By Douglas Hernández
Leonardo’s aviation division showcase the Aermacchi M-346 at Expodefensa 2021, as a useful and economically viable option for the Air Forces of Latin America, which would have in a single aircraft an advanced jet trainer, and at the same time a light bomber fighter. In an interview with Mr. Carlo Bassani, we were able to learn about some of the benefits of this aircraft. One of the key issues is that the entire design and most of its essential components are manufactured in-house, so the aircraft would not be subject to vetoes or conditioning by part of third countries. Likewise, the sale of the avionics and armament elements that the client wishes to equip their fleet according to their needs is guaranteed and, not least, the aircraft itself is only one part of a sophisticated training system that includes simulators that can be integrated to operate with real airplanes in flight, through the use of virtual reality. This twin-engine aircraft, thanks to its power and general characteristics, would ideal to replace the aging A-37s of the Colombian Air Force, perfectly assuming its role as interceptors of illegal flights of drug trafficking or other transnational crimes, which transit over the Caribbean Sea or on any part of the Colombian territory. Mr. Bassani pointed out that there is a set of weapons with which the M-346 can operate from now on, but that at customer’s request other systems can be integrated into the aircraft. In the Colombian case, if this model were to be acquired, all the air weapons of Israeli origin that are already in service with the Air Force could be used without problem on board the M-346. As if all the above were not enough, the Italian Air Force and Leonardo gave birth to the International Flight Training School where German, Qatari and soon Japanese pilots will transit to fighter jets. The aircraft they use in this process, that later enables them to fly the F-35s and other high performance fighters, is precisely the M-346, which shows well the quality of this aircraft.
The M-346 also features number characteristics of safety elements. To begin with, the aircraft is fitted with a comprehensive defensive suite consisting of chaff, flares, radar and laser warning systems, which allow the pilot to face the threats of the modern airspace. The vertical fins on its wings facilitate regaining control and manoeuvrability in the event of an unexpected spin, and, finally, the model has a “panic button” that in a high stress situation or some emergency that temporarily incapacitates the pilot causes the plane to stabilize and fly in automatic mode, until the pilot regains control. Due to all these outstanding characteristics, the M-346 is a good option for the Colombian Air Force and for all the Air Forces of Latin America, who wish to improve the training of their pilots and at the same time strengthen the defence of their airspace, Leonardo stresses.
Photo courtesy D. Hernández