Leonardo positions for Malaysian light fighter programme

06 February 2019

Leonardo, which unveiled the M-346FA light fighter in 2017, is preparing to respond to a Malaysian RFI in support of its programme to procure a light combat aircraft. Source: IHS Markit/Patrick Allen

Leonardo is working to meet a stated requirement within the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) to procure a light combat aircraft (LCA) or a fighter lead-in trainer (FLIT) as part of the service's future modernisation plans.

A spokesperson for Leonardo told Jane's on 5 February that the company has recently received a request for information (RFI) from Malaysia in support of the proposed procurement and that it planned to respond to the RFI soon.

Jane's understands from other industry sources that the RFI is regarded as a preliminary step in the procurement and that additional RFIs are expected to be issued by Malaysia in due course before a formal request for proposal (RFP). However, the progress of this latter stage would depend on available funding.

The procurement is expected to feature an initial 12 LCA/FLIT aircraft for an estimated cost of about USD300 million, with an option for another 24 units.

Jane's understands that Leonardo's proposal to meet the LCA/FLIT requirement will be centred on its twin-engine M-346FA (Fighter Attack) aircraft, a variant of the company's M-346 advanced jet trainer (AJT) that is currently operated by Italy, Israel, Poland, and Singapore.

The M-346FA, which retains the trainer capabilities of the M-346 AJT, was unveiled by Leonardo at the Paris Air Show 2017. According to the company the M-346FA is designed for a range of performance requirements including air-to-air combat, light attack, homeland defence, air-to-ground interception, combat search and rescue, and associated training duties.

The aircraft, which has seven external hard-points, also features the new Grifo 346 radar system and enhanced avionics.

The RMAF's requirement to procure an LCA/FLIT is outlined in a future modernisation programme called 'Capability 55' - or 'CAP55' - which, according to the force, is intended to provide "flexibility in the management of assets [and the] implementation of operations".

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