Leonardo M-345 trainer Spain Chile
Leonardo M-345 trainer jet.

In addition to the previous article on the need for Spain to procure a new training aircraft to replace the CASA C-101 Aviojet fleet, let's now analyze the M-345. According to our sources, Chile, which has the same need to replace its Aviojets, is looking at the M-345 with great interest.

The M-345 is the new trainer jet developed by the Italian Aerospace company Leonardo. It’s able to provide air forces with an economically affordable and effective solution, thanks to a significant reduction in acquisition and life-cycle costs, comparable to powerful turboprop trainer aircraft which offers a lower performance and lower training effectiveness, despite being in the same weight class and, in some cases, equipped with similar on-board systems.

The M-345 first customer is the Italian Air Force that signed a contract for a first batch of aircraft in January 2017. Italian Air Force plans to get a total of 45 M-345s (to replace the MB-339A and “Frecce Tricolori” fleets). An order for a second batch is planned in the next few months. The deliveries of the first aircraft to ItAF are expected in the second half of 2020.

As well as Spain and Chile, several air forces are planning for a new generation of pilots to fly a new generation of platforms. The M-345 has been designed to meet these needs. It offers a value for money solution that benefits from the jet performance and from the expanded flight envelope, both in terms of speed and altitude, which ensure more training effectiveness per flight hour and higher training download capability from the subsequent Advanced/LIFT phase, providing important cost saving in producing a fast jet pilot.

The gap with an heavy turboprop trainer is wide in particular speed in every conditions, rate of climb and altitude. Moreover, the M-345 aircraft will be networked to flight simulators, thanks to the Leonardo’s innovative Live-Virtual-Constructive (LVC) technology, providing additional training cost-effectiveness to M-345 operators. The Live, Virtual, Constructive enabled ETTS functions of the aircraft can support stand-alone (flying a single-ship mission) or multi-ship networked operations, with aircraft and simulators being networked via a dedicated training datalink to exchange tactical scenario data with other participants. Leonardo has a wide experience in LVC. Actually, the only fully operational, full spectrum - LVC for jet training aircraft in the world is the one based in Lecce-Galatina AFB and operated by the Italian Air Force with its M-346 trainer jets. The M-345 LVC network will be also able to network with M-346 LVC, along with 5th generation aircraft data link, expanding the training cost saving cross fertilization between basic-advanced and lead-in fighter training phase, and the following training phases.

The M-345 flight performance are much higher than those of heavy turboprop and/or other light jet on the market today. One of the main training task within basic training is streaming pilots for fast-jet or transport/helicopter training track. The two main performance capable to select pilots toward the fast-jet track are related to the pilot capability to manage high speed at low level altitude, aircraft maneuverability and situational awareness. The aircraft flies at 380 KTAS at sea level and 425 at 20.000 ft; has a rate of climb of 5.200 ft/min and a service ceiling of 40.000 ft. The M-345 can reach M.6 at sea level while a turbo-prop, at best, can fly up to around M .4/.45. With regard to maneuverability, M-345 can sustain around 4g at M.45 (sea level), while turbo-props and/or an alternative comparable jet trainer that, due to a reduced trust-weight ratio, can likely sustain no more than 3g at the same conditions. Thanks to its overall level of performance coupled with the ETTS, M-345 can even be used as “all-through” trainer (Basic-Advanced and LIFT) by those nations who have a lower range of fighter aircraft and prefer a single training platform.

Considering that Spain requires an operating aircraft by 2025 and the excellent performance/cost ratio of the M-345, we think it must be included in the list of the main candidates. Moreover the Spanish aerobatic team "Patrulla Aguila" could fly the same future aircraft of the Frecce Tricolori.


Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: Leonardo

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