Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master

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M-346 Master
M346-2023.jpg
An M-346 at Farnborough Airshow in 2010
Role Advanced trainer / light attack
Manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi
First flight 15 July 2004
Status Under development
Primary users Italian Air Force
Israeli Air Force
Republic of Singapore Air Force
Developed from Yakovlev Yak-130

The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master is a military transonic trainer aircraft. Based on the Yak-130, the M-346 was a joint venture between Yakovlev and Aermacchi.

Development[edit]

In 1993, Aermacchi signed an agreement to partner with Yakovlev on the new trainer the firm had been developing since 1991 for the Russian Air Force. The resulting aircraft first flew in 1996 and was brought to Italy the following year to replace the aging MB-339. At the time, the aircraft was marketed as the Yak/AEM-130, however, by 2000, differences in priorities between the two firms brought about an end to the partnership, with each developing the aircraft independently. A Russian version is also being pursued by Yakovlev and Sokol, under a different time schedule.

The M-346 is a highly modified version of the aircraft the joint venture produced, and uses equipment exclusively from Western manufacturers. The first prototype rolled out on 7 June 2003 and flew for the first time on 15 July 2004.

Prototype 002 at Le Bourget airshow, 2005

In January 2005, the Greek Ministry of Defence signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to become a partner in the programme and, in 2006, Aermacchi signed an industrial cooperation agreement with Hellenic Aerospace Industry.

In July 2007, the M-346 flew to the United Arab Emirates for hot weather tests and operational evaluation by the UAE Air Force.

In March 2008 the Chilean ENAER signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Alenia Aermacchi at the FIDAE air show.[1]

On 10 April 2008 one further prototype in the final configuration (new landing gear and air brake, more composite parts) was rolled out: first flight of this "Industrial Baseline Configuration" was expected in June.[2] On 18 December 2008, the M-346 reached a maximum speed of Mach 1.15 (1,255 km/h, 678 knots, 780 mph).[3]

In May 2008 Boeing signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate on the marketing, sales, training and support of two Aermacchi trainers, the M-346 and the M-311.[4]

The development of a full-mission simulator for the M-346 has been awarded to CAE and is under development.[5]

Design[edit]

An M-346 in flight

The M-346 is designed for training combat pilots for front line fighter aircraft. It is capable of transonic flight without using an afterburner, which is designed to reduce acquisition and operating costs. Two engines and triple-quadruple redundant systems enhance reliability.

The aerodynamic design of the M-346 uses vortex lift to provide manoeuvrability and controllability at very high angle of attack (up to 40° degrees) using a fly-by-wire control system.

The aircraft is powered by two Honeywell F124 engines, and uses a digital flight control system by Teleavio/Marconi in collaboration with BAE Systems, Dowty and Microtecnica for actuators.

The new IBC (Industrial Baseline Configuration) prototype includes a new air brake just behind the cockpit, similar to the Sukhoi Su-30, new landing gear and some structural changes, with the use of more titanium and composite parts in order to reduce weight and production costs. As a result, the prototype weighs 780 kg less than the existing model, providing faster acceleration and climbing, increased maneuverability and max speed, as well as improved fuel capacity (200 kg) and cockpit visibility.

On 20 June 2011, a Military Type Certification was granted to Alenia Aermacchi for the M-346 Master by the General Directorate for Aeronautical Armaments of the Italian Ministry of Defence in Rome. In order to complete the certification process, the M-346 development aircraft made 180 test flights, totalling 200 flights, over the previous five months and completed over 3,300 test points.[6]

Operational history[edit]

An M-346 at "Giornata Azzurra" 2006 at Pratica di Mare AFB, Italy

The Italian Air Force intends to acquire a first batch of 15 low rate production M-346 aircraft.[7] On 18 June 2009, Alenia Aermacchi announced they had received an order for the first six with an option for nine more.[8]

The M-346 was named the winner of a competition by the United Arab Emirates at the IDEX 2009 defense show in Abu Dhabi on 25 February 2009.[9] The official said the order involved delivery of 48 aircraft to be used for pilot training and light attack duties. A final request for proposals in 2010 had set the requirement at 20 trainers, 20 aircraft for combat duties, and the remainder would go toward the creation of a formation flying team. However on 27 January 2010, negotiations to sign a contract have reportedly stalled over specifications.[10]

