Finmeccanica’s M-346 AJT: Who’s the Master?
March 14/17: Despite losing Raytheon as a US-based partner in the USAF’s T-X trainer competition, Leonardo is still forging ahead with plans to establish final assembly for the M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer derivative — the T-100 — in the US. The location of the final assembly point is expected to be announced soon; however, no shortlists of potential sites for the plant have yet been offered by the firm. Prior to exiting from the project, Raytheon had chosen Meridian, Mississippi, as a final assembly location. Despite a US partner, Leonardo is confident of the off-the-shelf model’s low cost against its competitor’s clean sheet designs, and the track record the M-346 has had in already being used to train Israeli pilots for fifth-generation aircraft.
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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