Aermacchi M-346 Fighter Attack for LatAm air forces

Leonardo M346 Latin America
Aermacchi M-346 Fighter Attack. The modern light combat aircraft meets all the requirements of the LatAm air forces.

On 7 October 2020, during the media webinar organized by Leonardo, Eduardo Munhos, VP Product solutions & Sales Engineering, spoke about the opportunities for the M-346FA in Latin America.

Munhos said Leonardo is offering the M-346FA to most of the countries in the area as it perfectly meets the requirements of several LatAm air forces due to its multirole capabilities.

Leonardo's interest in Latin America is comprehensible as, according to our analysis, many local defense authorities will soon have to start looking at an aircraft like the M-346FA.

The air forces of Central and South America are unique to those of Western countries as their fighter aircraft fleets are mainly composed of combat-capable trainer jets operating alongside a small number of front-line combat aircraft.

While the risk of wars with foreign enemy forces is relatively low, LatAm air forces mainly perform air defense missions as well as support counterinsurgency and anti-drug operations. This operational need has led these armed forces to focus on light aircraft as they are much cheaper in terms of flight hours and maintenance costs.

Even today, the F-5 serves as the most modern fighter aircraft available to many air forces in the area. Since the 1970s, the United States has expressed a reluctance to supply more modern aircraft than the F-5 to Latin America with a few exceptions (Venezuela and Chile). Since then, the combat systems of many nations in the area have entered a state of severe decline. Mexico, for example, was left without fighter jets.

Currently, throughout Central and South America, air forces composed of F-5, Su-25, A-4 Skyhawk, A-37 Dragonfly, EMB-312/314 Tucano/Super Tucano and CASA C-101, are suffering the lack of the service packages that facilitated the acquisition of these aircraft in the 70s and 80s. In addition, Brazil has a fleet of AMX light attack jets which, despite being well maintained, will soon become obsolete.

Over the next few years, all of these air forces will have to begin replacing their fleet in order not to remain without fighter jets or have planes dangerous to fly.

Like all modern air forces, they will need to aim to reduce the number and types of aircraft in their inventory, as well as explore the real need to purchase expensive 40-tot class combat aircraft. The new M-346FA version could be the answer: it is radar equipped light fighter able to cover several roles such as Air Defense, Slow Mover Interceptor (SMI), Close Air Support (CAS), Counter INsurgency (COIN), Forward Air Controller - Airborne (FAC-A), Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR), Battlefield Air Interdiction (BAI), Tactical Air Support for Maritime Operations (TASMO) and Reconnaissance (RECCE). While at the same time, it keeps all the attributes of the Advanced Jet Trainer variant, so is perfect for training too.

“When we speak about advance training, not primary or basic, trainer aircraft as such cannot be the a stand-alone requirements, in this period were the optimization is a must the possibility to have a jet trainer, that is necessary to supplement or to be used as first line fighter, and LCA makes our of M346 Fighter Attack as an ideal asset,” Munhos said. 

Leonardo M346 Latin America

As the main operational needs of LatAm forces are represented by CAS and Reconnaissance missions, the basic variant of the M-346FA is already equipped with Gun Pod and Targeting and Recce Pods as well as air-to-air missiles and bombs.

In addition, the M-346FA is ready for the market, already ordered by an undisclosed customer.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: Leonardo

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