The Italians Tested A Light Fighter M-346FA Based On A Training Aircraft
The promising Italian light fighter M-346FA, created by the Leonardo concern based on the M-346 training aircraft, made its first flight. According to the Italian concern, flight tests of the aircraft began on July 13, 2020. These checks were considered successful. The developers plan to start delivering the new aircraft to customers in 2021.
Due to the consequences of the global financial and economic crisis of 2008, as well as the decline of the world economy due to the coronavirus pandemic, some countries faced a shortage of defense budgets. At the same time, the need to replenish and update the aviation fleet remained.
As a result, over the past few years, there has been a growing demand for relatively cheap light fighters that could take on some of the tasks performed by larger and heavier combat aircraft. For this reason, several companies in the world are developing light fighters based on training aircraft.
The M-346FA retained the basic flight characteristics of the original aircraft. It also inherited the air refueling system and avionics from the base model. The light fighter received seven suspension points: two on the wingtips, two under the left and right-wing consoles, and one under the fuselage.
The fighter was equipped with an upgraded Grifo radar station with an active phased array antenna. The updated radar can detect enemy aircraft at a greater distance than a conventional pulse-Doppler station. Earlier it was reported that the M-346FA would be certified for the use of aviation bombs and missiles.
Meanwhile, Leonardo plans to make the M-346 Master training aircraft modular. Thanks to this, customers of the basic version of the aircraft can easily change it by adding the necessary equipment. As a result, they will be able to turn a training aircraft into a light fighter or attack aircraft.
In the training domain, the M-346FA benefits from all the advanced features of the M-346 trainer, including the ability to integrate into live-virtual-constructive (LVC) environments. This involves linking the real training aircraft in the sky with simulators on the ground and incorporating virtual friendly and opposing forces, allowing trainee pilots to challenge a wide range of tactical scenarios.
The trainer version of the M-346 is currently in service with the air forces of Italy, Singapore, Israel and Poland.