The first M-346 advanced trainer for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is on schedule to be delivered by the end of the year, according to manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi (Booth J39), which is currently producing the first batch.
The RSAF announced the selection of the M-346 in 2010, and a contract was signed in September that year covering 12 aircraft and a ground-based training system. This represented the M-346’s first export order. ST Aerospace (Booth C01) is the prime contractor, with Alenia Aermacchi providing the aircraft and Boeing the training system.
The 12 M-346s will take over the advanced jet training (AJT) portion of the RSAF training syllabus currently undertaken using A-4SU Skyhawk aircraft at Cazaux in France. Students will progress to the M-346 from the Pilatus PC-21. Alenia Aermacchi finalized contracts with ST Aerospace in June 2011 to provide logistics support for the fleet.
Taking part in the air show are two M-346s of the Italian air force, which designates its machines T-346. The Aeronautica Militare Italiano became the first customer for the aircraft when it signed for six in late 2009. The air force officially accepted its first aircraft on November 15 last year, and a second followed shortly after. The pair was initially assigned to the air force flight test center at Pratica di Mare, near Rome. All six will have been delivered by the end of the year.
M-346s are built in a state-of-the-art production facility at Venegono. Alenia Aermacchi has installed a moving line, similar to that employed by Boeing for 737 manufacturing. The aircraft are constructed in a jig that allows the structure to be rotated through 360 degrees for easy access to any part. Laser alignment is employed throughout construction to keep the build process within tight tolerances. Until now only the fuselages were built using this concept, but this month a similar moving line goes live for the wings as well. The line has the capacity to produce up to four aircraft per month.
Alenia has also brought a C-27J to the show, and is marketing this military transport in the region, with Indonesia representing a particularly interesting opportunity. Through its ATR joint venture with EADS, Alenia is also pursuing an opportunity for a new maritime patrol aircraft to replace Singapore’s Fokker 50 fleet.
ATR has a customer support center for ATR airliners here in Singapore, along with training facilities in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Other opportunities in the region for ATR 42/72 maritime aircraft are the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Philippines Air Force.