Tag Archives: MB-339

MB-339: tool of the training trade

Airheadsfly.com recently paid a very fruitful visit to Italy, judging by this report on F-35 Lightning II production in Cameri and this impression of flying an Italian Air Force M-346 at Lecce Galatina airbase in the Puglia area of southern Italy. The latter is a flying school like no other, run by the Italian Air Force’s 61st wing. Here, novice pilots learn how to become fighter pilots the hard way. The most numerous tool of that particular trade is the MB-339, a trainer jet that in the future makes way for the M-345 High Efficiency Trainer (HET) and the M-346. A photo report from Lecce, home to many nationalities.

Grabbing the early morning sun, this MB-339CD is almost ready for starting up for another training mission. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Grabbing the early morning sun, this MB-339CD is almost ready for starting up for another training mission. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Before moving to the aircraft, pilots first get the flight and weather information. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Before moving to the aircraft, pilots first get the flight and weather information. Pilots from Italy, Kuwait, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Greece and Singapore are a regular sight at Lecce. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This picture clearly shows the aircraft at Galatina airbase are being kept in very good condition by the dedicated technicians. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This picture clearly shows the aircraft at Lecce Galatina airbase are being kept in very good condition by the dedicated technicians. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
These MB-339s just left the hangarettes for the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Heading for the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Busy times on the runway, as 3 MB-339CD aircraft prepare to line up for take off. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Busy times on the runway, as three MB-339CD aircraft prepare to line up for take off. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
And lift off for another early morning mission. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
And lift off for another early morning mission. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A regular sight at Galatina airbase, where aircraft take off and land almost continuously. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A regular sight at Lecce Galatina airbase, where aircraft take off and land almost continuously. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This MB-339A is ready for another go-around. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This MB-339A is ready for another go-around. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This image clearly shows that the fuselage of the MB-339 is close to the ground, compared to the T-346. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This image clearly shows that the fuselage of the MB-339 is close to the ground, compared to the T-346. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Waiting at the flightline for things to come. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Waiting at the flightline for things to come. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Highly skilled maintenance crew work hard to keep the MB-339 aircraft in good shape. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Highly skilled maintenance crew work hard to keep the MB-339 aircraft in good shape. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
There's not much aircraft left when you separate the backside of the fuselage, as well as removing the tires. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
There’s not much aircraft left when you separate the backside of the fuselage. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After each mission the aircraft are being serviced. Recently, a part of the MB-339 flightlines got hangarettes, which eases work at Galatina a little, as it can be quite hot over there. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After each mission the aircraft are being serviced. Recently, a part of the MB-339 flightlines got hangarettes, which eases work at Lecce Galatina a little, as it can be quite hot over there. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Flight gear of students at Galatina. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Flight gear of students at Galatina. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The pilot always inspects the aircraft himself, before getting into the cockpit. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The pilot always inspects the aircraft himself, before getting into the cockpit. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
It seems these guys are having fun flying the new T-346A. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
It seems these guys are having fun flying the M-346, which is called T-346A in Italian Air Force service.. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This T-346A is about to come out of its hangarette to play (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This Master is about to taxi out. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Rolling out of the hangarette, this Master carries AHF editor Elmer van Hest in the backseat for an interesting flight. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Rolling out of its shelter, this T-346A carries AHF editor Elmer van Hest in the backseat for a familiarization and photography flight. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In the background a MB-339 is about to follow this T-346A towards the runway at Galatina airbase. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In the background a MB-339 is about to follow this T-346A towards the runway at Lecce Galatina airbase. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In a few moments, this T-346A will line up and disappear into the blue sky (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In a few moments, this T-346A will line up and disappear into the blue sky (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Two Masters are about to roll down the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Two Masters are about to roll down the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After a rainy night, this Master almost lifts off from the wet runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After a rainy night, this Master almost lifts off from the wet runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Facing the sun clearly shows the smooth lines of the T-346A. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Facing the sun clearly shows the smooth lines of the T-346A. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The three squadrons resident a Galatina Airbase, each representing a different phase in pilot training. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The three squadrons resident a Lecce Galatina Airbase, each representing a different phase in pilot training. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: The refuelling probe is one of the most externally visible differences between the MB-339A and the newer MB-339CD model. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Learning from the Master – Inside the M-346 training base

