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M-346 Master

The M-346 Master is the only new generation advanced/lead-in fighter trainer currently available in Europe. The aircraft is tailored to train pilots to fly new generation combat aircraft and is well suited for every phase of advanced and pre-operational training, to reduce the flight hours on the more expensive aircraft. The aircraft embodies the latest "design-to-cost" and "design-to-maintain" concepts, with avionics modelled upon those of new generation military aircraft such as Eurofighter, Gripen, Rafale, F-16, F-22 and the future JSF.

While maintaining its advanced/lead-in fighter trainer characteristics, the M-346 is easily field-reconfigured to become an effective combat aircraft. In this operational configuration the aircraft can perform ground attack, anti-ship and aerial target missions, particularly in the so-called “homeland defence” role. Even when carrying a full load, the armed M-346 maintains a high thrust/weight ratio (in fact, not far from that offered by fully armed frontline multirole fighters) and moderate wing loading, both of which contribute to excellent overall performance and maneuverability. Even with one engine inoperative, the M-346 is still capable of high speed and maneuverability. This translates into remarkable battlefield survivability.

The large internal fuel capacity, complemented by up to three 630 l external tanks and a quickly removable air-to-air refueling probe, endows the M-346 with significant combat radius and/or patrol endurance further enhanced by the non-afterburning engines. Stores Management System data presentation and control functions run on any of the MFDs in either cockpits. HOTAS controls provide weapon system functions selection. Weapon aiming is provided by the central main processor, while aiming data are presented to the pilots through HUDs and, when installed, HMD.

The nine stores pylons are equipped with pneumatic ejector release units to reduce maintenance. The M-346 features innovative design solutions. Vortex lift aerodynamics, together with the full authority quadruplex Fly-by-Wire control system, allow the aircraft to remain fully controllable at angles of attack over 35° degrees. With this technological achievement, Alenia Aermacchi confirms it can autonomously design and manufacture advanced aircraft with Fly-by-Wire controls. This, combined with the twin-engine configuration and thrust/weight ration close to 1, translates into safety levels unattainable by its competitors. The M-346 also integrates digital avionics with the ability to simulate sensors and threats in flight. These characteristics and its performance make the M-346 the world's leading tactical pre-operational training aircraft.

The MB-339CM is a two-seat, aerobatic, single-engine aircraft for the Advanced and Lead-In-Fighter Training phases of the military pilot training syllabus. It is based upon the MB-339CD in use with the Italian Air Force. With its performance, excellent handling and sophisticated systems, the MB-339CD is one of the most successful members of the Alenia Aermacchi training aircraft family. The MB-339CM is equipped with modern avionics with a human-machine interface that includes a Head-Up Display (HUD) and three Multi Functional Displays (MFD) in both the front and rear cockpits, as well as software to simulate complex operational scenarios. The aircraft features an air-refuelling probe, which makes it even more representative of current fighters. This version adds further training and operational capabilities, integrating new functions in its avionics system. These include Embedded Training Simulation, digital maps, a cockpit compatible with night vision goggles (NVG), new radios and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), a new integrated Autonomous Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (AACMI) pod as well as modern safety equipment such as the Crash Data Recorder and Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT).

In November 2009 the Italian Air Force signed the contract about the first batch of 6 M-346, including also simulators and integrated logistic supports, to fulfill the advanced/lead-in fighter training requirements for pilots that will fly the future generation combat aircraft. This contract forms part of a broader agreement to supply a total of 15 M-346 and related support.

In February 2009 it was selected by the United Arab Emirates for their new training air fleet and the negotiations are at the last stage for the acquisition of a complete Integrated Training Solution comprehensive of 48 M-346. Furthermore, it is also in the short list (two competitors) in Singapore within the Fighter Wings Course (FWC).The M-346 programme also involves other Finmeccanica Group companies including Selex Galileo, Alenia SIA, Sirio Panel and Selex Communications. CAE, the world leader in simulation and integrated training solutions, is developing and validating the simulator for the Initial Training Capability. CAE enters the programme with Selex Galileo.

In march 2009 Alenia Aermacch delivered to the Royal Malaysian Air Force its first two MB-339CM trainers. These two aircraft are part of an order for eight trainers placed by the RMAF in late 2006. Chief Test Pilot Cdr. Quirino Bucci and Test Pilot Cdr. Matteo Maurizio took off from the Alenia Aermacchi airfield in two MB-339CMs and landed at the RMAF base at Kuantan after a 12,000-kilometre delivery flight. The six remaining MB-339CM were delivered in the course of 2009.

On 15 March 2010, Alenia Aermacchi (AAEM) and EADS Defence and Security (DS) submitted a joint response to the Request For Information (RFI) issued by the European Defence Agency (EDA) on 15 July 2009 about the Advanced European Jet Pilot Training (AEJPT) program. This initiative follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between AAEM and DS in December 2009 regarding their collaboration to supply an integrated training system based on the M 346 Master advanced trainer aircraft which meets the specific requirements of the nine European countries participating in the AEJPT program.

On 28 September 2010 ST Aerospace announced it has been awarded a contract to procure 12 M346 aircraft and ground based training system for the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) fighter pilot training in Cazaux, France. The acquisition cost of the aircraft, ground based training system and associated spares are worth S$543m, and delivery of the first aircraft is expected in 2012. This contract is primed by ST Aerospace, which will undertake the overall management of the program. The M346 aircraft will be provided by Alenia Aermacchi while Boeing will supply the ground based training system. In 2008, ST Aerospace teamed with Alenia Aermacchi and The Boeing Company to form a consortium to jointly bid the M346 aircraft for the RSAF Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) replacement program.

