The Italian Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master is a military transonic advanced lead-in fighter trainer aircraft. With its fully digital flight controls and avionics, together with carefree handling and high AOA maneuvering, the M-346 is fully representative of new generation fighters such as Eurofighter, Gripen, Rafale, F-16, F-22 and the F-35.
- Developing nation: Italy.
- Manufacturer/designer: Alenia Aermacchi.
- Production by: .
- Type aircraft: lead-in fighter trainer .
- First flight: July 15, 2004.
- State: in service.
- Primary user: Italian Air Force.
The aircraft is a development of the YAK/AEM-130, a joint programme with Yakolev Design Bureau and Sokol Manufacturing Plant of Russia. In July 2000, Alenia Aermacchi announced that it would cancel the joint project and develop the aircraft alone, as the M-346.
The M-346 prototype completed its first flight in July 2004. The second prototype made its maiden flight in May 2005. The first low-rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft made its maiden flight in July 2008. The M-346 equipped with advanced helmet-mounted display systems completed its maiden flight in May 2010.
In November 2009 the Italian Air Force signed the contract about the first batch of 6 M-346, including also simulators and integrated logistic supports, to fulfill the advanced/lead-in fighter training requirements for pilots that will fly the future generation combat aircraft. This contract forms part of a broader agreement to supply a total of 15 M-346 and related support.
The first two M-346 Masters for the Italian Air Force which it has designated T-346A, delivered December 2010, will be initially assigned to the Flight Testing Department at the Pratica di Mare air base, where the first operational tests will take place. The Italian Air Force will receive four more aircraft by the end of 2011, and will be the world’s first Air Force to have a training line based on the M-346 Master.
ST Aerospace signed a €170m contract with Alenia Aermacchi on 24 June 2011 for providing logistics support to 12 M-346 trainers deployed by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). The M-346 jets were ordered by the RSAF in September 2010 under the Fighter Wings Course programme. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2012.
- Crew: two, student and instructor
- Length: 11.49 m (37 ft7 in)
- Wingspan:9.72 m (31 ft 9 in)
- Height:4.76 m (15 ft 6 in)
- Wing area:23.52 m² (253.2 ft²)
- Empty weight: 4,610 kg(10,165 lb)
- Loaded weight:6,700 kg (14,770 lb)
- Max takeoff weight:9,500 kg (20,945 lb)
- Powerplant: 2 × Honeywell F124-GA-200 , 27.8 kN (6,250 lbf) each
- Never exceed speed: Mach1.2 (1,460 km/h, 915 mph)
- Maximum speed:1,255 km/h (779 mph)
- Stall speed:166 km/h (104 mph)
- Range:1,890 km (1,181 miles)
- Service ceiling:13,715 m (45,000 ft)
- Rate of climb:6,401 m/min (21,000 ft/min)
- Wing loading:285 kg/m² (58.3 lb/ft²)
- Thrust/weight: 0.84
- Nine hardpoints for a variety of guns, bombs, rockets and missiles
All pictures courtesy of Zijde Aviation Photo and Publishing, Rob Vogelaar and Marcel van Leeuwen.