New fighter plane for Argentina: Fuerza Aerea prefers Leonardo M-346FA

Leonardo M-346FA Argentina
Leonardo M-346FA multirole combat aircraft.

The Argentine government seems to have taken the opportunity of the latest G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, to restart negotiations to purchase ten FA-50 Golden Eagle light fighters manufactured by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). According to South American and Korean sources, Presidents Moon Jae-In and Mauricio Macrì met in Osaka to discuss the deal as well as officers from the General Staff of the Argentine Air Force and KAI executives. Buenos Aires' interest in the Korean aircraft began about three years ago, but the deal was never finalized due to budget problems.

However, the problem is not just about funds. Some officers of the Fuerza Aerea Argentina (FAA) clearly expressed their preference for Leonardo's M-346FA. This is understandable considering the many positive feedbacks released by M-346 users. The Italian-made aircraft would be an excellent replacement for the old FAA A-4 Skyhawks and would guarantee the nation excellent multi-role capability at low acquisition and operating costs.

The M-346FA boasts features similar to those of the advanced Typhoon fighter jet as recently declared by the Italian Air Force. Its abilities have been tested and confirmed also by Giacomo Iannelli, Project Test Pilot Trainer of Leonardo's Aircraft Division: “First of all, the low altitude speed is very high even with external loads, while other supersonic aircraft have a better performance in a clean configuration, but get considerably worse when loads are added.

The manoeuvrability is excellent thanks also to the 4-channel digital fly-by-wire flight control system and this allows fast manoeuvring during close air combat. The remarkable specific excess power allows the return to baseeven with full payload, with one engine inoperative (OEI), at an adequate altitude to keep out of the more common range missile threat, guaranteeing a notable survivability capability. The so-called Carefree Handling makes sure that the pilots can focus on the mission, without having to worry about risking to exit the expected flight envelope.

The twin-engine configuration assures a high battlefield survivability and, at the same time, the fuel consumption is kept low thanks to the engine's efficiency, definitely providing a good range, that can be further extended by air refuelling, a capability which is already operational within Italian Air Force. The Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) assures completely autonomous flight operations.

Furthermore, the visibility is excellent as the M-346 was born as a trainer, it is a two-seater aircraft and this is very important during low altitude flight. The back-seater pilot can also be act as a Weapons System Operator or a more specialised FAC-A (Forward Air Controller – Airborne) role.”

In addition, Leonardo has an excellent and long presence in Latin America with successful programs such as the AMX light attack jet supplied to Brazil.

Written by Matteo Sanzani

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