Italy To Buy 14 Aermacchi M-346 Training Jets
The M-346 is one of Italian industry’s key programs. Having already financed the development of the jet, the Economic Development Ministry will finance the acquisition.
With the Italian Air Force ordering it as the launch customer for the M-346, the M-346 stands a better chance in gaining export orders. The M-346 will compete in the UAE advanced jet trainer competition against BAE Systems' Hawk and Korea Aerospace Industries' T-50, both of which already have domestic customers. A decision by the UAE is expected at the end of this year. The M-346 is expected to also compete in Greece as T-2 Buckeye replacement, Greece has been a partner in the programme since Janary 2005 and a request for proposal is expected shortly. Later this year it is also expected to compete in Singapore's jet trainer competition, probably to replace the RSAF A-4SU/TA-4SU Skyhawk advanced jet trainers based at Cazaux, France.
Aermacchi has built two prototypes of the twin-engined, transsonic M-346. The first prototype rolled out on June 7, 2003 and flew for the first time on July 15, 2004. Aermacchi is now working on the first of 12 low-rate initial production aircraft. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2008.