Leonardo M-346 may have a second chance in United States as new US Navy jet trainer

M-346 new US Navy jet trainer
Leonardo M-346 takes off from RAF Fairford during RIAT19. It has good changes to be selected as 
new US Navy trainer jet.

On May 14, the US Navy released a Request for Information (RFI) for a new trainer jet to replace the old Boeing T-45 Goshawk fleet. The new aircraft, known as the Undergraduate Jet Training System (UJTS) will be selected from among the candidates of the Boeing T-X program such as the Leonardo M-346.

According to the RFI, the aircraft must be "non-evolutionary", that is an already existing type, and able of performing "Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) and Touch-and-go Carrier events." This removes the need for the aircraft to be capable of full carrier operations, including catapult launch and arrested recovery and opens the doors to more candidates.

UJTS looks for an aircraft with a top speed of more than Mach 0.84 and a service ceiling of at least 41,000 feet. It should have a sustainable “buffet-free” load factor of more than 3.1g, and it should have two underwing pylons for the carriage of training stores such as rocket pods and practice bomb dispensers. The flight control system should have a precision landing mode capability, while the mission system should be capable of simulating radar and other sensors, and the employment of both air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons.

The US Navy estimates it would fly each aircraft for around 400 hours every year, during which it would undertake around 1,200 no-flare landings during FCLP, with around 45 carrier touch-and-goes. Fatigue life is required to be at least 14,400 hours and 43,200 cycles.

Of course, the new Boeing T-7A will also be included among the candidates, but considering that the US Navy is looking for a "proven jet", the M-346 could have more chances. The Italian-made aircraft has long experience in training pilots for 4th and 5th generation fighter jets in four countries.

M-346 characteristics meet all the requirements of the US Navy. It boasts a max level speed of 590 KTAS (1,093 km/h), a rate of climb of 22,000 ft/min, a service ceiling of 45,000 ft and a limit load factors of +8/-3 g. In addition, its Embedded Tactical Training Simulation (ETTS) suite is able to simulate a tactical scenario (digital map with threats and targets), the presence of realistic Computer Generated Forces (friend and foe), on-board sensors (such as multimode Fire Control Radar, targeting pod and active/passive electronic countermeasures), weapons (including specific symbology and delivery parameters) and live, virtual, constructive environment.

The new US Navy trainer jet is expected to enter service around 2028.

👉 You may also like: USAF looks to rent T-50 or M-346 to define Boeing T-7A capabilities

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: Leonardo

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