Leonardo’s M-346FA (Fighter Attack) makes its debut at the Dubai Airshow, one of the most important global defence and aerospace events, held from 12 to 16 November.
The M-346FA, for which several international air forces have already demonstrated their interest, represents a further evolution – after the AJT (Advanced Jet Trainer) for the advanced training of military pilots and the multi-role M-346FT (Fighter Trainer) – of a family concept designed to create a common baseline, able to rapidly answer to the different requirements.
Thanks to the integration of the Grifo multi-mode fire control radar, designed and manufactured by Leonardo and already chosen by several customers in the world, the M-346FA offers advanced operational capabilities.
The M-346FA’s characteristics make it not only an excellent advanced trainer, but also a light fighter aircraft capable of carrying out operational missions at far lower costs than those of front-line fighters.
With seven pylons for external loads, the M-346FA is able to operate very effectively as multi-role tactical aircraft, capable of air-to-surface, air-to-air and tactical reconnaissance missions.
Leonardo, a world leader in the training field, offers a product portfolio able to cover the entire training syllabus, from basic-advanced training on the new M-345 into the advanced/Lead-In Fighter Training (LIFT) phase with the M-346.
Already ordered by the Italian Air Force, the M-345 jet trainer is comparable in cost to a high-power turboprop aircraft but with higher levels of performance.
A complete Ground Based Training System (GBTS), well-integrated with the platforms and able to ensure both high quality training and strong operating efficiency, complements the aerial platforms. Platforms and systems offer worldwide customers a «turnkey» training solution that can guarantee the highest quality standards at every training stage.
Among the most notable examples that have integrated Leonardo products and selected them based on excellent performance characteristics is the United Arab Emirates’ national aerobatic team, Al Fursan, which uses the Aermacchi MB-339 aircraft. The Emirati pilots were trained in Italy and the UAE under the guidance of the «Frecce Tricolori» pilots using Italian aircraft and training systems.
The first Short Take-Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL) version of the F-35 Lightning II, or F-35B, assembled outside the United States rolled out of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility here on May 5.
The rollout exhibits the ongoing strong partnership between the Italian Ministry of Defense, industry partner Leonardo and Lockheed Martin. The Italian FACO is owned by the Italian Ministry of Defense and is operated by Leonardo in conjunction with Lockheed Martin with a current workforce of more than 800 skilled personnel engaged in full assembly of the Conventional Take-off/Landing (CTOL) F-35A Lightning II and F-35B Lightning II aircraft variants and F-35A Lightning II wing production.
General Claudio Graziano, Italian chief of defense, General Carlo Magrassi, secretary general of defense/director of National Armament, Admiral Mathias Winter, deputy program executive officer at the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, Filippo Bagnato, Leonardo Aircraft Division’s Managing Director, and Doug Wilhelm, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Program Management vice president, spoke at the milestone event.
«Italy is not only a valued F-35 Lightning II program partner that has achieved many F-35 Lightning II program ‘firsts’, but is also a critical NATO air component force, providing advanced airpower for the alliance for the coming decades», Wilhelm said. «Italian industry has participated in the design of the F-35 Lightning II and Italian industry made components fly on every production F-35 Lightning II built to date».
The jet’s first flight is anticipated in late August and it is programmed to be delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense in November. In addition, two Italian F-35A Lightning II aircraft will deliver from Cameri this year, the first by July and the second in the fourth quarter. To date, seven F-35As have been delivered from the Cameri FACO; four of those jets are now based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for international pilot training and three are at Amendola Air Base, near Foggio on the Adriatic coast. The Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) has already flown more than 100 flight hours in its Amendola-based F-35As.
After a series of confidence flights from Cameri, an Italian pilot will fly their first F-35B Lightning II jet to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, early in 2018 to conduct required Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification. The next Italian F-35B Lightning II aircraft is scheduled for delivery in November 2018. The Cameri FACO has the only F-35B Lightning II production capability outside the United States and is programmed to produce a total of 30 Italian F-35Bs and 60 Italian F-35As, along with 29 F-35As for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, and retains the capacity to deliver to other European partners in the future.
The Italian FACO is also producing 835 F-35A Lightning II full wing sets to support all customers in the program. The FACO was selected by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2014 as the F-35 Lightning II Heavy Airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade facility for the European region. The 101-acre facility includes 22 buildings and more than one million square feet of covered work space, housing 11 assembly stations, and five maintenance, repair, overhaul, and upgrade bays.
On September 7, 2015, the first Italian-produced F-35 Lightning II built at the Cameri FACO made the first international flight in F-35 Lightning II program history, and in February 2016, the F-35A Lightning II made the program’s first trans-Atlantic crossing. In December 2016, the Italian Air Force’s first F-35s arrived at the first in-country base, Amendola AB.
The F-35 Lightning II is a 5th generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, advanced mission systems, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and cutting-edge sustainment. Three distinct variants of the F-35 Lightning II will replace the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II and General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon for the U.S. Air Force, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet for the U.S. Navy, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet and McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least 11 other countries. The Italian F-35As and Bs replace the legacy Panavia Tornado, AMX and McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II aircraft. More than 200 production F-35s have been delivered fleet-wide and have flown more than 90,000 flight hours.
51.2 feet/15.6 m
14.3 feet/4.36 m
35 feet/10.7 m
460 feet2/42.7 m2
Horizontal tail span
21.8 feet/6.65 m
32,300 lbs/14,651 kg
Internal fuel capacity
13,500 lbs/6,125 kg
15,000 lbs/6,800 kg
60,000 lbs class/27,215 kg
Standard internal weapons load
Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles
Two 2,000-pound/907 kg GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs
For the first time since its introduction into service in December 2016, the Italian Air Force’s ATR 72MP has flown overseas to attend the Langkawi International Maritime And Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia, from March 21 to 25. During the show, the aircraft and its crew will be available to delegations and guests for hosted visits and briefings. Leonardo envisions significant export opportunities for the aircraft in the region due the aircraft’s low cost of operation, ease of maintenance and exceptional versatility in a number of maritime roles.
The ATR 72MP, which was developed by Leonardo using the ATR 72-600 turboprop as a base, can perform roles including maritime patrol, search and identification of surface vessels, Command, Control and Communication, ISR, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, SAR (Search and Rescue) missions, the prevention of narcotics trafficking, piracy, smuggling, territorial water security and monitoring and intervention in the event of environmental catastrophes.
The ATR 72MP is equipped with Leonardo’s ATOS mission system, which uses advanced data fusion techniques to present a single tactical picture to the operator that integrates information from all of the aircraft’s on-board sensors. One key sensor on the ATR 72MP is Leonardo’s Seaspray AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) surveillance radar. Seaspray provides a powerful surveillance capability with a range of modes, all in a highly reliable package. The aircraft also uses the latest communication systems, able to transmit or receive information in real time to/from command and control centers either on the ground, in the air or at-sea, to ensure coordinated and effective operations. The aircraft is also equipped with a self-protection system, fully integrated with the ATR 72MP’s mission system and avionics.
Leonardo has signed, with the Italian National Armaments Directorate of the Italian Defence Ministry, two contracts for an initial batch of five Aermacchi M-345 trainer aircraft and for the first phase of development and delivery programme of the new exploration and escort helicopter (NEES) for the Italian Army. The combined value of the contracts is in excess of 500 million euro/530 million dollars.
Mauro Moretti, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of Leonardo, said: «The signing of these two contracts is the result of constructive discussions between the Italian Government and industry, which helped identify the requirements and the best technological answers. Thanks to this joint understanding, we’ll be able to deliver advanced solutions to our national customer by optimizing available financial resources and developing new technologies, skills and industrial processes in our country».
The Italian Air Force has a total requirement for around 45 M-345s (designated as T-345 by the Italian Armed Forces) to progressively replace the 137 in-service MB-339 aircraft which entered into operation in 1982. The new aircraft will work alongside the fleet of 18 twin-engine Aermacchi M-346s already ordered and currently used by the Italian Air Force for the advanced phase of pilot training. Together, the two aircraft types will form the world’s most advanced training system for military pilots. The M-345, thanks to its high performance and advanced ground-based training systems, will provide the Italian Air Force with a significant boost in the effectiveness of training, improved efficiency and a reduction in operational costs. The first delivery is expected by 2019.
