The Aggressor side of the M-346 trainer jet

Leonardo M-346 Aggressor
Italian Air Force M-346.

In 2015 the Italian Air Force tested the Leonardo M346 advanced training jet in the "Red Air" role, during a Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) with front-line Eurofighter Typhoon fighters. Since the introduction of the aircraft on the market, Leonardo has immediately received considerable interest from many customers regarding this new capability, which highlights the versatility of the M346 and its ability to provide cost-effective, high-quality training that reduces the burden on the front line.

During the trials, the M346 flew as an aggressor against the Typhoons of the 4° Stormo (4th Wing) at Grosseto, which parents both a front-line squadron and the Typhoon operational conversion unit (OCU). The datalink capability of both aircraft types allowed them to be fully interoperable, with no changes required. Trials were highly successful, and subsequently the Italian Air force Introduced the aggressor capability into service.

According to Leonardo, the M346 has much to offer in this role, notably its ability to fly for extended periods at sustained g forces. For instance, the aircraft can sustain a 5g turn for 20 minutes. The role of the aggressor is currently covered by old jet trainers or fighter planes that do not represent a modern threat, or by front-line fighters who have a high operating cost and do not have the endurance when maneuvering hard because of the need to use afterburner.

The M346 boasts high maneuvering and climbing performance, as well as embedded virtual training systems that allow the replication of threats, weapons and radar in the cockpit. It could find a place alongside front-line aircraft to offset flying hours from the operational fleet, in addition to its more traditional Phase 3/4 advanced/tactical training duties.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: Italian Air Force


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