The Leonardo M-345 currently exists as an in-development, advanced two-seat jet trainer of Italian origin. The aircraft is an evolved form of the earlier SIAI-Marchetti S.211 / S-211 and was developed from the subsequent M-311 series. A program first-flight was recorded in June of 2005 while the M-345 prototype went airborne for the first time on December 29th, 2016 (at the Venegono Superiore company facility). At least two prototypes have been built as of 2017. Beyond its given advanced jet trainer role, the design is being completed with a secondary light attack function.
The M-345 directly succeeds the Aermacchi MB-339 jet trainer of 1979, itself a development of the MB-326 of 1962.
NOTE: The SIAI-Marchetti brand label was absorbed into Aermacchi in 1997 to which then Aermacchi became Alenia Aermacchi in 2012. The product now exists under the Leonardo S.p.A. (formerly Leonardo-Finmeccanica / Finmeccanica) brand label.
The M-345 utilizes a conventional trainer aircraft design philosophy where the student and trainer are seated under a single-piece, lightly framed tandem-seat cockpit aft of a short nosecone. A single powerplant is used to help the airframe achieve its required high-performance specifications. The wing mainplanes are shoulder-mounted and feature boundary layer fences for added control. The empennage is dominated by a single vertical fin set over the engine exhaust port. Horizontal planes are featured at the base of the fin. The undercarriage is of a tricycle configuration and wholly retractable. Empty weight is 2,300 kilograms against an MTOW of 4,100 kilograms. Physical specifications include a length of 9.85 meters, a wingspan of 8.47 meters and a height of 12.6 meters.
Power is from a single Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5C series turbofan engine outputting 3,190 lb of thrust. Performance specifications include a maximum speed of 740 kmh with a range out to 1,780 kilometers and a service ceiling up to 12,190 meters. Rate-of-climb is 1,440 meters per minute.
Five hardpoints are available for carrying ordnance loads up to 2,205lb (for either training or combat sorties). Options typically include gun pods, cannon pods, rocket pods and conventional drop bombs.
The aircraft, in its original form, was the M-311 and this was the updated version of the original S.211. Two prototypes were built to prove the design sound. It was redesignated in 2012 to become the M-345. One other version of note is the M-345 HET, a High-Efficiency Trainer, powered by a Williams International FJ44-4M turbofan engine.
The M-345 is under consideration for the USAF's T-X advanced trainer competition as well as for the Italian Air Force's new trainer requirement. The French Air Force is considering the Italian design to replace its aging fleet of Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jets.
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September 2018 - Leonardo has signed a deal with Paramount of South Africa to jointly develop a light attack version of the M-345 advanced jet trainer.
December 2018 - The company completed the first-flight of a first production-standard M-345. The series is on track to enter service with the Italian Air Force sometime in 2020. An initial batch of five aircraft will be had for an expected fleet total of 45 units before the end. These will succeed the aging stock of Aermacchi MB-339 trainers.
May 2020 - The M-345 has achieved initial certification.
January 2021 - Italy has taken delivery of the first examples of the M-345 AJTs from Leonardo. The initial delivery encompassed two examples.
For Light Strike Role / Weapons Training there are five hardpoints supporting up to 2,205 lb of external stores in the form of drop bombs, rocket pods, and gun pods.
M-311 - Original Designation; based on the S-211 platform covered by two prototypes.
M-345 - Base series designation; redesignation of M-311 beginning 2012.
M-345 HET (High-Efficiency Trainer) - Proposed model with Williams International FJ44-4M turbofan engine.
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