The M-346 is used to train future fighter pilots, but at the Farnborough Airshow, Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s own test pilots had to prove that they could safely conduct this exciting flying display in validation ahead of the show.
Leonardo-Finmeccanica has launched a new dual role version of its M-346 jet trainer, which will be able to switch from training pilots to handling combat operations, that reported by www.defensenews.com.
Leonardo-Finmeccanica said the dual role aircraft would use its five hard points to mount Homeland Security, Tactical Reconnaissance or Ground Attack missions.A RecceLite pod has already been integrated, as have new auxiliary tanks, while work is underway to integrate a Radar Warning Receiver and Chaff and Flare dispenser.
Armaments that the plane will be able to carry include the GBU-12 and -49 laser-guided bombs, GBU-38 JDAM, Lizard laser guided bomb and Small Diameter Bomb as well as a gun pod. The Iris-T is already being trialed, and the AIM 9L will be intergrated.
Discussing the addition of reconnaissance capabilities to the aircraft, test pilot Enrico Scarabotto said that the M-346FT would have been cheaper to fly on recon missions in Afghanistans than the Tornados used by Italy for the mission.
The M-346 joins a growing number of jet trainer producers looking to extend their market reach by adapting their aircraft for light combat duties, including the South Korean T-50. India’s HAL, supported by BAE Systems, is looking at developing a big wing version of the Hawk for combat duties. The British have experience in such redesigns after offering a Hawk 200 light attack jet over two decades ago.