In July 2010, the M-346 was selected by Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to replace the ST Aerospace A-4SU Super Skyhawks in the Advanced Jet Training (AJT) role, currently based at BA 120 Cazaux Air Base in France.[11][12] And in a press release by the Singaporean Ministry of Defence on 28 September 2010, ST Aerospace had been awarded the contract to acquire twelve M-346 and a ground based training system on behalf of RSAF. As stipulated in the contract, ST Aerospace will act as the main contractor to maintain the aircraft after delivery by Alenia Aermacchi while Boeing would supply the training system. Delivery date is scheduled from 2012 onwards.[13][14][15]

On 18 November 2011 the prototype, which had been on display at the Dubai Air Show crashed after departing Dubai on return to Italy.[16]

On 16 February 2012, the M-346 was selected by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) as its main training jet to replace the McDonnell Douglas A-4H/N Skyhawk, which has served the IAF for over 40 years.[17][18] On 19 July 2012, a contract was signed between Alenia Aermacchi and the Israeli Ministry of Defence to supply 30 M-346 advanced jet trainers, with the first delivery expected in the middle of 2014.[19] The Israeli Air Force announced on 2 July 2013 that in Israeli service the M-346 would be named the Lavi, reusing the name given to the cancelled IAI Lavi.[20] The IAF's first M-346 was rolled out in a ceremony at Alenia Aermacchi’s factory in Venegono Superiore on March 20, 2014.[21]

In the United States, Alenia Aermacchi plans on bidding the M-346 Master for the United States Air Force's T-X program to replace the aging Northrop T-38 Talon. The company had initially considered submitting the aircraft as the prime contractor, but changed its mind in 2010. The company also rebranded the aircraft as the T-100 Integrated Training System for the competition. Alenia anticipates moving the final assembly location from Italy to the United States if it wins the competition. About 350 aircraft are expected to be ordered to replace the T-38, but further purchases could push the overall purchase to over 1,000.[22] In January 2013, Alenia Aermacchi signed a letter of intent with defense contractor General Dynamics to compete for the T-X program business. Under the agreement, General Dynamics C4 Systems will serve as prime contractor for the M-346 and related training systems.[23]

The Advance European Pilot Training (AEPTJ) program – also unofficially called Eurotraining – a consortium of 12 European nations to give advance & lead-in fighter training with a common core course and training provided by a common aircraft – has contacted Alenia Aermacchi through the European Defence agency in 2010, for further information on the M-346. But according to Aleni Aermacchi, the AEPTJ has a low priority and "...progress has been slow."[24]

On 11 May 2013, an Alenia-operated M346 crashed near the village of Piana Crixia, in Valbormida, between Cuneo and Savona's provinces, Italy, during a test flight. The pilot was able to eject successfully and survived the crash, but received serious injuries, after jumping from the tree where his parachute had been entangled.[25]

On 23 December 2013 it was announced that Poland had selected the M-346 to meet a requirement for an advanced jet trainer.[26] The deal for eight aircraft was signed on 27 February 2014.[27]

On 7 April 2014, Lieutenant Pan Shang Hua of the Republic of Singapore Air Force became the first student pilot to fly solo on the M346,[28] marking an important milestone in the development of the M346.

Variants[edit]

M-346 
T-346A 
Italian military designation from 2012 for the M-346.[29]

Operators[edit]

Operators of the M-346.
 Israel
 Italy
 Poland
 Singapore

Specifications (M-346)[edit]

Orthographic projection of the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master

Data from Alenia Aermacchi web page[33]

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

  • Hardpoints: Provisions for a total of 9 pylon stations (2× wingtip, 1× under-fuselage plus 6× underwing), capable of mounting up to 3,000 kilograms (6,600 lb) of external payload and up to 3× 630 litres (140 imp gal; 170 US gal) external drop tanks (only pylon stations 4, 5, 6 are wet-plumbed)

