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Aermacchi MB.339 - Italy, 1978

Detailing the development and operational history of the Aermacchi MB.339 Advanced Trainer / Light Attack Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 8/8/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Aermacchi MB.339  
Picture of Aermacchi MB.339
Picture of Aermacchi MB.339 Picture of Aermacchi MB.339Picture of Aermacchi MB.339Picture of Aermacchi MB.339Picture of Aermacchi MB.339

The Aermacchi MB.339 series replaced the Aermacchi MB.326 and Fiat G.91T trainers and light strike aircraft.

The Aermacchi MB.339 was the successor to the Aermacchi MB.326 in the advanced trainer and light strike role. This twin-seat trainer proved equally adept at its given roles and also went on to replace the aged Fiat G.91T trainer and close-support aircraft in service with the Italian Air Force. As with the MB.326, the newer MB.339 saw moderate export success around the globe with Australia, Argentina, Eritrea, Ghana, Italy, Malaysia, Nigeria, Peru and the UAE. After recording its first flight as a prototype (two completed as "MB.339X") on August 12th, 1976, the MB.339 was formally introduced in 1979 with production ongoing as of this writing (2012). At least 213 have been produced to date.

Compared to the MB.326 before it, the MB.339 featured an all-new redesigned nose assembly. The twin-seat arrangement was also modified to extend the view of the rear-seat instructor's/co-pilot's position while the single Piaggio (Rolls-Royce) Viper Mk 621 turbojet powerplant increased performance. Wingtip tanks were enlarged but were more or less retained from the earlier MB.326 models as were the 6 x external underwing hardpoints and 2 x DEFA 30mm internal cannons.

Overall design was highly conventional for an aircraft of this class. This included a short nose cone, low-set straight wing assemblies and a traditional single-fin rudder and applicable tailplanes. The undercarriage was of the three-wheeled tricycle arrangement, fully retractable. An in-flight refueling probe was offset to the right side of the cockpit to help extend the MB.339's operational range to an extent.

The MB.339A model series was the most numerous production model (107 examples across three production batches) while the "C" model added further improvements including an uprated engine, onboard laser rangefinder (in the nose) and provision for guided/homing missile firing. The "CD" model benefitted more with HOTAS (Hands on Throttle and Stick), HUDs (Head-Up Display) and three LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screens. The MB.339K and MB.339 T-Bird II were proposed variants - the former intended as a single-seat attack plane and the latter as a Lockheed proposal to the US JPATS competition.

The MB.339 has since proven an effective trainer and light strike aircraft. Eritrea has utilized its MB.339s in anger against neighboring Ethiopia in a February 1999 attack on an Ethiopian Army fuel depot at Adigrat.

Argentina, Malaysia, New Zealand and the UAE no longer operate their MB.339s.

Aermacchi MB.339K Specifications

Service Year: 1978
Type: Advanced Trainer / Light Attack Aircraft
National Origin: Italy
Manufacturer(s): Aermacchi - Italy
Total Production: 213

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 2
Overall Length: 36.88 feet (11.24 meters)
Overall Width: 36.81 feet (11.22 meters)
Overall Height: 13.09 feet (3.99 meters)

Weight (Empty): 6,889 lb (3,125 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 13,999 lb (6,350 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 1 x Piaggio RR Viper 680-43 turbojet engine developing 4,450lb of thrust.

Maximum Speed: 440 knots (506 mph; 815 kph)
Maximum Range: 200 nautical miles (231 miles; 371 km)
Service Ceiling: 46,719 feet (14,240 meters; 8.85 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 6,595 feet-per-minute (2,010 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

2 x 30mm internal cannons

External hardpoints for mission-specific ordnance may include the following:

Conventional Drop Bombs
Unguided Rocket Pods
Cannon Pods
Matre anti-ship missiles
Magic air-to-air missiles
Sidewinder air-to-air missiles
Maverick air-to-ground missiles
Vinten Reconnaissance Pod

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Australia; Argentina; Eritrea; Ghana; Italy; Malaysia; Nigeria; Peru; United Arab Emirates

Model Variants

MB.339A - Base Two-Seat Model
MB.339C - Improved MB.339 Light Attack Lead-In Functionality; advanced navigation and targeting capabilities; uprated powerplant; laser range finder in elongated nose cone; increased wing tip fuel tanks.
MB.339CD - Powered by the Viper 632; digital cockpit with three LCD displays; HUD and HOTAS controls.
MB.339CE - Eritrean Export Model based on the MB.339CD.
MB.339FD - Export Production Model fitted with Viper 680 powerplant with MB.339CD improvements.
MB.339K "Veltro 2" - Prototype Single-Seat Variant.

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