Do you know that M-346 subsonic jet trainer has broken sound barrier more times

M346 supersonic break sound barrier
An Italian Air Force T-346A flies fast during a photo session. During the first tests, the M-346 broke the sound barrier more times.

The Leonardo M-346 is known as an advanced trainer jet capable of flying at high-subsonic speed, however, many do not know that during the first tests it broke the sound barrier many times. The first supersonic flight was made on 18 December 2008, when an M-346 exceeded the speed of sound for the first time, reaching Mach 1.15 over the Ligurian Sea, north-west Italy.

The first prototype M-346 achieved this important milestone during a 75-minute flight which began and ended on the company airfield at Venegono Superiore, northern Italy.

"Breaking the sound barrier shows the great growth potential of our M-346 – Quirino Bucci, Leonardo Chief Test Pilot said. – The flight went as planned. The aircraft showed excellent controllability as it exceeded the speed of sound and maintained its pleasant handling throughout the deceleration phase. All aircraft systems performed regularly throughout the acceleration and deceleration phases."

The test confirmed the high capabilities and performance of the M-346. Thanks to the two powerful Honeywell F-124 engines, advanced aerodynamic solutions and the modern fly-by-wire digital flight control software, the aircraft was able to overcome the sound barrier up to the speed of 1,255 Km/h, improving the previous data of Mach 0.96, reached in 2007. The jet subsequently flew up to Mach 1.2.

That was the first time that an aircraft entirely designed and manufactured in Italy broke the sound barrier after 52 years. The first Italian aircraft to fly faster than sound was the Aerfer Sagittario 2, piloted by Lt. Col. Giovanni Franchini belonging to the Reparto Sprimentale Volo (RSV) of the Italian Air Force, which on 4 December 1956 reached Mach 1.1 at the end of a long dive over Pratica di Mare air base, Rome.

Since then, all supersonic aircraft built in Italy have been derived from foreign licenses - such as the iconic Lockheed F-104 Starfighter - or from international collaborations - such as the multi-role Panavia Tornado and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Note: Although the maximum speed of the M-346 is set at 1,085 km/h, it could potentially exceed Mach 1. As the aircraft structure is not designed for supersonic flight, the two engines have been reduced in power so that at maximum throttle their number of revolutions is equal to approximately 94% of the maximum value.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Source: Leonardo
Photo Credit: Italian Air Force