At Lecce airbase in southern Italy, there’s a new kid in town. Or actually, there are two. One has wings while the other one has legs and arms and, in a way, wings. They are pinned to his Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) flight suit, the suit that sets him apart from other instructor pilots here in the hot Puglia region of Italy. He’s here to learn to fly the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master, the advanced trainer aircraft that in fact is the other new kid here in Lecce. It’s the newest and most sophisticated addition to the Alenia Aermacchi trainer aircraft family. Hence the Dutch interest.

As reported here on Airheadsfly.com in September, the Dutch instructor pilot started flying the M-346 in order to train RNLAF student pilots here next Spring, when they will fly the M-346 for the first time as a Lead in Fighter Trainer (LIFT). If all goes to plan, the M-346 Master will be their final step towards the F-16 and, some years from now, the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. At Lecce, they are confident the M-346 – designated T-346 in Italian service – will deliver combat ready pilots. For many decades, that’s what the airfield and the based 61st Wing have been all about.

Formation
Base commander Colonel Paolo Tarantino knows like no one else about the M-346 and what it can do for trainee-pilots. Up in the air today the M-346 on his wings is flown by anything but a student. Tarantino and fellow instructor pilots are on their way back to Lecce after visiting the big airshow in Rivolto, celebrating 55 years of the Frecce Tricolori. Tarantino once even commanded the Italy’s national aerobatic team. The formation counts two M-346s, two MB-339Cs and two older MB-339As. Upon arrival, the formation buzzes sun-drenched Lecce a few times. After landing and exiting his M-346, Tarantino’s comments are plain and simple: “Great, great aircraft.”

Later in the airbase mess he adds: “Because it is such a great aircraft I had ordered to start training student pilots on the M-346 several months earlier than originally planned. I came to the conclusion that the jet, the new syllabus and all of us here at Lecce were ready. Over the past year, instructor pilots gained a total of over 1,000 flying hours on the five M-346s available to us. That’s a lot of experience, and we are now training future Italian Air Force fast jet pilots on the M-346.”

Head on with the Italian Air Force T-346. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Head on with the Italian Air Force T-346. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
'Drive by-shooting' at this T-346. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
‘Drive by-shooting’ at this T-346. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Improvement
The new Alenia Aermacchi jet replaces the MB-339CD which was the platform for Phase 4 or Lead-in Fighter Training (LIFT) for two decades. The new M-346 offers an enormous improvement to student and instructor pilots, especially in combination with the extensive ground based training systems at Lecce, all involved say. The single full-mission simulator is as effective as it is impressive, and that’s why a second will be build. Currently, 50 percent of flight training takes place in the simulator on the ground, but this percentage could grow to as much as 80 percent in the future, not in the least thanks to the M-346’s data link capability.

The M-346 learns future combat pilots that flying an advanced aircraft like the Eurofighter Typhoon or the Lockheed Martin F-35 is all about systems management and tactics. The Master is capable of mimicking those systems. It can provide its pilots with a real time radar image provided by ground based or airborne radar systems, and it can replicate and attack threats on the ground and in the air. Soon, a pilot flying a real M-346 will able to ‘see’ fellow pilots flying right next to him, although they are actually inside one of the simulators on the ground – all of this thanks to Alenia Aermacchi’s Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) training system and symbology on the Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) of the pilot actually flying.

