Finmeccanica (Chalet A56) has this year “launched an investment” for a dual-role M346 trainer/light-attack aircraft, Filippo Bagnato, leader of the company’s aeronautics sector, said here on Monday.
The strategy is to offer potential customers–with the UAE and neighboring countries in mind–a three-step approach. As a first step, under a joint effort with the Italian air force, Finmeccanica would offer to train foreign pilots in Italy with M346s. Second, Finmeccanica would provide M346s for training in the customer’s country. Third, the company wants to offer to turn the trainers into dual-role aircraft. The second role would be “mainly ground attack, with a bit of self-defense thanks to a short-range missile,” Bagnato explained.
An M346 order is hoped as a follow-on to the purchase agreement Kuwait signed in September for 28 Eurofighter Typhoons. Since September, the Kuwaiti air force and its Italian counterpart have an MoU for the latter to train 60 Kuwaiti pilots in Italy. Among other aircraft, they will fly in the M346, Bagnato said. No formal negotiation has begun with Kuwait's government about a potential order, however.
In helicopters, AgustaWestland CEO Daniele Romiti said the two AW189s Falcon Aviation Services has been operating have reached 90 percent availability.
Of the recent AW609 Tiltrotor fatal crash near Milan, Italy, Romiti said flights of the other prototype–in Arlington, Texas–have been stopped as a precautionary measure. Nevertheless, the assembly of the third prototype is continuing, he added. A spokesman confirmed to AIN the company does not see a reason to doubt the future of the program.