The sun is rising for Alenia Aermacchi and its M-346 lead-in fighter trainer. (Image © Alenia Aermacchi)

The M-346 turns aggressive

The Italian Air Force is currently testing the capabilities of the new Alenia Aermacchi M-346 (called T-346 in Italian service) in the aggressor role. The aircraft performs Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) missions with Eurofighter Typhoons at Grosseto Air Base. Meanwhile, Alenia Aermacchi’s training solutions start to attract more and more foreign interest.

The tests are aimed at proving that the M-346 is a worthy opponent and substitute for the Eurofighter Typhoon, but also at proving that both aircraft can work together seamlessly. According to Alenia Aermacchi, which also builds Typhoons for the Italian Air Force, the two aircraft are perfectly interoperable: thanks to its data-link system, the M-346 is able to operate in Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missions, while the Typhoon uses its own FPR-14 Autonomous Air-Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (AACMI) pod to simulate air-to-air “radar-to-radar” missions.

Starting next August the students of the Italian Air Force who are to fly on combat aircraft will accomplish their final training phase IV on the new M-346 – the last step before they switch to the Eurofighter. The M-346 is a huge step up from the MB-339 used so far. Once the fly the Typhoon, pilots are able to fly DACT missions against the highly manoeuvrable M-346.

Alenia Aermacchi has always stated the M-346 is ideal in providing valuable training to frontline fighter pilots, while saving very costly flying hours for types such as the Typhoon and F-35. The Royal Netherlands Air Force has taking an interest in the M-346 for exactly that. A Dutch delegation visited the M-346 production facility in Venegono very recently.

In Venegono, the production process for the first of eight M-346s for Poland has started. Italy, Singapore and Israel already use the type. Noteworthy is the visit of two M-346s to a recent airshow at the French training air base in Tours.

At the Paris Air Show, France was reportedly also interested in the M-345 High Efficiency Trainer (HET). A large French delegation was seen getting all the ins and outs about this basic jet trainer. France is looking for a replacement for its current Alpha Jet trainers.

© 2015 editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The sun is rising for Alenia Aermacchi and its M-346 lead-in fighter trainer. (Image © Alenia Aermacchi)