M-346 Master

The Italian Air Force’s (ITAF) 61st Air Wing has deployed Alenia Aermacchi-built A M-346 trainer aircraft to the Grosseto Air Base in order to test its capability as an ‘aggressor’.

The aircraft conducts different combat training missions with the Eurofighter of the 20th Squadron operational conversion unit (OCU) of the 4th Air Wing.

During the test, the M-346 operated at 100% in beyond visual range (BVR) missions with the support of its own data-link, while the Eurofighter carried out air-to-air ‘radar-to-radar’ missions simulating with its FPR-14 autonomous air-combat manoeuvring instrumentation (AACMI) pod.

The trial assessed M-346’s capability to train future Eurofighter pilots in dissimilar air combat training (DACT) scenarios.

Italian Air Force students will undergo training Phase IV for the new M-346 from next August.

"The M-346 Master is…capable of providing combat pilot training for frontline fighters with high angle-of-attack capability."

The M-346 Master is an advanced and lead-in 5th-generation fighter trainer capable of providing combat pilot training for frontline fighters with high angle-of-attack capability.

The first T-346A aircraft was accepted by ITAF in November 2011. The force designated the M-346 as T-346A, which made its maiden flight in March 2011.

Powered by two Honeywell F124 engines, the jet features a fly-by-wire control system that enables it to remain fully controllable at angles of attack of more than 35°, as well as an integrated digital avionics suite with the ability to simulate sensors and threats in flight.

Eurofighter Typhoon, built by a consortium of Finmeccanica, Airbus Group and BAE Systems, is a delta-wing, BVR, close air fighter aircraft with surface attack capability.

Image: Italian Air Force’s Alenia Aermacchi-built A M-346 trainer aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Alenia Aermacchi.