Analysis: that's why Slovakia should select Leonardo trainer jets

Leonardo M345 M346 trainer Slovakia
Leonardo M345 and M346 trainer jets.

While Slovakia's tender for the selection of a new trainer jet is heating up, Leonardo is currently the only manufacturer able to offer Bratisava a wide range of proven advanced training systems.

According to Leonardo, the company's portfolio includes the most advanced aircraft platforms and Ground Based Training System (GBTS), as well as the capability to offer a complete virtual environment: an advanced simulation system that brings trainees to the highest standard with limited number of flight hours in real, increasing safety and cost savings.

Thanks to its M-345 and M-346 integrated training systems, the Italian manufacturer is able cover the full training pilot syllabus.

The M-346 is the most advanced solution available today for the Lead in Fighter Training (LIFT) phasewhich is already being used to successfully train pilots planned to be assigned to F-16 as well as F-35 JSF fighters for the Air Forces of Poland, Israel and Singapore. Thanks to its exceptional airframe and system agility, coupled with on-board Embedded Tactical Training System (ETTS) and Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) capability, the M-346 can generate (field proven) very high FH downloading from Fighter OCU.

The M-345 is an optimal solution to support pilot’s transition from basic/advanced trainers to fighters; a jet trainer aircraft conceived for the maximum cost-efficiency and to reduce the time required to train pilots. M-345 performance allows the most demanding mission types in a training syllabus, delivering high quality training at significantly lower cost.

The training system based on M-345 benefits from the M-346 experience with, including LVC capability. Thanks to the on-board ETTS and real-time data link, pilots in flight (Live) can run complex missions together with pilots seating inside simulators on the ground (Virtual) and Computer Generated Forces (CGF), in a simulated operational-like scenario including threats and targets. M-345 can therefore provide the lowest pilot training cost, while M-346 is the aircraft that is particularly effective in the subsequent Phase IV.

Both aircraft are also offered in the combat variant. While the armed variant of the M-346, the M-346FA, has already been delivered to the first customer and is being evaluated by several nations, the Leonardo portfolio also includes the combat variant of the M-345.

Leonardo M345 M346 trainer Slovakia

Thanks to its modern avionics, performance and high external load capacity (more than 1,000 kg, 4 underwing pylons), the M-345 is also well suited for operational roles, including air-to-air and air-to-ground, with the capability to employ weapons such as IR guided air-to-air missiles, gun pods, rockets and up to 500 lb class general-purpose bombs. For combat operations the back-seater can act as Weapons System Officer and the aircraft is equipped with advanced stores management and mission systems that allow great accuracy in delivering its payload, coupled with easy to manage weapons integration solution available on the market.

These unique capabilities, together with the maturity of the platforms, are very useful for all those nations that are considering introducing an effective trainer/light attack aircraft with low operating costs, such as Slovakia.

Leonardo has already expressed its interest and willingness to offer the most suitable and tailored solution in response to the Slovakian needs.

"Leonardo is very interested in collaborating with the Slovak Air Force and has already proposed its M-345 during SLIAC in 2019, while in the meantime the aircraft has been delivered to the first customer, the Italian Air Force, which received the first two M-345s. We consider it an aircraft that fully grasps the needs of the Slovakian air force both at a technological level (a totally new aircraft with great performance and with a technical conception base adequate to the great technological challenges of the new millennium) and economic competitiveness (extremely competitive aircraft price and very low operating costs)," the company said.

Slovakia started looking for a new trainer about two years ago after signing an agreement with Lockheed Martin to procure 14 modern F-16 Block 70/72 fighters. The nation's interest in the new trainer was then reinvigorated in August with a request for information (RFI) from the Slovak Ministry of Defense.

With the first F-16s being delivered in mid-2023, Bratislava urgently needs to introduce a modern aircraft capable of training future Slovak Air Force fighter pilots at home rather than in the United States in order to cut costs.

The nation aims to acquire up to 10 new jets in both training and attack variants. Rumors say the choice will be announced early next year, with the first aircraft required for 2024.

"Leonardo is confident that Slovak Ministry of Defense is interested in carefully evaluating the market to find the best solution for their needs. We believe that our Training Systems solutions offer the most technical and economic advantages as already demonstrated with many Air Forces worldwide," Leonardo said.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Source, Image: Leonardo

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