While offering high performance and good flying qualities thatclosely match modern single-seat fighters, M-346 is offering highsafety standards and reduced acquisition and operating costs of atwin-seat trainer. The aircraft can also carry weapons and stores,supporting advanced training and secondary operational missions as alight attack aircraft. The structural design includes nine hard-points,and has provisions to install and integrate special equipment.
Sofar the M-346 was selected by three countries – Italy, UAE andSingapore. The Italian Air Force has also selected the aircraft for itsIntegrated Training System (ITS), comprising 15 aircraft. In the UnitedArab Emirates the M-346 will provide the core of their new training airfleet, training pilots to fly the F-16 Block 60 fighter. The UAE intendto buy 48 aircraft, 20 to be configured with secondary light attackcapability. Singapore has also selected this model for their FighterWings Course (FWC) requirement. The new trainers will replace thecurrent fleet of two-seat A-4 Skyhawk advanced trainers, trainingSingaporean pilots to fly the RSAF F-16 Block 52 fighters.
In a joint initiative promoting the aircraft within the Europeancommunity, EADS Defence and Security (DS) and Finmeccanica have teamedto propose the M-346 for the Advanced European Jet Pilot Training(AEJPT) program, replacing the 40 year old Alpha Jet still in servicewith nine European air forces. M-346 is offered by this multi-nationalteam as the ‘All European’ trainer, meeting the requirements of theAEJPT nations and the European Defense Agency (EDA) in terms ofcapabilities, flexibility, training effectiveness, interoperability,geographic allocation and industrial work share. The team intends toinvolve all other European firms from AEJPT member countries in thetraining service and base operating activities.
Another opportunity for the M-346 is the Israel Air Force, seekingto replace upgraded single-seat operational trainers such as the A-4Skyhawk and Block 10+ F-16A Falcon. The two finalists considered by theIsrael Air Force are the M-346 and the K-50 proposed by a KoreanAerospace (KAI) and Lockheed Martin. Israel Aerospace Industries andElbit Systems have also reached an agreement supporting the platformselected by the IAF with full training and logistical package. Bothcompanies are already providing such services supporting lead-intrainers, advanced trainers and simulator farms operated by the IAF.
The latest prospect is Poland – which published this week aninternational tender for the delivery of the Lead-In Fighter Trainer(LIFT) – as part of an Integrated Aviation Personnel Training System,to include 16 jet trains, training and logistical support. Polandexpects the bids by October 4th, 2010. Potential bidders expected tosubmit offers are Italian Alenia Aermacchi of the Finmeccanica group,the company brought its latest trainer, the M-346 to MSPO, Poland’sannual defense exhibition. Finmeccanica has set its eyes on the Polishopportunity for several years, with the M-346 participating inevaluations in Poland and Polish airshows and events since 2006.
Both M-346, Hawk AJT and T-50 are expected to compete for theworld’s largest opportunity for jet trainers – the USAF trainerreplacement competition (T-X). BAE Systems has already announced itsplans to compete, the likely opponent is Lockheed Martin, teamed withKAI on the T-50. As for Finmeccanica, the Italian group is expected toteam with a U.S. group to effectively compete with these two giants.Among the candidates are L-3 which already participates with Alenia onthe C-27 program.