Leonardo's new jet trainer the M-345 certified

By Willie Bodenstein

Leonardo's new M-345, an aircraft capable of providing jet trainer aircraft-like performance and efficiency at the cost of a turboprop, is close to entering into service with the Italian Air Force and future aircraft of the Italian Air force acrobatic team Frecce Tricolori.

The M-345 (formerly Aermacchi based on the earlier SIAI-Marchetti S.211) is a compact twin-seat shoulder-wing monoplane trainer that has been designed with a secondary close air support capability, being furnished with five underwing hard points.

On 29 December, 2016 the M-345 first took to the sky and during January 2017, the first order for the type was placed by the Italian Air Force. The first production-standard M-345 was flown from Venegono Superiore in December 2018.

The M-345's glass cockpit features various avionics and electronics. Displays include three identical 5 x 7in (125 x 180mm) colour multifunction liquid-crystal displays, a forward-mounted wide-angle head-up display (HUD), while the rear position is provided with a full-sized HUD repeater via a fourth dedicated multifunction display. The integrated avionics suite includes dual mission computers, embedded Global Positioning System/inertial navigation system, integrated data recorders and, optionally, a digital moving map, stores management system as well as an embedded simulation capability; the latter being able to display virtual radar targets and radar warning receiver (RWR) threats.

Both the pilot and instructor, which are seated in a tandem configuration, are provided with hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls. Both crew are seated upon Martin-Baker-built 10LKs 'zero-zero' ejection seats. The displays and all light sources have been selected for compatibility with night-vision goggles (NVG). The environmental control system cools the cockpit for ground operations in temperatures up to ISA +35ļC (95ļF); the presence of an on-board oxygen-generating system (OBOGS) removes the need for oxygen bottles.

In May 2020 the DAAA (Directorate for Air Armaments and Airworthiness), the certification Authority of the Italian Ministry of Defence, gave the initial certification for Leonardo's new M-345 trainer. The initial certification of the M-345 is the result of intense in-flight and on-ground test activities which total almost 200 flights, carried out also thanks to the collaboration with the Italian Air Force, aimed at assessing aircraft and equipment compliance with stringent performance and safety standards.

The Initial Certification of the M-345 marks the first case of enforcement of the new AER (EP) P-21 rule for a fixed-wing aircraft. This rule adopts the European EMAR-21 - (European Military Airworthiness Requirements) - a stringent international certification requirement that will also be beneficial to the export of the aircraft.

The M-345 was designed to meet basic and basic/advanced training needs, will complement the M-346s used for the advanced phase of pilot training. and, in the framework of the "International Flight Training School" project, will support the reinforcement and internationalisation of the training offer launched by Leonardo in partnership with the Italian Air Force. The M-345, thanks to its performance and advanced integrated training system, will provide the Italian Air Force with a significant improvement in training effectiveness, greater efficiency and a strong operating cost reduction.

This important achievement for the M-345 programme is the result of intense activities with two hundred dedicated flights logged alongside the critical support of the Italian Air Force's Flight Test Centre, 61st Wing and 10th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

Service entry with the Italian Air Force is anticipated to occur later during 2020 or early in 2021.

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