The operational version of the M-346 Fighter Attack, equipped with an optimized variant of the Grifo Leonardo radar, has successfully completed its first flight. Created by the Leonardo on the basis of the M-346 trainer aircraft, the M-346FA is the new light attack variant from the Company’s M-346 Light Fighter Family of Aircraft (LFFA).
It has the ability to perform multiple tasks within one platform, while cost-effectively delivering both training and combat roles.
The aircraft is equipped with Leonardo’s mechanically-scanning, multi-mode Grifo-M-346 radar, a specially-optimized variant developed by Leonardo for the M-346FA. This reliable and high-performance solution offers accuracy and allows wide system modularity.
The M-346FA retained the basic flight characteristics of the original aircraft. From the base model, it also inherited the air refueling system and avionics. The light fighter received seven suspension points: two at the wingtips, two each under the left and right-wing consoles, and one under the fuselage.
The M-346FA offers all the advanced training possibilities of the basic version of the M-346 while integrating the latest generation sensors and equipment, allowing it to successfully complete the task as a light attack aircraft. The M-346FA is also protected by a Complete Defense Assistance Subsystem (DASS) and a high-end, network-centric communications suite, which includes a secure communication system and a tactical data link, ensuring interoperability with allies. The platform can also use LINK-16 to interact with NATO forces.
The most advanced training aircraft adopts a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons (including infrared, radar and/or laser/GPS guiding). It can also be equipped with a weapon rack, reconnaissance sensors, targeting pods, and electronic weapons, all integrated with the HMD (Helmet Mounted Display) system for both pilots.
The aircraft has 10.14 meters of wingspan, length of 11.49 meters, and can reach the top speed of 1,065 km/h (about 662 mph) with 2 Honeywell F124-GA-200 turbofan engines. The developers plan to start delivering the new aircraft to its international launch customer in 2021.
The training version of the M-346 is currently used in the aviation of Italy, Singapore, Israel, and Poland. Meanwhile, Leonardo plans to make the M-346 Master trainer modular. Thanks to this, customers of the basic version of the aircraft will be able to easily modify it by adding the necessary equipment. As a result, they will be able to transform the training aircraft into a light fighter or attack aircraft.