- Leonardo's M-346FA made its first appearance at Expodefensa
- The aircraft's dual-use capability could be an affordable option for Latin America's smaller budgets
Leonardo's M-346FA fighter attack/light combat aircraft made its debut with a model shown at the Expodefensa trade show on 2 December as the company is promoting the aircraft in Colombia and Latin America.
Leonardo told Jane's on 4 December that it previously displayed a model of the aircraft at SITDEF in Lima in May 2019. The company believes the aircraft's performance and dual role capability can meet the needs of regional air forces. Leonardo said there is an increasing need for trainer jets in Latin America where nations have requirements for trainers that can also perform close-air support (CAS) missions.
The M-346FA will make its first flight in the first half of 2020 and will be delivered in 2021 to an undisclosed customer, according to a company statement. Leonardo said Argentina is considering the M-346FA.
The M-346FA is a variant of the M-346 (T-346A in Italian Air Force service) platform, which Leonardo said has been selected by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and ordered by Israel, Italy, Poland, and Singapore. The M-346FA keeps the characteristics of the advanced trainer version but is also capable of carrying out a wide range of operational missions at a lower cost than those of front-line fighters. The aircraft is equipped with Leonardo's own Grifo-346 multi-mode fire control radar.
Leonardo also promoted its M-345 basic jet trainer/light attack aircraft at Expodefensa, although it did not have a model displayed. The company said it is talking to many potential customers in Latin America, but it did not provide details.
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