At the Finmeccanica exhibit here at Farnborough (Outside OE2) visitors once again can find Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 lead-in fighter trainer. At a first glance the aircraft looks the same as that exhibited at previous airshows, but close up it is possible to note some of the differences featured in this first preproduction aircraft, which was rolled out from the Italian group’s assembly line in April.
It might seem strange that the aerospace world awaits with such anticipation Singapore’s choice of advanced jet trainer, especially since it will probably involve no more than a dozen aircraft. But, as Alenia Aermacchi’s CEO Carmelo Cosentino remarked here at the show, “Singapore is one of the most sophisticated and demanding customers in the world–and we like that because we have the best product.”
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.
Northrop Grumman Italia is making its Singapore Air Show debut with a display covering its full range of navigation systems mostly based on fiber-optic technology already selected in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Products on display include the LISA-200 and Navex family attitude heading reference systems and LN 251/LN 270 high accuracy inertial navigation systems.
According to Alenia Aeronautica, it is meeting its commitments as a supplier for the Boeing 787 and has not contributed to the delays the program is suffering. The Italian company delivers complete composite fuselage sections to Global Aeronautica, its joint venture with Vought in Charleston, South Carolina, which subsequently adds components to the structures before shipping them to Boeing’s final assembly line in Everett, Washington.
While record-breaking orders for airliners were announced, the just-completed Dubai Air Show, held from November 11 to 15, offered no big news for the defense industry. However, there were important developments across the border in Saudi Arabia, and the UAE Air Force is close to making important decisions about its future pilot training system.
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.
While the first two prototypes of the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 lead-in fighter trainer are engaged in a development program, a third is taking shape at the Italian manufacturer’s Venegono facility. It incorporates some differences from the two existing aircraft, having benefited from test and evaluation programs Alenia Aermacchi conducted with air force pilots from various countries.
A new alliance with the evolving Russian aerospace sector and efforts to break into the Middle East defense market are key to Italian industrial group Finmeccanica’s strategy for boosting its global presence in the industry. Finmeccanica (Stand C310) comes to Dubai fresh from having formed the new Superjet International joint venture between its Alenia Aeronautica subsidiary and Russia’s Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Co.
The U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter program represents an important opportunity not only for large Italian aerospace companies, but also for medium-size firms that are playing a significant role in developing the F-35 Lightning. Among these is Milan-based Aerea, whose engineers are directly involved in the aircraft mission equipment integrated project team (IPT) at Lockheed Martin’s main facility in Fort Worth, Texas.