Finmeccanica’s M-346 AJT: Who’s the Master?
February 10/17: Despite not having a US-based partner and prime contractor, Leonardo is to go it alone in the USAF T-X trainer competition . Raytheon withdrew from the partnership last month. The Italian firm’s US-subsidary, Leonardo DRS, will now act as prime contractor, although it remains unclear where the T-100 advanced jet trainer will be assembled if the company secures the contract.
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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