T-346s and MB-339s buzz the airbase. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
T-346s and MB-339s buzz the airbase. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Arriving at Lecce after a successful airshow in Rivolto. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Arriving at Lecce after a successful airshow in Rivolto. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Noses belonging to MB-339s. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Noses belonging to MB-339s. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Multi-national
It’s all very Star Wars-like compared to the MB-339CD, which will remain in use for some time to come as a LIFT platform. Not only for Italian student pilots, but also for future fighter jocks from Austria, Greece, Kuwait and Singapore who all take to the skies at Lecce. However, the number of available M-346s will slowly rise from the current five to eight aircraft in 2016. More will follow the years after. While Italian and Royal Netherlands Air Force aviators already started on the M-346, Polish Air Force pilots will find their way to the aircraft at Lecce soon too. In total, sixteen Polish instructors are to be qualified on the Master, with the first starting in November. Poland is to receive its first own of eight ordered M-346s next year and along with Italy and Singapore is to be part of a newly formed M-346 user group.

At rest between two sorties. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
At rest between two sorties. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The debrief facilities at Lecce are impressive. On the left are three feeds from HUD cameras, (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The debrief facilities at Lecce are impressive. On the left are three feeds from HUD cameras, (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Aggressor
In the meantime the Italian Air Force is also looking at the M-346 as a ‘red air’ asset. Test were already done at Grosseto Airbase, flying the M-346 as an aggressor aircraft against Eurofighter Typhoons. The great flight characteristics and performance of the Master come into play here. The M-346 has excellent roll and turn rates, a climb rate of up to 22,000 feet/min and a maximum level speed of 590 knots. The aircraft is certified for +8G and -3G manoeuvres and can handle a angle of attack to 40 degrees. That’s good enough for bagging a Typhoon or two. The Master is in fact so fighter-like, that the 61st Wing at Lecce changed its emblem from a Penguin to an actual bird of prey. Alenia Aermacchi meanwhile is developing a ground attack variant of the aircraft.

Like Star Wars: the Full Mission Simulator at Lecce. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Like Star Wars: the Full Mission Simulator at Lecce. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Companion
The M-346 is mostly being explored as a ‘companion trainer’ to serve alongside cutting edge but costly 5th generation fighter aircraft. Having F-35 pilots fly operational training missions on a highly capable trainer such as the M-346 while saving F-35 flight hours for actual combat missions seems to be a cost effective solution indeed. It has certainly sparked the interest of the top Royal Netherlands Air Force commanders, as the Dutch fear the number of F-35s on order (37) won’t allow for effective operational training. The M-346 version – designated T-100 – Alenia Aermacchi is about to offer to the US Air Force as a replacement for the T-38 trainer under the T-X program, should be even more suited because of its more powerful engines and a large MFD in the cockpit, similar to the F-35. Alenia Aermacchi official statement is that it is ‘in talks’ with a US partner for the T-X program.

The Dutch interest seems solid, given the three year contract for Dutch fighter pilot training at Lecce. So the new kid in town will be followed by many more, and they will all learn from the Master.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The M-346 at Lecce. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

An MB-339CD returns after another training sortie. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
An MB-339CD returns after another training sortie. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Head on with not one, but two Italian Air Force T-346s. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Head on with not one, but two Italian Air Force T-346s. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Draken-deal brings new hopes to Czech trainer

An Aero L-159A ALCA advanced trainer and light attack aircraft of the Czech Air Force (Vzdušné síly armády České republiky) landing at Kleine Brogel AB, Belgium, after a NATO training mission in 2005. The aircraft with serial 6052 is from 212.lt based at Cáslav.  (Image © Marcel Burger)
An Aero L-159A ALCA advanced trainer and light attack aircraft of the Czech Air Force (Vzdušné síly armády České republiky) landing at Kleine Brogel AB, Belgium, after a NATO training mission in 2005. The aircraft with serial 6052 is from 212.lt based at Cáslav. (Image © Marcel Burger)

The announced sale negotiations of 28 ex-Czech Air Force L-159 ALCA advanced trainer aircraft to military subcontractor Draken International in the USA has brought new hopes to Czech aircraft manufacturer Aero Vodochody. With the American continent opening up to its aircraft, the company now starts developing a new and bigger trainer & light attack aircraft.

