Leonardo unveiled its M-345 High Efficiency Trainer (HET) jet trainer and M-346FA (Fighter Attack), a light attack version of the M-346 trainer, at the Paris Air Show 2017.
The M-345 HET is touted as an affordable jet training aircraft by Leonardo, which has designed it in order to compete with high-end turboprop training aircraft by offering comparable operating costs while providing better performances. The M-346FA is the latest iteration in what is now billed the "M-346 family concept", which also comprises the M-346AJT (Advanced Jet Trainer) and the M-346FT (Fighter Trainer).
Speaking on 18 June, Emanuele Merlo, vice-president for programme and contract management of the M-345, highlighted the fact that the Italian Air Force and two other undisclosed customers have already said they will acquire the M-345 HET. A contract signature is expected with at least one of the two before the end of 2017.
While a memorandum of understanding has been signed with Chile regarding industrial co-operation on the M-345, the country has not yet selected the aircraft, he added. Merlo noted that Leonardo sees strong potential for the aircraft in several regions of the world, including the Asia-Pacific in general and the Philippines in particular, which still flies the S-211 on which the platform is based.
Merlo explained that construction work is now under way on a first pre-series aircraft, which is expected to make its maiden flight before the end of 2018. He also emphasised the deadline for securing European Military Airworthiness Regulation 21st Century (EMAR21) certification by the end of 2019, in time for the delivery of the first series aircraft to the Italian Air Force.
Merlo noted that in addition to its attractive pricing and operational costs, the M-345 HET's major strength comes from its Integrated Training System (ITS), which links the aircraft with a host of supporting ground based stations.
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