February 13, 2012 defpro.com
The second aircraft in the M-346 series, manufactured by Alenia Aermacchi (a Finmeccanica company), the T-346A, was delivered to the Italian Air Force a few days ago.
The delivery of the aircraft, which took place after the signing of the official documents, follows the completion of checks carried out at the Alenia Aermacchi plant in Venegono Superiore (VA) by the Testing Commission specifically appointed by the General Directorate of Air Armaments (DGAA).
The second T-346A aircraft took off from Alenia Aermacchi’s plant in Venegono Superiore on February 6 en route for the Pratica di Mare air base, where the Experimental Flying Wing (RSV) will conduct a series of tests and activities prior to its operational deployment. Once the evaluation is complete, the first two T-346As will be operated by the 61st Wing in Galatina-Lecce, which will also take delivery of the other four aircraft and related ground-based training systems, as stipulated in the contract signed in 2009.
Giuseppe Giordo, CEO of Alenia Aermacchi and head of Finmeccanica’s Aeronautics division, commented: “Acceptance of the first two aircraft in the M-346 series and the launch of the operational evaluation phase by the Italian Air Force represents the achievement of a significant goal for the M-346 programme. The Italian Air Force, which has contributed to the development of the entire M-346 training system right from the start, will be the first air force in the world to be equipped with an integrated training system based on the M-346, the most advanced trainer aircraft available on the market today, and one in which many international customers are showing increasing interest”.
The M-346 is the ideal platform for a latest-generation integrated training system. Its flexibility means that it can also be configured as an affordable advanced defence aircraft for operational roles. Thanks to its innovative technical characteristics, the aircraft also stands out on account of its high degree of safety and low acquisition and operating costs. The M-346 has been designed using the latest “design-to-cost” and “design-to-maintain” concepts, with an avionics system modelled on those used in new-generation fighter aircraft, such as Eurofighter, Gripen, Rafale, F-16, F-18, F-22 and the future JSF.
The contract, worth EUR 220 million, for the acquisition of a first batch of six M-346 aircraft and the groundbased training system for the Italian Air Force, was signed at the end of 2009.
The M-346 also received its certificate of approval from the Italian defence ministry’s certification office in June 2011, an essential requirement if the aircraft is to be used in military operations. At the end of September 2010, the first international contract under the Fighter Wings Course (FWC) programme was signed with the Singapore government. The consortium, formed by ST Aerospace (prime contractor) and Boeing, was awarded the contract to supply 12 M-346 aircraft and ground-based training systems (GBTS).
The first aircraft are scheduled to be delivered in 2012. Alenia Aermacchi also finalised contracts in June 2011 to provide logistics support to the fleet of M-346 aircraft purchased by the Republic of Singapore Air Force. In February 2009, the M-346 was chosen by the United Arab Emirates under its tender for 48 new trainer aircraft.