The roll-out ceremony for the first of eight Polish Air Force M-346 aircraft took place on June 6, 2016, at Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s facility in Venegono-Superiore (near Varese). The event was attended by the Polish Deputy Defense Minister, Bartosz Kownacki, the State Under Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Gioacchino Alfano, and by the Managing Director of Leonardo-Finmeccanica Aircraft, Filippo Bagnato.
Mauro Moretti, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of Leonardo-Finmeccanica said: «Leonardo-Finmeccanica is the only company in the world able to offer a complete technological solution that reduces pilot training times and prepares them to fly sophisticated, new-generation military aircraft. Today, many countries are turning their attention to integrated training systems that include both aircraft and ground-based simulation systems. These capabilities already have a proven track record at the Italian Air Force’s training center in Galatina (near Lecce) where 11 NATO and Allied Air Forces are trained; pilots obtain their licenses via systems and aircraft built by Leonardo-Finmeccanica».
The first of 8 Aermacchi M-346 advanced trainers ordered by Poland in 2014 will now undergo a flight test programme to certify bespoke systems chosen by the Polish Air Force such as the brake parachute. It will then be delivered to the customer by the end of the year along with a second aircraft. Deliveries will be completed by November 2017.
The M-346s will enter into service with the 4th Training Wing Squadron at Poland’s Deblin base. With the M-346, the base aims to become an international hub for the training of military pilots.
The M-346 has been ordered by the Air Forces of Italy (18), Singapore (12), Israel (30) and Poland (8) for a total of 68 orders.
The M-346 is the most advanced lead-in fighter trainer aircraft currently produced, and the only new-generation trainer optimized for pilots who will go on to fly the latest-generation, high-performance military aircraft. Thanks to its advanced technical design and adoption of modern «design-to-cost» and «design-to-maintain» concepts, the M-346 has reduced acquisition and operation costs. Furthermore, reducing the maintenance hours requirement of the aircraft has increased its cost-effectiveness.
The M-346 features innovative design solutions. It is an aircraft with a full-authority quadruplex Flyby-Wire control system that, thanks to the optimization of its aerodynamic configuration, allows the aircraft to remain fully controllable at angles of attack of over 30 degrees. This, combined with the aircraft’s twin-engine configuration, the duplication and redundancy of its electric and hydraulic systems and a choice of state-of-the-art equipment, makes the M-346 the most modern preoperational tactical training aircraft in the world.
The M-346 is equipped with a digital avionics system, fully modelled on those of latest-generation military aircraft such as the Eurofighter, Gripen, Rafale, F-16, F-18, F-22 and the future F-35. It is therefore well-suited for every phase of advanced and pre-operational training, downloading flight hours from the more expensive frontline aircraft.
The M-346’s wide flight envelope, its very high thrust/weight ratio and extreme maneuverability make it an aircraft capable of reproducing, for the trainee pilot, flight conditions similar to those they will find on the combat aircraft they will go on to operate, thus maximizing the effectiveness of training.
The M-346 also integrates the ETTS (Embedded Tactical Training Simulation) with the ability to simulate a complete suite of sensors, countermeasures and armaments and also to create a virtual tactical scenario, simulating air, naval and land forces, friend or foe, interacting in real time with the aircraft during the training missions.
The M-346 features hard points, allowing external loads to be carried, as well as a Helmet Mounted Display, vocal commands and an in-flight refuelling probe. The aircraft’s excellent performance, combined with options to install an Electronic Warfare System, Tactical Data Link, Multi-mode Radar and equipment to reduce the aircraft’s radar signature, the M-346 provides high survivability and effectiveness when operating in hostile theatres.
The M-346 Integrated Training System (ITS) includes, alongside the aircraft, an exhaustive Ground Based Training System (GBTS). This enables the student pilot to learn and rehearse the entire aircraft syllabus and training objectives on the ground, before replicating them in flight. This provides significant cost savings when comprehensively training «fast jet» military pilots.
A core element of the ITS is the Live-Virtual-Constructive (LVC), linking simulators to live sorties, allowing pilots flying a training device on the ground to be linked with those flying on real aircraft. It allows trainee pilots to add complexity to training exercises while reducing the risks and costs associated with flying several aircraft during training missions.