Leonardo is positioning its Alenia M-345 High Efficiency Trainer (HET) aircraft to meet a requirement in the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), the company confirmed to Jane's at the Defense and Security (D&S) 2019 show in Bangkok.
The move is supported through Leonardo's expanding profile in Thailand, demonstrated by a new contract awarded to the company to provide the RTAF with its RAT 31DL/M air- defence radar system.
A Leonardo representative said the M-345 is being positioned for the RTAF programme to replace the service's Pilatus PC-9 turboprop training aircraft. The RTAF's Flying Training School in Kamphaeng Saen has operated more than 20 PC-9s since the early 1990s. A formal programme to replace the type is expected to materialise in the next two years.
Leonardo said the M-345's ability to perform a light attack role will provide additional capability to the RTAF above those offered by a traditional basic trainer platform.
The PC-9 replacement programme is regarded as a continuation of the RTAF's efforts to modernise its training and light attack aircraft.
In recent years the RTAF has also acquired 12 T-50TH (Thailand) Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer/lead-in fighter trainer aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). Another four of the type are understood to be required.
The T-50TH is replacing the RTAF's fleet of Czech Republic Aero L-39ZA Albatros trainers that were also procured in the early 1990s.
The M-345 HET made its maiden flight in 2018. The aircraft is a development of the baseline M-345 jet trainer, which was a redesignation of the Aermacchi M-311.
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