Alenia Aermacchi S-211 Advanced Jet Trainer / Light Strike
The Alenia Aermacchi S-211 advanced trainer was initially conceived of through a private venture endeavor by SIAI-Marchetti of Italy.
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Sensing the growing need for light, jet-powered dual-role aircraft, the Italian concern of SIAI-Marchetti proposed a new aircraft through a self-funded, in-house venture designated as the "S.211". The primary target of this program would be its existing operators managing the propeller-driven SF.260 light trainers. Conventional by any regard, the S.211 would allow budget conscious air forces around the world to utilize a modern two-seat training platform that doubled as a light attack aircraft. Such developments were growing in popularity and typified by aircraft types of the period including the Spanish CASA C-101 and the joint French/German Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet.
Design work on the S.211 began in 1976 to which the project was unveiled publicly in 1977 at the Paris Air Show. Two prototypes were then ordered and the first one went airborne on April 10th, 1981. After a period of trials and evaluations, SIAI-Marchetti was able to net its first procurement order in 1983 through Singapore for ten aircraft. Formal introduction of the type occurred in 1984 with the Singapore Air Force. Production of the aircraft spanned from 1981 into 1994 to which the Philippine Air Force and, later, the Haitian Air Force, joined as operators. In January of 1997, Aermacchi acquired SIAI-Marchetti and production rights to the S.211 was inherited, the designation slightly altered to "S-211". Since the mid-1980s, there have been approximately fifty-eight total S-211 aircraft sold and most were locally assembles under license by the respective customer. Singapore procured 30 units to the Philippines 24. Haiti purchased just 4 examples.
The S.211/S-211 falls into a specially identified group of aircraft that are procured with the primary intention of training up-and-coming pilots on a jet-powered platform while offering strike capabilities as secondary. Such designs generally rely upon a basic airframe with modern equipment and access to basic ordnance options. The crew of two undoubtedly spreads the workload about and the jet-propulsion supplies the needed performance capabilities for the low-level strike role. Many manufactures have supplied trainer/light strike aircraft since the 1960s and this group continues to be an important part of modern world air forces - though the dual-role functionality perhaps proving more important to developing nations or those with restrictive procurement budgets.
Externally, the S-211/S.211 is a no-frills platform crewed by two personnel sitting in a tandem arrangement under a single-piece canopy (hinged to the right side). Both crew members sit in Martin-Baker ejection seats while the airframe exhibits very smooth and clean contours from the slim, pointed nose cap to the rear tapered empennage. The tail section features a single vertical tail fin and high-mounted tailplanes with the single engine exhaust port located at the base of the tail unit. The main wing assemblies are shoulder-mounted, allowing underwing ordnance the proper ground clearance. There is noticeable sweep along their leading edges only (less noticeable along the trailing edges). Power is served through a single turbofan installation being aspirated through two small intake openings to either side of the cockpit and exhausted through a single port at the rear. The undercarriage is fully-retractable and consists of a pair of single-wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled nose leg. Construction of the S-211 body is primarily of composites, this making up some 60% of the aircraft and providing for a lighter overall end-product.