Analysis: M-346FA Fighter Attack for Austria

M-346FA Fighter Attack Austria
Leonardo's M-346FA Fighter Attack in air defence configuration. The type is one of the best future options for the
Austrian Air Force

Over the past few weeks the Austrian Eurofighters have been under the spotlight of media around the world. First the Austrian Defense Minister stated that the nation intends to keep the Typhoon fleet operational despite ongoing controversies related to the jet, then the Indonesia Defense Minister offered to purchase the entire Austrian Air Force (AuAF) Eurofighter fleet.

Although no official news has been released from Vienna, there is a good chance that Austria will sell its combat aircraft as it has long been looking to replace the European-jet fighter with a less expensive system.

From this point of view, one of the best options for the Austrian Air Force is surely the Leonardo's M-346FA (Fighter Attack) which recently made its first flight in complete configuration.

Austria is one of the smallest countries in Europe and does not need a front-line, high speed combat aircraft to cover its airspace. AuAF already uses the lightweight Saab 105 in the defense role.

The modern M-346 jet boasts all the right features to operate as an interceptor, just think that in many air combat exercises it has covered the Aggressor role against Eurofighter, F-16 or F-18 fighters. Its great maneuverability has long been well known. In addition, the Fighter Attack version boasts a respectable suite of weapons. It adopts a wide range of air-air and air-surface loads (also with IR, radar and/or laser/GPS guidance), cannon pod, reconnaissance pod, target designator and electronic warfare, integrated with the “Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) ”, interactive viewers placed on the pilots' helmet.

The Italian-made jet is therefore able to offer many of those missing capabilities in Tranche 1 of the AuAF Eurofighter.

Some Austrian pilots already know the type well as they conducted their training at the Italian Air Force flight school through the M-346 Advanced Training System. They would be able to fly the aircraft without additional long training.

The M-346FA also retains all the proven jet trainer features of the M-346 and is a good choice to replace the Saab 105 as well, which will be retired in 2021.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: Leonardo

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