Alenia Aermacchi's M-346 Master

The Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) acquisition of Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 Master, under a potential $1bn deal, has been approved by the Israeli Minister’s Cabinet to serve as its new advanced combat trainer.

The Cabinet has confirmed that the M-346 will enter into service with the IAF as its new instructional aircraft in 2015 and will replace its fleet of ageing McDonnell Douglas TA-4 Skyhawks, which have served as the air force’s training aircraft for 40 years.

IAF selected Alenia to supply 30 trainers, rejecting South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic advanced trainer for the contract, in February 2012.

IAF Headquarters Planes head lieutenant colonel Avshalom said the new aircraft is designed to reduce potential gaps between training stages in the Pilot Training Course, and is equipped with advanced features, compared to the Skyhawk, which was manufactured as a combat aircraft.

"These airplanes give us solutions for the current everyday challenges. The involvement within the airplane is much easier; the advanced avionics take the pressure off our instructors and give them time to pay extra attention to their cadets," Avshalom added.

”The inner workings of the airplane are very similar to a very advanced airplane: rotating maps, radars, and a much more realistic feel in light of the reality that the cadets will face later on in their operational flights."

Developed from the Russian Yak-130 combat trainer, the M-346 Master is a military transonic trainer aircraft designed to offer combat pilot training for frontline fighters with high angle-of-attack capability.

Image: Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 Master being displayed at the 2010 Farnborough International Airshow. Photo: courtesy of MilborneOne.