Alenia Aermacchi and Italy’s Ministry of Defense signed an agreement at the Paris Air Show to jointly define specifications and collaborate on the development of a new “basic-advanced” jet trainer, the M-345 HET (high efficiency trainer). The new trainer would be a further development of the company’s M-311 design, aimed at entering service between 2017 and 2020.
The M-345 would replace the Italian air force’s older MB-339s and compete on the international market against advanced turboprop trainers such as the Embraer Super Tucano and Beechcraft T-6. It would serve for basic pilot training, with Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 fulfilling the role of a lead-in fighter trainer.
“It is sort of the renaissance of the jet ab initio training philosophy,” said Marco Valerio Bonelli, Alenia Aermacchi (Chalet A232) spokesman and head of export campaigns support. “Today most of the air forces are replacing the [current] generation training turboprops, and now the turboprops start to become very powerful and costly to operate, costly to buy. The solution we will offer on the market will be less costly to buy than an advanced turboprop… with the same operational costs.”
The M-345 HET will be equipped with a turbofan engine in the 3,500-pound thrust category, the company said. It will feature modern avionics, including a head-up display in the front cockpit, with a repeater display in the rear cockpit; three 5- by 7-inch multifunction displays for both pilots; and hands on throttle-and-stick (Hotas) controls. “The new trainer will be designed to guarantee a training syllabus perfectly aligned” with that of the M-346, he said. And the two trainers will have similar cockpits, enabling interoperability in joint training missions.
There have been 57 M-346s ordered, comprised of 30 orders from Israel, 15 from the Italian air force and 12 from Singapore, the first export customer. Bonelli declined to comment on the number of deliveries, however, AIN understands that six of the advanced trainers have been delivered for the Republic of Singapore Air Force.