Alenia Aermacchi made the first flight of an SF-260TP primary and basic trainer with a glass cockpit from its factory at Venegono, Italy. The aircraft also carried an upgraded air conditioning system and an infrared TV camera on the wing leading edge that provides the pilots with an enhanced vision system at night or in poor weather.
Alenia Aermacchi flew the first production M-346 on March 31. It is the first of 15 aircraft ordered by the Italian Air Force, which has designated the new jet trainer T-346A. The Italian manufacturer said that a highly automated production line capable of delivering up to 48 aircraft per year was now established at Venegono.
Alenia Aermacchi is reorganizing the layout of its Venegono plant in Italy in preparation for the start of serial production of its M-346 lead-in fighter trainer. Its contract with the Italian government for six aircraft and simulation equipment (nine more aircraft are to follow) is technically ready and awaits signatures by all the ministries involved.
At the Finmeccanica exhibit here at Farnborough (Outside OE2) visitors once again can find Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 lead-in fighter trainer. At a first glance the aircraft looks the same as that exhibited at previous airshows, but close up it is possible to note some of the differences featured in this first preproduction aircraft, which was rolled out from the Italian group’s assembly line in April.
Alenia Aermacchi expects to soon ink an order for 18 SF-260 primary trainers from the Philippines National Defence Department as part of a package aimed at modernizing the Asian nation’s armed forces. The Philippines armed forces have been using SF-260 trainers since the early 1970s, when they took the first of an order for 46 piston-powered aircraft, replaced in 1991 by 18 SF-260TP turboprops.
While the first two prototypes of the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 lead-in fighter trainer are engaged in a development program, a third is taking shape at the Italian manufacturer’s Venegono facility. It incorporates some differences from the two existing aircraft, having benefited from test and evaluation programs Alenia Aermacchi conducted with air force pilots from various countries.