For the forthcoming T-X program to replace 450 USAF Northrop T-38 Talon trainers, the Alenia Aermacchi M-346, in its proposed US market guise as the T-100, stands its best chance of success if offered in alliance with one of the leading US defence operators. That program, which some analysts regard as a must-win contract for trainer manufacturers, could involve up to 1,000 aircraft, including naval and light attack versions, and the T-X will become the most suitable trainer for air forces fielding Lockheed Martin F-35s, so potential for international sales is also vast.

General Dynamics and Alenia Aermacchi, a Finmeccanica company, announced 17 January 2013 the signing of a Letter of Intent (LOI) to join forces and compete for the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer program, which will replace aging T-38 trainer jets and related training systems. The agreement leverages General Dynamics’ legacy of successfully integrating and delivering large, complex systems to the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and other government customers with Alenia Aermacchi’s proven jet training aircraft and demonstrated manufacturing capability. General Dynamics C4 Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics, will serve as the prime contractor.

Together, the team will offer a fully integrated advanced pilot training system built around the Alenia Aermacchi T-100, a market variant of the company’s established M-346 military aircraft trainer. As the prime contractor, General Dynamics will bring its proven experience in systems integration and sub-contract management to deliver an Advanced Pilot Training (APT) Family of Systems (FoS) consisting of aircraft, flight simulation devices, multi-media classrooms and logistics support. The T-100 Integrated Training System will incorporate any unique U.S. Air Force requirements and will be built in the United States with an emphasis on United States-made components and equipment.

Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 is an advanced jet trainer that is currently training the world’s air forces to operate fourth and fifth generation air-combat aircraft. Currently in production for international customers including the Israeli, Italian and Singaporean Air Forces, the M-346 has also been selected by the United Arab Emirates as their advanced aircraft trainer.

“The combined strengths of General Dynamics and Alenia Aermacchi’s T-100 will deliver a best-in-class training system ensuring that the U.S. Air Force’s next generation of fighter pilots are fully prepared to defend the nation and our allies, regardless of the mission,” said Jerry DeMuro, executive vice president of Information Systems and Technology for General Dynamics. “Leveraging aircraft and systems that are already proven internationally saves significant development time and cost for the Air Force and includes an unprecedented level of safety for the trainees as they train and fly.”

Giuseppe Giordo, chief executive officer for Alenia Aermacchi said, “This LOI brings together the world’s best and most efficient pilot training system in the T-100 and a leading U.S. prime defense contractor in General Dynamics. The General Dynamics and Alenia Aermacchi team will present the most technologically advanced and affordable training solution for the U.S. Air Force.”

The testing phase planned as mean of compliance for HIRF and lightning certification of Alenia Aermacchi M-346 in the full trainer configuration was completed in June 2013. The testing sessions were carried out at the Alenia Aermacchi Venegono and Turin-Caselle test center; the certification evidence was collected during numerous testing sessions in which innovative measurement techniques were implemented to verify the M-346 hardening versus high intensity radiated field (HIRF) environment, lightning indirect effects, electrostatic discharged effects as well as the demonstration of mutual electromagnetic compatibility among emissive and, potential, victim equipment.

Many tests were performed, for the first time, in a real operational scenario; the M-346 was set-up in different external stores configurations, thanks to the Alenia Aermacchi Anechoic Chamber - the largest in Europe for aeronautical testing - nearby the Turin Airport. The Anechoic Chamber was essential for the antenna noise and desensitization test of the communication and navigation M-346 receiver; the test required the desensitization evaluation of communication and navigation system, i.e. the measurement of electromagnetic noise generated by M-346 aircraft itself, especially by the avionic system, and captured by the many radio communication and navigation system antennas. During the antenna noise and desensitization testing phase, the M-346 aircraft was raised at five meter height with the landing gear closed, electrically powered and with the avionic bays air conditioned.

Leonardo said 06 August 2016 it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Taiwan’s state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation to supply 66 M-346s to the Republic of China Air Force. Giovanni Timossi, a sales manager with the company, said he traveled to Taiwan numerous times to discuss the contract and it was agreed that Italy would build the first 4-6 aircraft and the rest will be assembled in Taiwan with 50% components made in Italy. Italy also agreed to transfer relevant technology to Taiwan for the program.

At Le Bourget, ahead of the International Paris Air show, on 18 June 2017 Leonardo for the first time shoecased the new fighter attack version of the M-346, a further evolution of a family concept designed to create a common baseline, able to rapidly meet the different requirements of the air forces. The M-346 Fighter Attack is equipped with a dedicated variant of the Grifo multi-mode fire control radar, designed and manufactured by Leonardo.

This new version of the M-346 took its place next to the two existing variants of the aircraft: the Advanced Jet Trainer and the multi-role M-346FT (Fighter Trainer). Leonardo has already carried out the studies for the FA’s radar installation and its mechanical integration with the aircraft.

The M-346FA’s characteristics make it not only an excellent advanced trainer, but also a light fighter aircraft capable of carrying out operational missions at far lower costs than those of front-line fighters. Several air forces have already expressed their interest in it. With seven pylons for external loads, the M-346FA will retain the excellent capabilities of the M-346 family in the advanced and pre-operational training roles, but will also be able to operate very effectively as multi-role tactical aircraft, capable of air-to-surface, air-to-air and tactical reconnaissance missions.

The integration of the worldwide successful multi-mode Grifo radar will provide the M-346FA with unparalleled versatility and effectiveness, thanks to the availability of many specialized radar modes both Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface.

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Page last modified: 22-06-2017 19:00:30 ZULU