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The M-346FA is, Leonardo claim, 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 according to a statement released last night to press, the M-346FA will retain the capabilities of the M-346 family in the advanced and pre-operational training roles and will also be able to operate as a multi-role tactical aircraft, capable of air-to-surface, air-to-air and tactical reconnaissance missions.

The company said:

“The M-346 Fighter Attack will be equipped with a dedicated variant of the Grifo multi-mode fire control radar, designed and manufactured by Leonardo.

This new version of the M-346 will take its place next to the two existing variants of the aircraft: the Advanced Jet Trainer and the multi-role M-346FT (Fighter Trainer). Leonardo has already carried out the studies for the FA’s radar installation and its mechanical integration with the aircraft.”

Several Air Forces are already demonstrated their interest in the M-346FA say Leonardo.

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. With this plus the new Hawk and things like the Textron AirLand Scorpion there seem to be quite a few candidates for the next RAF fast jet trainer. I really hope that such a competitive environment means that we can get a good deal even if we end up going with BAE. If we can get keen pricing then perhaps we could get the budget to stretch to over-provisioning regarding numbers needed for training so that we could field some of whatever we buy as light combat aircraft. It often seems to me that Tornado and Typhoon are over-kill for a lot of the operations in uncontested airspace where they are operating.

    • I was thinking the same, but then starting thinking about the cost of the bombs that are being dropped and then the typhooons don’t seem so much overkill.

      If someone develops some cheap low powered bombs that have decent levels of accuracy (really don’t need tank buster bombs costing 100k plus to take out a pickup truck), then these types of planes suddenly look like a good way to top up RAF numbers.

      The problem is, if you were in charge of the RAF, would you risk buying low powered jets, in the fear of the politicans using the numbers as an excuse to cut the top end numbers.

      • Good points. It’s surprising how often that last one comes up. Claims that RN don’t want OPVs to be too good in case they get taken as frigates. Concern about introducing SSK in case that cuts SSN numbers the next time around. Etc, etc, etc. It just shown how much politics gets in the way of value-optimisation for defence. Actually, it’s not just defence, e.g. police resistance to PCSO because they’re seen as a way to justify cuts in regular PO numbers being one example that springs to mind.

        Munitions cost also a good point. A Guardian article (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/30/bombing-isis-futile-air-strikes-iraq) puts Paveway IV at £30,000 each in 2014 although as a US product and with that article presumably using pre-Brexit exchange rates that probably gives about a $50,000 raw cost now. It raises an interesting point though re cheap precision munitions suitable for soft targets such as a mortar/machine-gun crew or a pickup truck. My googling just now found an interesting TD article with discussion in the comments on just this (http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2015/07/stocking-up-on-paveway-iv/) e.g. Raytheon Small Tactical Munition (http://www.raytheon.com/capabilities/products/pyros/).

        P.S. I don’t know anything about any of this stuff, I just Googled some stuff after the points you just raised.

  2. I think the RAF would sadly never go for a light fighter/ attack jet. They will not want to risk reducing funds for F35B or Eurofighter programmes, although I agree with previous comment that the low sophistication, low value targets we are sending tornado and Eurofighters after currently, do not justify top-end jets. Pick-up trucks, heavy machine guns and mortars would be ideally suited to this type of jet.

  3. I think the RAF would sadly never go for a light fighter/ attack jet. They will not want to risk reducing funds for F35B or Eurofighter programmes, although I agree with previous comment that the low sophistication, low value targets we are sending tornado and Eurofighters after currently, do not justify top-end jets. Pick-up trucks, heavy machine guns and mortars would be ideally suited to this type of jet.
    I would think a small force would be a good balance and enable a graduated development onto the very high performance jet. Makes the newest version of the hawk not a done deal, I think the BAE jet should be made to go out to competitive tender so we get the best balance between cost effectiveness and capability. Could the RAF get a mixed force of 40-50 pure trainers and a further 40-50 of the light attack / air defence version?

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