Leonardo M-346 getting closer to Spain

M346 Spain F5 replacement
Leonardo M-346 advanced trainer jets.

Spain will soon have to buy a new advanced trainer aircraft and there appears to be only one on the horizon. The chances of Madrid selecting the Leonardo M-346 are increasing significantly as Airbus' development of a new advanced trainer aircraft appears to have stalled. More than a year after the launch of the AFJT (Airbus Advanced Jet Trainer) project, there appears to be no progress.

As confirmed by Infodefensa, the AFJT is not in the medium-term plans of the company which seems to focus mainly on the Eurofighter, A400M and C295 programs until 2030.

This stalemate could exclude Airbus from Spain's bid to replace the Spanish Air Force's F-5 advanced trainier jets which are nearing the end of their operational life.

Madrid has already started the modernization process of the SpAF trainer aircraft fleet with the purchase of 24 Pilatus PC-21s to cover the basic and intermediate phase of pilot training. This fleet renewal also includes the forthcoming introduction of a LIFT (Lead In Fighter Trainer) platform.

While the main bidders for an advanced jet have been Airbus and Leonardo to date, it now appears that the only option for Spain remains Italian-built aircraft.

With the Spanish Air Force having to replace its F-5s within five/six years, it is unlikely that Airbus will be able to develop a new platform in such a short time, especially if it is not included in the priority projects. On the other hand, the M-346 is a proven aircraft that has been training fighter pilots in five countries for years.

As underlined by Leonardo, the production of M-346s for SpAF will also involve Spanish companies, ensuring a good local income. Nor is it excluded that Airbus may decide to enter into a partnership with the Italian aerospace company regarding the M-346 program for Spain.

Written by Matteo Sanzani

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