Finmeccanica’s M-346 AJT: Who’s the Master?
November 14/17: Debut Leonardo’s M-346FA aircraft—the Fighter Attack variant of the Advanced Jet Trainer—has made its first appearance at the Dubai Airshow. Designed to carry out multi-mission tactical strike and reconnaissance missions, the jet comes equipped with a Grifo fire control radar and has seven hardpoints for external fuel tanks and weapons, including a range of precision-guided bombs, as well as AIM-9L air-to-air missiles and an external gun. Several parties have expressed interest in the new variant. The firm is also looking to offer a new trainer version, the T-100, to the USAF’s ongoing trainer competition, and has promised to build a new facility in Alabama to handle production if selected. This week, a delegation from Alabama will visit Leonardo executives for a tour of its M-346 manufacturing facility in Venegono, near Milan, to help advance preparations already under way in Alabama for the development of the manufacturing facility at Moton Field and its 750-strong workforce.
Alenia’s Aermacchi’s M-346 advanced jet trainer began life in 1993, as a collaboration with Russia. It was also something of a breakthrough for Alenia Aermacchi, confirming that the Finmeccanica subsidiary could design and manufacture advanced aircraft with full authority quadriplex fly-by-wire controls. Those controls, the aircraft’s design for vortex lift aerodynamics, and a thrust:weight ratio of nearly 1:1, allow it to remain fully controllable even at angles of attack over 35 degrees. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Not to mention Sukhoi’s SU-30 family, which has made a name for itself at international air shows with remarkable nose-high maneuvers.
The Russian collaboration did not last. For a while, it looked like the Italian jet might not last, either. It did though, and has become a regular contender for advanced jet trainer trainer contracts around the world. Its biggest potential opportunity is in the USA. For now, however, its biggest customer is Israel.
Italy’s M-346: Fast Plane, Slow Aerospace
From Partnership to Solo Flight
Slow Aerospace & M-346 Exports
M-346: Contracts and Key Events
2014 – 2017
2007 – 2008
2004 – 2006
The USA’s T-X
Competitors & Market
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