MILAN – Finmeccanica has “captured” the US army. After overcoming four world-class competitors and waiting for more than a year, the Italian group yesterday received the official communication that the Pentagon has selected for the American army and air force the C-27J Spartan, a tactical transport aircraft constructed by Finmeccanica subsidiary Alenia Aeronautica in a consortium with L-3 and Boeing. The contract is for the supply of 145 aircraft, 75 for the army and 70 for the air force, and will involve a total of 207 aircraft over the next ten years for an estimated value of about six billion dollars (4.5 billion euros).
Initially, the US Department of Defense will purchase 78 aircraft for about two billion dollars. The American part of production will be carried out at Waco, Texas, while the aircraft will be built in Italy at the Alenia Aeronautica factories at Pomigliano and Turin-Caselle. This is a second American success for Finmeccanica and the group chairman, Pier Francesco Guarguaglini. In 2005, the group’s AgustaWestland subsidiary won the contract to supply the US101 helicopter for US president’s Marine One, which was chosen over the American Sikorsky company’s product. Now another subsidiary, Alenia Aeronautica, has swept the competition aside after concentrating on this programme, on which work started in the late 1990s. The triumph of the C-27 J could open the doors to further tenders being accepted in Canada and Australia, where the respective contracts call for up to 18 and 20 aircraft. In the final European-dominated stage, the Italian aircraft defeated the only other competitor still in the race, the C-295 from Spain’s EADS CASA in consortium with the US Raytheon company. American experts had already ruled out the other two offers, the EADS CASA-Raytheon consortium’s CN235 and the C-130J Short from the major Pentagon supplier, Lockheed Martin. The Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) programme was developed to meet operational requirements that have emerged in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For Finmeccanica chair and CEO, Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, “The C-27J’s success shows that our decision to concentrate on the United States, the market with the biggest defence budget in the world, is a winner. Finmeccanica’s international expansion strategy, launched in 2002, has been confirmed as the right solution to enhance competitiveness”. Giorgio Zappa, the managing director of Finmeccanica and CEO of Alenia Aeronautica, pointed out that this success testifies to the value of “Finmeccanica’s aeronautical skills”. The announcement came on the day after the visit to Rome of the American president, George W. Bush.