Italy has signed a deal with Italian company Leonardo for the delivery of an initial five M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer) aircraft to the Italian Air Force, Leonardo reported on Friday 13 January. Also, a contract was signed for the development of a new light attack and recce helicopter for the Italian Army, replacing the Mangusta. The combined value of the contracts totals over 500 million EUR.
The M-345 HET first flew only on 29 December last year. Leonardo reports that the Italian Air Force has a requirement for around 45 M-345s to replace MB-339 trainers which entered service in 1982. Most noticable, the M-345 HET is to equip Italy’s aerial demonstration team Frecce Tricolori, which now also uses the MB-339. First M-345 delivery is expected by 2019.
In its training role, the new aircraft will work alongside a fleet of 18 twin-engine Aermacchi M-346s ordered by the Italian Air Force for advanced pilot training. Leonardo puts the M-345 and M-346 on the market as ‘the world’s most advanced training system for military pilots’. Airheadsfly.com flew the M-346 last October and was impressed.
The helicopter contract involves the study, development, industrialization, production and testing of a prototype and three initial production helicopters for the Italian Army. The program is aimed at replacing the current fleet of AW129 Mangusta light attack choppers with 48 new assets By that time, the Mangusta will have been in service for over 35 years in operations.
The newest jet trainer made in Italy went to the skies for the first time on 29 December 2016, its maker Leonardo-Fnmeccanica Aircraft announced today. In rather adverse weather conditions, a spokesman confirmed, resulting in the lack of proper photographs of the achievement.
Hence the only photoshopped offical image we could find. Actually, making the first flight in bad weather is something we rather like. It may mean the manufacturer is confident of its product.
The prototype of the new Aermacchi M-345HET (High Efficiency Trainer) two-seat basic jet trainer took of from Venegono Superiore airfield in Varese, Italy, piloted by a crew of two: Quirino Bucci and Giacomo Iannelli from the Leonardo Aircraft Division.
As expected Quirino Bucci, Project Test Pilot Trainers of Leonardo Aircraft Division, expressed great satisfaction at the end of the 30 minute flight. “The aircraft conducted itself perfectly, meeting the expectations of the design parameters while showing excellent performance. The engine in particular demonstrated a great capacity to react to regime changes, which is a fundamental characteristic for a basic training aircraft.”
The M-345’s test campaign will be completed within 2017. The next tests will check the advanced avionics systems, the engine and the flight envelope expansion, including altitude, speed and manoeuvrability. Clean the aircraft is projected to reach 420 knots max level speed and a climb rate of 5,200 foot per minute. It should be operate up to 40,000 feet and as far as 760 nautical miles (1,410 km) with internal fuel. With 2 external fuel tanks the ferry range is aimed to be 1,000 nm (1,850 km).
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.
UPDATED 19 June | As always its the orders for airliners that fight for attention at the Paris Air Show, but on the military side, things are happening as well. Most interesting little fact was the apparent first export order – announced on Monday – for the Pakistan-made JF-17 Thunder, although no country was mentioned. Let’s not be surprised however when it turns out to be Myanmar.
Pakistan Air Force officials only described the country that soon may add the JF-17 to its military inventory, as ‘Asian’. The same officials reported that current turmoil in the Middle East has slowed down export talks. The JF-17’s development meanwhile continues, with a possible two seat version on the way.
On the slower spectrum, Mali and Ghana agreed to buy six and five A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft respectively, while Saudi Arabia signed for four Airbus C295W medium transport and patrol aircraft. Perhaps the most prominent deal was the purchase of four Boeing C-17s for the Qatar Emiri Air Force.
As far as helicopters are concerned, Malaysia placed an order with Airbus Helicopters for two AS365 Dauphins for SAR duties.
Unnoticed by many was the first sale for Aero Vodochody of its new L-39NG aircraft. More on that is here.
Dassault’s Rafale was the most numerous aircraft. Three Rafales were on the ground, while a fourth gave a flying display. In the trade halls, models of Rafales in the colours of Qatar, India and Egypt were seen. Given the recent orders from those countries, further Rafale sales are unlikely.
Also in the halls, Alenia Aermacchi was pitching its M-345 jet trainer. France is reportedly interested in this trainer aircraft. Elsewhere, Antonov was pitching its new An178 transporter. The Ukrainian company also announced the An188, a military transport aircraft in the A400M and Boeing C-17 category, powered by four turbofan engines.
Alenia Aermacchi has selected the Williams International FJ44-4M to power its new M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer) aircraft. The FJ44-4M is the fully aerobatic version of FJ44-4A engine. It is a modern two–spool co–rotating turbofan engine with medium bypass ratio, mixed exhaust, and high cycle pressure ratio, according to the Italian aircraft builder.
Alenia Aermacchi and Willams International already started joint activities to finalize the collaboration framework, which will lead to integrate the engine into M-345 HET aircraft in the next couple of years. The M-345 HET represents the most recent solution proposed by Alenia Aermacchi for the basic/advanced phase of the military pilots training syllabus. The M-345 HET provides air forces with a very cost-effective solution, thanks to a high performance level coupled with significantly low acquisition and operational costs. Cost figures, in fact, are very similar or even lower than those of powerful turboprops now in the market which, although being of the same weight class of the M-345 HET and equipped with similar on-board systems, provide definitely lower performance and, consequently, lower training effectiveness.
In June 2013 Alenia Aermacchi and the Italian Defence Ministry signed an agreement to jointly define the operational requirements and to collaborate in the development of a new basic/advanced trainer aircraft, called M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer), conceived as a legacy of the S-211/M-311 trainer aircraft. Development is ongoing and the aircraft entry into service is envisaged at the end of 2017.
The M-345 HET includes the following technical data: Enhanced performance (speed, energy and maneuverability), improved maintainability and accessibility, design load factors of +7/-3.5 g with high fatigue life, latest generation turbofan Engine with reduced fuel consumption and maintenance tasks, state-of-the-art digital avionics and Embedded Training Simulation capability (HUD (Head Up Display) in the front cockpit, a HUD repeater in the rear cockpit, three Multi-Function Displays in each cockpits, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) controls), excellent potential as Light Combat Aircraft and Life Cycle & Acquisition Cost comparable to a heavyweight turboprop aircraft.
It is very likely that the choice for the FJ44-4M is very much related to the first M-345 HET aircraft, which will re-equip the Italian national aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori. An Airheadsfly.com visit to the Alenia Aermacchi facility last May, already showed a M-345 HET in full colours of the Italian national aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori. During the Farnborough International Airshow in July saw a unique mixed formation of Alenia Aermacchi aircraft, including the same M-345 HET in Frecce Tricolori scheme.
Source: Alenia Aermacchi, with additional reporting by Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk