The Aggressor side of M-346 advanced trainer jet

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

The M346 proved to be much more than a trainer when in 2015 the Italian Air Force launched the type against modern Eurofighter Typhoons during a Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT). Since the introduction of the M346 on the market, its manufacturer Leonardo has immediately attracted considerable interest from many customers due to the jet's versatility and its ability to replicate most of the tasks of front-line fighters.

During the tests, the M346 flew as an aggressor against the Typhoons belonging to the 4° Stormo (4th Wing) at Grosseto AFB, Tuscany. The 4th Wing is the main user of the ItAF Typhoons and hosts both a front-line squadron and the operational conversion unit (OCU). The datalink capability of both aircraft types allowed them to be fully interoperable, with no changes required. Thanks to the excellent results obtained from the tests, the Italian Air force Introduced the aggressor capability into service.

According to Leonardo, the M346 has much to offer in this role, thanks to 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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