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Alenia Aermacchi e Lacilena Enaer siglano MOU per M.346 e M.311" [ENAER signed a Memorandum of Understanding], Dedalo news (IT), Mar 2008 .
  2. ^ Alenia Aermacchi Industrial Baseline Configuration roll outi (press release), IT: Aermacchi, 2008 .
  3. ^ "The Aermacchi M-346 advanced trainer breaks the sound barrier. After 50 years an all-Italian aircraft flies at Mach 1" (PDF) (Press release). Alenia Aermacchi. 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  4. ^ "Boeing signed a Memorandum of Understanding", Defense news .
  5. ^ CAE wins contract for the development and supply of Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 simulator (press release), 2004 .
  6. ^ "M-346 Master Gains Military Certification" Air Forces Monthly (Key Publishing), Issue 282, September 2011, pp. 10. ISSN 0955-7091. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  7. ^ "Finmeccanica to win govt order for 14 trainer aircraft – junior minister", Money (UK: ABC) .
  8. ^ Alenia Aermacchi (Finmeccanica) and Italian Ministry of Defence sign agreement to supply Six M-346s (press release), Finmeccanica, 2009 .
  9. ^ UAE chooses M-346 as advanced lead-in fighter trainer, Flight global, 2009-02-25 .
  10. ^ "UAE Reopens Talks To Buy T-50 Trainer", Defense news .
  11. ^ "Alenia Aermacchi's M-346 wins Singapore jet trainer race". Jane's Information Group. 12 July 2010. Archived from the original on 19 July 2010. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  12. ^ Govindasamy, Siva (8 July 2010). "Singapore to announce M-346 trainer selection". Flightglobal.com. Archived from the original on 11 July 2010. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  13. ^ S, Ramesh (28 September 2010). "MINDEF awards contract to ST Aerospace to acquire 12 M-346 aircraft". Singapore: MediaCorp Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 29 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  14. ^ "New Generation Advanced Fighter Trainer for the RSAF" (Press release). MINDEF. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  15. ^ "New fighter trainer for RSAF". The Straits Times (Singapore Press Holdings). 28 September 2010. Archived from the original on 1 October 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  16. ^ Alenia Aermacchi M-346 crashes in UAE
  17. ^ Arie Egozi. "Israel selects Alenia Aermacchi M-346 for trainer deal". Flightglobal.com. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  18. ^ Katz, Yaakov (16 February 2012). "Italy wins IAF with combat trainer jet bid". JPost. 
  19. ^ "Alenia Aermacchi signs contract with Israeli MoD for 30 M-346" (Press release). Alenia Aermacchi. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012. 
  20. ^ Egozi, Arie. "Israel's Lavi reborn as renamed M-346." Flight International, 2 July 2013.
  21. ^ Hoarn, Steven (March 25, 2014). "First Israeli M-346 Advanced Trainer Aircraft Rolls Out". Defense Media Network. Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  22. ^ Trimble, Stephen (22 June 2010). "US Air Force, industry prepare for T-38 replacement". Flight global. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  23. ^ "GD & Alenia Aermacchi join forces for USAF T‐X trainer competition", ASD news .
  24. ^ Mirto, FM; La Caverna, L (May 2013), "The Italian Master", Air International: 28–35 .
  25. ^ Cade aereo militare sperimentale salvo pilota (in Italian), IT: Ansa .
  26. ^ "Poland pick M-346 for training deal", Flight global .
  27. ^ "Podpisanie umowy na M-346 dla Sił Powietrznych" [Signing a contract for M-346 for the Air Force], Altair (in Polish) (PL) .
  28. ^ RSAF's First M-346 Solo Pilot Trainee Takes Off .
  29. ^ "Utilizzo della Nomenclatura 'Mission Design Series' (MDS) nelle Pubblicazioni Tecniche (PPTT) di Competenza della Daa" [Using the nomenclature 'Mission Design Series' (MDS) in Technical Publications (PTT) of competence of Daa] (PDF) (in Italian). IT: Ministero Della Defesa. June 2011. 
  30. ^ "Israel receives new M346 trainers from Italy". Defense update. Jul 9, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  31. ^ "Włoski Master wyszkoli polskich pilotów do walki na amerykańskich F-16" [Italian Master will train Polish pilots to fight in the American F-16]. Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish). PL. February 2014. 
  32. ^ "ST Aerospace and Alenia Aermacchi will deliver the last of the 12 M-346". 
  33. ^ M-346 Master. Alenia Aermacchi

External links[edit]