First Production M-346 Now Flying as U.S., Israeli Requirements Beckon

 - May 2, 2011, 5:10 AM
The first production Alenia Aermacchi M-346 made its first flight late last month.

Alenia Aermacchi flew the first production M-346 on March 31. It is the first of 15 aircraft ordered by the Italian Air Force, which has designated the new jet trainer T-346A. The Italian manufacturer said that a highly automated production line capable of delivering up to 48 aircraft per year was now established at Venegono. Production of the 12 aircraft for Singapore is also under way at that facility.

Alenia’s North America subsidiary is preparing to bid for the U.S. Air Force T-X jet trainer requirement with a version of the M-346 designated T-100. The company previously signed a marketing agreement for jet trainers with Boeing, and the two were subcontracting partners to ST Aerospace for the Singapore bid.

Various countries are considering new jet trainers, with evaluations currently under way in Poland and Israel. In the latter, the air force plans to outsource jet pilot training to a joint venture between IAI and Elbit. In both countries, the main competitor to the M-346 is likely to be the Korean T-50, which was recently selected by Indonesia. The U.A.E. Air Force has yet to make a final choice between these same two contenders, having originally selected the Italian candidate.