Israel Chooses Italian M346 For Jet Training Duties

 - February 24, 2012, 11:10 AM
Israel will become the third customer for the Alenia Aermacchi M346 advanced jet trainer. (Photo: Alenia Aermacchi)

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has selected the Alenia Aermacchi M346 as its new advanced jet trainer, in preference to the Korean Aircraft Industries (KAI) T-50. A joint venture between IAI and Elbit will acquire some 30 aircraft and provide training courses to the IAF under contract. The Israeli defense ministry said that the deal is worth about $1 billion, and that the Italian government has agreed to purchase equipment from the Israeli defense industry worth a similar amount, in offset.

KAI officials attending the Singapore Airshow last week made clear their displeasure at the Israeli decision-making process. KAI had previously selected the IAI-Elta EL/M-2032 radar for the attack version of the T-50, and was offering further offsets in the keenly fought Israeli contest.

In a reference to the offset provision, Alenia Aermacchi chief executive officer Giuseppe Giordo referred to the “synergic collaboration between the Italian industry and authorities.” The Italian air force is now expected to order AEW aircraft equipped with IAI-Elta radar systems, either the CAEW system hosted on the Gulfstream G550 or, more likely, the new active rotating array system hosted on the EADS-CASA C-295 airlifter.

The contract with Israel is slated to be signed by the middle of this year, with deliveries to follow two years later, Alenia said. The Italian company showed two of the six M346s ordered by the Italian air force at the Singapore Airshow last week, in a prelude to the delivery of the first of 12 aircraft that will train Singapore air force pilots later this year. These aircraft will be contractor-operated (by ST Aero and subcontractor Boeing) in a program similar to that planned by Israel. The T-50 was also the losing contender in Singapore and, apparently, in the UAE. Alenia noted again last week that the M346 “was selected by the UAE under its tender for 48 new trainer aircraft, in both operational and training versions.” However, the Emiratis never confirmed the order. AIN reported last November that the UAE might not proceed with the requirement.