M-346FA: MOST SUITABLE, LOW-COST CHOICE FOR LIGHT ATTACK ROLE

Leonardo M-346FA fighter attack
Leonardo M-346FA (Fighter Attack).

Several nations are looking for a low-cost solution to replace their light attack aircraft such as Armenia and Bulgaria, both equipped with the Soviet-era Su-25 aircraft. Some aerospace companies have already submitted their offers to them as in the case of Saab who recently proposed 8 Gripen jets to the Armenian Defense Minister. The market offers few low cost platforms suitable for the role, one of the best is the new aircraf developed by Leonardo, the M-346FA (Fighter Aircraft).

The M-346FA was unveiled during the Paris Air Show 2017 and immediately attracted the interest of many nations. It is equipped with a variant of the Grifo multi-mode fire control radar and can load a wide variety of missiles and bombs.

The M-346FA is an excellent advanced trainer jet, but also a light fighter aircraft capable of carrying out operational missions at far lower costs than those of front-line fighters. Thanks to the seven external pylons, it is able to load a wide range of weapons and operate very effectively as multi-role tactical aircraft. It can cover air-to-surface, air-to-air and tactical reconnaissance missions.


Key attributes include:

- Twin engined configuration and four channel flyby-wire, flight control system provide systems redundancy for exceptional mission reliability and battlefield survivability
- High fuel capacity and air-to-air refuelling capability for long range endurance and Time on Station
- High-end, net-centric communications suite
- High rate of climb
- Exceptional speed and manoeuvrability, even at low altitude and when fully-armed
- A multi-mode radar (Leonardo Airborne and Space Systems Grifo) specifically optimized for the M-346FA
- A design architecture that allows the integration of a wide range of external stores and sensors: Tactical data link, Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS) including Radar Warning Receiver (RWR),
Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS), Chaff & Flare Dispenser (IFF Interrogator, secure comms, ECM pod and qualified Radar Cross Section reduction kit)
- Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) and Voice Command (VC)

External store integration includes:

- GBU-12/16 (500/1000 lb) Paveway II LGB
- Lizard 2 LGB (500 lb)
- GBU-38 (500 lb) JDAM
- GBU-32 (1000 lb) JDAM
- GBU-49 (500 lb) Enhanced Paveway II GPS/LGB
- Lizard 4 GPS/LGB (500 lb)
- Small Diameter Bomb (SDB)
- MK.82FF (500 lb) general-purpose bomb
- MK.82HD Snakeye (500 lb) general-purpose bomb
- MK.83 (1000 lb) general-purpose bomb
- Rocket Launchers
- Gun pod
- Air-to-Air Missiles (Iris-T and AIM-9L)
- Up to 3 External Fuel tanks (630 lt each)
- Recce pod
- Target Designator Pod

Performance (clean)

Max level speed: 590 KTAS
Limit speed: 572 KEAS/1.15 MN
Rate of climb: 21,000 ft/min
Service ceiling: 45,000 ft
Limit Load Factors: +8/-3 g
Endurance clean/3 ext. tanks: 2 h 40 min/3 h 50 min

Powerplant

Engines, turbofan: 2 Honeywell: F124-GA-200
Thrust, max, sls, ISA: 12,500 lb (2x2850 Kg)

Weights

Take-off (clean): 17,085 lb (7.750 Kg)
Take-off (maximum): 22,930 lb (10.400 Kg)

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: Leonardo