy, stopping in Crete, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, India and Thailand en route. The trip took four days for test pilots Olinto Cecconello and Quirino Bucci. Fitted with two 153-gallon underwing tanks, the lead-in fighter trainer, as the manufacturer calls it, appears with a prominent refueling probe used in recent weeks for a series of in-flight fuel transfer tests from an Italian Air Force Tornado attack aircraft.