Czech media report that the new plane is designated L-169 and that it will be more Czech than the L-159, meaning less foreign components. According to an Aero spokesman the company intends to give the L-169 a bigger range than its predecessor, giving it a main fuel tank capable of 1,300 liters and innerwing storage for another 600 liters. A lot of times extended ranges are met by attaching underwing fuel pods, but they cause more drag and thus increasing the fuel consumption and decreasing the performance somewhat. The L-159 was able to cross 1,570 kilometres (845 nautical miles) on internal fuel and 2,530 km (1,365 nautical miles) with external fuel tanks.

Mothballed
The L-169 will primarily be designed as an advanced trainer, not like the L-159 that was meant to give the Czech Republic an affordable light combat capacity after the break-up of the Warsaw Pact and the limitation of military funds. With the combat role since 2005 taken over by the 14 much more capable Saab JAS 39C/D Gripen fighters, the L-159 has become less popular with its owner. Only 24 of 72 delivered planes are still in use, with the remainder mothballed.

Ground crew gathering around a Czech Air Force L-159A ALCA at Kleine Brogel AB, Belgium, during a NATO training exercise in 2005. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Ground crew gathering around a Czech Air Force L-159A ALCA at Kleine Brogel AB, Belgium, during a NATO training exercise in 2005. (Image © Marcel Burger)

28 L-159As
For many of the decommissioned aircraft there seems to be a new life ahead across the Atlantic Ocean. Aero is talking to Florida based Draken International Inc to sell the subcontractor for the US military 28 L-159As from the Czech Air Force storage. “The successful conclusion of the sale and introduction of the aircraft in the USA would mark new phase in the life of L-159 and would bring significant benefits for Aero and other aerospace manufacturers in the Czech Republic, involved in the program”, according to a press release.

Draken International flies more than 50 military jets, including ex-Polish Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21bis, McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros and Alenia Aermacchi MB-339s. Draken is headquartered at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and offers simulation of enemy aerial targets (aircraft, guided missiles), aerial training, tactical training, electronic warfare, in flight refueling and research and testing services to the US military.

This Polish MiG 21bis was seen in spring 2001 at Malbork airbase, central Poland. It clearly means business since Draken International bought 25 of them (Image © Elmer van Hest)
This Polish MiG 21bis was seen in spring 2001 at Malbork airbase, central Poland. It clearly means business since Draken International bought 25 of them (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Legacy
Aero Vodochody has a good trainer reputation legacy to keep, with the historic L-29 Delfin and the still popular L-39 flying in both military and civilian roles worldwide.

Aero L-29 Delfin advanced training aircraft of company ATS at the 2010 Kecskemet military airshow, Hungary (Magyar). The aircraft with reg. OK-ATS is former Czechoslovakian / Czech Air Force 3238. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Aero L-29 Delfin advanced training aircraft of company ATS at the 2010 Kecskemet military airshow, Hungary (Magyar). The aircraft with reg. OK-ATS is former Czechoslovakian / Czech Air Force 3238. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Hungarian Air Force (Magyar Légierö) Aero L-39ZO Albatros training aircraft with nose number 133 at the 2010 Kecskemét airshow, Hungary. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Hungarian Air Force (Magyar Légierö) Aero L-39ZO Albatros training aircraft with nose number 133 at the 2010 Kecskemét airshow, Hungary. (Image © Marcel Burger)
The Aero L-39 Albatros is quite famous - especially in Europe - thanks to the Breitling Jet Team that visits many airshows every year with its L-39Cs. Seen here in formation at the 2010 Kecskemet military airshow, Hungary (Magyar). (Image © Marcel Burger)
The Aero L-39 Albatros is quite famous – especially in Europe – thanks to the Breitling Jet Team that visits many airshows every year with its L-39Cs. Seen here in formation at the 2010 Kecskemet military airshow, Hungary (Magyar). (Image © Marcel Burger)

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger with source information from Aero Vodochody

Related posts

Check out the Czech Air Force Orbat at Scramble.nl