Aermacchi M-346FA | The flexible multi-role fighter – VIDEO
Defence Redefined
Published on 07/02/2021 at 11:14

The Aermacchi M-346FA aircraft is the latest version of the advanced twin-engine trainer, designed and manufactured by the Italian Leonardo, which, in addition to its training role, can be used as a light combat aircraft.

The M-346FA was first introduced in June 2017, during the international air show “Paris Air Show 2017” and its first user has been the Italian Air Force. 

The M-346 fighter aircraft – which the FA (Fighter Attack) version derives from – is based on the attempt between Aermacchi and Russian Yakovlev to jointly develop and promote the Yak-130 aircraft.

In 2000, however, the cooperation between the two companies ended due to differences and each company continued to develop the aircraft independently. The M-346 is the simplified version of the joint aircraft design and uses entirely parts made from Western manufacturers. The first prototype was presented on June 7, 2003 and the first flight took place on July 15, 2004.

On January 5, 2021, the agreement for the establishment of a Flight Center for the Hellenic Air Force was signed, which will be manufactured and operated by the Israeli company, Elbit Systems Ltd. Among other things, as part of the agreement, the acquisition of ten (10) Aermacchi M-346 training aircraft is envisaged.

Also read: Greece – Israel | Historic agreement – Establishment of a HAF flight center and acquisition of 10 M-346 aircraft

The M-346 aircraft offers pilots Advanced Jet Training. The aerodynamic design of the M-346 ensures high maneuverability and control at high angles of attack, using a digital 4-channel fly-by-wire flight control system. 

In addition to its training role, the M-346FA can perform a number of missions, including air policing and interdiction, tactical reconnaissance and Close Air Support (CAS) missions. According to Leonardo’s Project Test Pilot Trainer Giacomo Iannelli, “the M-346FA keeps all the advanced trainer’s features, such as the on board Embedded Tactical Training System (ETTS) that simulates, in a Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) environment, all the systems and stores with which it will have to operate. This is a significant advantage for the pilots that are thus able to seamlessly pass from training to real missions without having to change the aircraft.”

M-346FA Technical Characteristics: 

  • Length: 11.49 meters
  • Wingspan: 10.11 meters 
  • Maximum take-off weight: 10,400 kg
  • Powerplant: 2 x Honeywell F124-GA-200 turbofans with a maximum power of 6,280 lbs thrust each
  • Maximum flight speed: 1,090 km / h
  • Maximum flight altitude: 13,715 meters
  • Range (without external tanks): 1925 km

The twin-engine configuration assures a high battlefield survivability, while at the same time fuel consumption is kept low thanks to engine performance. According to Leonardo, the M-346FA’s cost per flying hour is 80% lower compared to a heavier and more expensive fighter used for close air support missions.

The M-346FA aircraft incorporates (similarly to M-346) fully digital cockpit advanced systems for providing data to pilots such as Multi-Function display (MFD), Head Up Display and Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) data systems as well as HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) type commands.

In addition, the aircraft incorporates a tactical navigation system, GPS, Inertial Navigation System (INS), altitude radar and a Mid-Air Collision Avoidance System (MIDCAS).

The M-346FA is equipped with a DASS (Defensive Aid Sub System) self-defence system, which includes a Radar Warning Receiver, a Chaff and Flare dispenser as well as a Missile Approach Warning System, with six sensors and a comprehensive 360° protection against any missile threat. The aircraft will be safely able to exchange all the tactical data in real time thanks to a dedicated Tactical Data Link, according to the NATO Link 16 or other standards.

Another essential feature of the aircraft is the pulse-doppler multimode radar GRIFO-346, produced by Leonardo’s Airborne & Space Systems Division. 

The armament that the M-346FA can carry is impressive for its size. Specifically, the aircraft has a total of seven (7) stores with a carrying capacity of 3,000 kg. The weapon systems certified for use by the M-346FA are:

  • IRIS-T, I-Derby, AIM-9L Sidewinder Air-to-Air Missiles
  • Brimstone Air-to-Ground Missile, JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), SDB (Small Diameter Bomb), Paveway and Lizard-4 Marte-ER anti-ship missile

In addition, the M-346FA can carry ordinary munitions (e.g. 500 lb class bombs), gun pods including 12.7 mm machine guns or rockets as well as targeting pods (e.g. Sniper) or reconnaissance pods.

Also read: 

Lockheed Martin | The Greek F-16V will be the most advanced F-16 in Europe – Infographics






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