A product of the Cold War period (1949-1991), the MB-326 was developed by the Italian concern of Aermacchi to fulfill an Italian Air Force requirement covering an Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) with a limited light strike capability. The aircraft was flown, for the first time, in December of 1957 and formally introduced into service in February of 1962. Largely out-of-service today (2020), the aircraft was nonetheless a Cold War market success with production reaching approximately 800 units before the end. The type flew with the high profile air services of Australia, Brazil, Italy, and South Africa as well as many lesser organizations.
It was during the post-World War 2 (1939-1945) period that the turbojet age had arrived and this naturally pushed all of the primary defense powerhouses of the world - including a rebuilding Italy - to invest mightily in research and development of all-new flying forms to overtake the piston-driven types of the wartime era. Since turbojets operated at considerably faster speeds and required a different mindset at the controls than the aircraft of the Second World War, it was prudent to provide future airmen with an airborne classroom-of-sorts in which to train with. Thus, the standardized form of the Advanced Jet Trainer took shape - this to include a tandem seat cockpit arrangement, straight mainplane appendages, and conventional tail unit and retractable undercarriage.
Macchi began work on the MB-326 as a private venture effort in which the new aircraft was to be powered by the popular and proven British Armstrong Siddeley (later under the Rolls-Royce brand label) "Viper" turbojet engine ("Viper 8"). The project was made official in 1953 and inevitably garnered the attention of Italian Air Force authorities who followed with a formal specification covering the type. Macchi beat out a competing design in FIAT (the G.80) as the Italian government authorized three prototypes - two flyable and one single static test bed. The former became "MM.571" and "MM.572", respectively, during development.
With a first-flight recorded on December 10th, 1957, the requisite test period proved the design sound (and record-breaking for the time). Throughout its developmental cycle, the MB-326 was modified and refined as needed, resulting in a substantially different aircraft than the one originally envisioned. However, with these changes the aircraft steadily grew heavier resulting in a switch to the higher-rated "Viper 9" series turbojet. The second prototype followed to completion in September of 1958 and this form carried the more modern "Viper 11" turbojet engine. Before the end of 1958, the Italian government fully committed to the type and ordered it into serial production.
The initial batch of aircraft constituted 15 pre-series models to be followed by 50 production-quality forms. In 1960, a further 100 aircraft were added to the stable. Deliveries began in 1962.
The primary customer was the Italian Air Force who began operations with the type through the base MB-326 entry numbering the two prototypes and 125 follow-on "production training" models. The MB-326A was a proposed, lightly-armed version that was not evolved. The MB-326B were eight export-minded airframes delivered to customer Tunisia. Then followed the MB-326D of which four were completed and sent to Alitalia. The Italian Air Force then introduced the MB-326E, six twin-seat trainers capable of light armament. Ghana took delivery of nine MB-326F models - these also including an armed capability.
The MB-326G retained its two-seat configuration as well as armament capability and included the MB-326GB and MB-326GC sub-variants. The former were eight combat-capable platforms delivered to the Argentine Navy and seventeen were sent to Zaire while Zambia took on a stock of twenty-three. The latter was another combat-capable mount, produced in Brazil by Embraer for the Brazilian Air Force. Some of this stock ended up in the hands of Argentina, Paraguay, and Togo. The Brazilian Air Force also operated the AT-26 "Xavante" (MB-326GC) and RT-26 "Xavante" (MB-326GC) marks.
The MB-326H were 87 twin-seat trainers shipped to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and a further 10 for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) handled local Australian production of 85 of the lot and these flew under the local designation of "CA-30".
The MB-326K incorporated attack capabilities and served with the South African Air Force. These were built locally, under license, by Atlas Aircraft Corporation (AAC). Sub-variants became the Impala Mk.II, the MB-326KB, the MB-326KD, the MB-326KG, and the MB-326KT - all armament capable and delivered for foreign players in Dubai, Ghana, Tunisia, and Zaire.
The MB-326L mark included customers Dubai and Tunisia with six total being built. The MB-326M was used by the South African Air Force and produced locally by Atlas. This included the Impala Mk.I variant.
The MB-326RM were five Italian Air Force models converted for the dedicated Electronic CounterMeasures (ECM) role.
For its part in military aviation history, the MB-326 series took part in actions concerning the Falklands War (under the Argentine flag against Great Britain) and in the South African Border War (South Africa) against Angola. In combat, the aircraft produced good results, its straight wings and turbojet engine allowing the platform to approach "low-and-slow" and loiter over contested areas. When armed, the MB-326 could carry conventional drop bombs, early-form air-to-surface missiles (the Nord AS.12), rockets/rocket pods, and gun pods. Standard armament was 2 x 7.7mm machine guns in the forward fuselage coupled with the SFOM fixed or Ferranti LFS 5/102A gyro gunsight.
The MB-326 also formed the standard aircraft of the SAAF "Silver Falcons" aerobatic team.
The aircraft receives its designation from the melding of "Macchi" forming the "M" and its lead designer, "Ermano Bazzochi", his surname forming the "B".
Italy; Argentina; Australia; Dubai; Ghana; South Africa; Tunisia; Zaire; Zambia
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
Developed ability to be used as a dedicated trainer for student pilots (typically under the supervision of an instructor).
✓- Training (Advanced)
Dedicated advanced training platform for student pilots having graduated from basic flight training.
35.0 ft (10.67 m)
35.6 ft (10.85 m)
12.2 ft (3.72 m)
6,535 lb (2,964 kg)
12,996 lb (5,895 kg)
+6,462 lb (+2,931 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Aermacchi MB.326K production variant)
1 x Rolls-Royce "Viper" 632-42 turbojet engine developing 4,000lb of thrust.
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 6
MB.326 - Base Series Production Model Designation
MB.326A - Armed Variant never ordered; six underwing hardpoints.
MB.326B - Tunisian Export Model Designation
MB.326D - Unarmed Variant purchased by Alitalia.
MB.326E - Viper 11-powered variant for Italian purchase.
MB.326F - Ghana Export Variant
MB.326G - Fitted with more powerful Viper 20 Mk.540 powerplant; internal strengthening; increased weapons load.
MB.326H - Australian Export Variant produced in-country by CAC; retired from service in 2001.
MB.326K - Single-Seat Light Attack Aircraft; based on the MB.326K model with strengthened airframe and improved power from the Viper 20 powerplant; increased avionics equipment and fuel over the two-seat trainer variant; implementation of 2 x 30mm DEFA cannons.
MB.326KD - Dubai Export Model Designation
MB.326KB - Zaire Export Model Designation
MB.326KG - Ghana Export Model Designation
MB.326KM - South African Export Model Designation
MB.326KT - Tunisian Export Model Designation
Impala Mk 1 - Atlas-produced South African model.
Impala Mk 2 - Atlas-produced South African model.
MB.339 - Upgraded Successor of the MB.326 system series.
EMB-326 "Xavante" - Embraer license-built MB.326GC model.
MB.326L - Final two-seat variant production model.
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (553mph).
Graph average of 563 miles-per-hour.
Aermacchi MB.326K operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
The three qualities reflected above are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (800)
Compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian).
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
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Side porfile view of an Aermacchi MB.326; illustration
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Low left side view of an approaching Aermacchi MB.326
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