Alenia Aermacchi and Italy’s Ministry of Defense signed an agreement at the Paris Air Show to jointly define specifications and collaborate on 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, with entry into 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. It would serve for basic pilot training, with Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 fulfilling the role of a lead-in fighter trainer. Meanwhile, the fielded M-346 fleet remained grounded following the May 11 crash of a prototype used for testing at Val Bormida, Italy.
“It is a sort of renaissance for the jet ab initio training philosophy,” said Marco Valerio Bonelli, Alenia Aermacchi head of media relations and export campaigns support. “Today most air forces are replacing the [current] generation of training turboprops, and the turboprops have become very powerful, costly to operate and 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 in the 3,500-pound-thrust category, the company said. It will feature “state-of-the-art” 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. The two trainers will have similar cockpits, enabling interoperability in joint training missions.
Alenia Macchi has orders for 57 M-346s, comprising 30 for Israel, 15 for the Italian air force and 12 for 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 to the Republic of Singapore Air Force 150 Squadron, which is based at Cazaux, France.