The multiyear contract for the new exploration and escort helicopter (NEES) of the Italian Army envisages the study, development, industrialization, production and testing of a prototype and three initial production aircraft. Through this new programme, based on a total requirement for 48 units, the Italian Army will be able to replace the current fleet of AW129 which are expected to be retired from service by 2025 following over 35 years in operations. The NEES programme will benefit from the long operational expertise gained by the Italian Army thanks to the AW129 and from the know-how of Leonardo in this specific helicopter sector. It will allow the service to introduce an even more technologically advanced product, with greater performance and lower operating costs, to meet arising needs in evolving scenarios for the next 30 years.
The prototype of the new Aermacchi M-345HET (High Efficiency Trainer) two-seat basic jet trainer has successfully completed its first flight from Venegono Superiore airfield (Varese, Italy) on December 29, 2016. The aircraft was flown by Quirino Bucci and Giacomo Iannelli from Leonardo Aircraft Division.
Quirino Bucci, Project Test Pilot Trainers of Leonardo Aircraft Division, expressed great satisfaction at the end of the 30-minute flight and said: «The aircraft conducted itself perfectly, meeting the expectations of the design parameters while showing excellent performance. The engine in particular demonstrated a great capacity to react to regime changes, which is a fundamental characteristic for a basic training aircraft».
The M-345 is the latest-generation aircraft from Leonardo for military pilot training and provides global Air Forces with an economically affordable and effective solution, thanks to a significant reduction in acquisition and life-cycle costs compared to those of powerful turboprop trainer aircraft. The test campaign will be completed within 2017. The next tests will check the advanced avionics systems, the engine and the flight envelope expansion, including altitude, speed and maneuverability.
Thanks to its modern avionics, considerable external load-carrying capability on the wing pylons and performance, the new Aermacchi M-345HET is also suited for operational roles. Life cycle cost reduction is driven by long fatigue and two-level maintenance, the latter made possible by replacing the expensive general overhauls with the airframe and systems Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS). The avionics, based on the latest M-346’s experience, matches the standards of the latest combat jets, including HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) controls, Head Up Display (HUD), Multi-Function Displays (MFD), the real-time data link. The aircraft is powered by a Williams FJ44-4M-34 turbofan engine with thrust of 3,450 lbs/1,540 kg. The operating efficiency is ensured by pressure refueling systems and on-board oxygen generation (OBOGS), both of which reduce ground support crews and ground operation times.
Just in time for the Corps’ 352nd birthday, the Royal Marines new flying steed has taken to the skies for the first time. The Merlin Mk4 – much better adapted to operations at sea than the Mk3 it is replacing – will be the mainstay of Commando Helicopter Force for the next decade and beyond.
You’ve never seen a Merlin like this before. This is the Royal Marines’ flying steed of tomorrow, the fourth incarnation of a battle-proven helicopter – and the one best suited to both commando operations and flying at sea.
The very first Merlin Mk4 took to Somerset skies earlier this week after technicians and engineers at Leonardo – previously Agusta-Westland – in Yeovil completed turning a battlefield Merlin Mk3 into a battlefield Merlin Mk4.
The difference? Well, for a start it’s maritime grey not battlefield green (although it’s easily distinguishable from its submarine-hunting Merlin Mk2 sisters by the lack of a radar dome under the cockpit).
Less obvious to the eye is a folding main rotor head and folding tail which make it much more suited to operating from Royal Navy (RN) carriers and assault ships at sea.
In addition, inside the crew of four have access to a vastly-improved avionics suite.
The first Merlin Mk4 is likely to be ready for front-line operations by late 2017, with the entire fleet of 25 converted by the end of 2020.
At present the two troop-carrying squadrons of Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), based at Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) Yeovilton – 845 and 846 NAS – operate the Merlin Mk3 and Merlin Mk3i (the latter has undergone enhancements and improvements which plug the gap between Nos.3 and 4).
Watching the Merlin Mk4’s maiden flight was Colonel Lenny Brown, the Royal Marine in charge of CHF – who can’t wait for his men and women to get their hands on the upgraded helicopter.
«What a fantastic achievement for Leonardo, the Merlin project team and all those involved at Commando Helicopter Force», he said.
«This is truly a leap forward in CHF’s capability to support 3 Commando Brigade at the speed and range required on the modern battlefield, whether operating embarked in Royal Navy warships or on land».