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.
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Aermacchi - Italy Manufacturer(s)
Australia; Argentina; Eritrea; Ghana; Italy; Malaysia; Nigeria; Peru; United Arab Emirates Operators
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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Low forward left side view of an Aermacchi MB.339 taking off
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Forward left front side view of an Aermacchi MB.339 at rest
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Rear left side view of an Aermacchi MB.339 readying for take-off
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Forward left side vire of an Aermacchi MB.339 at rest
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Top view of a flight of Aermacchi MB.339s
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Forward left side views of a flight of Aermacchi MB.339s coming in for a landing
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