Alenia Aermacchi is in talks with an unnamed US company to become the prime contractor for the T-100 trainer, a day after General Dynamics Information Systems & Technology withdrew itself from that role.
General Dynamics, meanwhile, is denying that the decision to remove itself as the prime contractor for the trainer was tied to the final requirements for the program released by the Air Force a week ago.
In a March 27 email, an Alenia spokesman told Defense News that there are ongoing discussions to find a prime to replace GD, but declined to name the potential new partner.
"Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi is in [talks] with a new major US prime contractor and it is fully committed to the North America market," the spokesman said in a statement. "For the moment I can't say who is the new partner."
The T-100, based on Alenia's M-346, is an offering for the Air Force's T-X advanced trainer replacement program. The winner of the competition will produce 350 jets to replace the aging T-38 fleet.
The contest has been hotly contested, with four other teams competing for the contract. Company CEO Giuseppe Giordo was ousted yesterday as part of a larger cleaning out of parent company Finmeccanica.
Just who that next prime for the T-100 could be is unclear. There is no real clear answer, said Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners.
Of the potential companies who would have the infrastructure, capabilities and desire to be in that market, he said, only one stands out.
"L-3 theoretically has the facilities," he said, noting that Alenia and L-3 worked together on the C-27 program. "They would be the only one I can think that would conceivably make sense. There's no one else who jumps off the page."
However, Callan noted that L-3's simulation arm is a major partner on Northrop's clean-sheet offering, and the company may not want to create internal competition.
Alenia is in the midst of a major leadership turnover.
In the meantime, a General Dynamics spokeswoman said the company is "still assessing our options for a role" in the T-100 program.
As to when the decision to change its status on the T-100 was made, the spokeswoman said it was in the works for some time.
"The decision was made in the fourth quarter of 2014," she wrote in an email. "The requirements released last week did not influence the company's decision."
"When the program was as an off-the-shelf airplane, we believed that our program management skills provided value-add to the customer," the spokeswoman added. "However, as the program moved from an off-the-shelf only airplane to a more engineered trainer, we no longer believed that value proposition existed."