Interesting Things at Paris Air Show 2017

M-345. Leonardo

SHAH ALAM: As you aware the Paris Air Show is currently being held at Le Bourget, Paris. The biggest dedicated aviation and space industry event is being held from June 19 to June 29. Posted below are two aircraft displayed at the show which I found interesting and were related to our recent conversations though not necessarily relevant to our needs.

The two aircraft are Italian aerospace conglomerate, Leonardo namely the M-345 single engine jet trainer and the M-346FA multi-role twin jet trainer. Both made their debuts at Le Bourget this year.

M-345 at Le Bourget

Basically, the M-345 is the cheaper option compared to the twin-engine M-346 trainer. Though Leonardo did not diclose the price of the M-345, I am assuming that it will be around $15 million at least as the M-346 reportedly cost between $20 million to $30 million.

The aircraft displayed at Le Bourget is likely the sole prototype that first flew on Dec. 29, 2016 while the first flight of the first pre-series aircraft is envisaged by 2018. The Italian Air Force has already ordered a first batch of five aircraft and the first delivery is expected by 2019.

M-345. Leonardo

According to Leonardo:

The M-345 has a cockpit fully representative of the fighters, excellent external visibility. Thanks to its wide flight envelope with high maneuver capability at high speed and both low and high altitude, its modern avionic systems, the high load capacity and to its performance level, the M-345 can carry out also operational roles.
The aircraft’s long fatigue life, the maintenance philosophy organized only on two levels that eliminates the expensive general overhaul and the Health Usage and Monitoring System (HUMS) are the key elements that help to reduce the operating and life cycle costs of the M-345.
The engine is a turbofan Williams FJ44-4M-34 for military and aerobatic use. The cockpit is equipped with HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) commands, digital displays with three-colour touch screen MFD (Multi-function Display) and a Head-Up Display, that in the rear seat is replaced by a display repeater of images of the front HUD.

As for M-346FA:

M-346FA with some ordnance meant for the aircraft.

The M-346 Fighter Attack will be equipped with a dedicated variant of the Grifo multi-mode fire control radar, designed and manufactured by Leonardo.
This new version of the M-346 will take its place next to the two existing variants of the aircraft: the Advanced Jet Trainer and the multi-role M-346FT (Fighter Trainer). Leonardo has already carried out the studies for the FA’s radar installation and its mechanical integration with the aircraft.

M-346FA with the weapons intended to arm it.

The M-346FA’s characteristics make it not only an excellent advanced trainer, but also a light fighter aircraft capable of carrying out operational missions at far lower costs than those of front-line fighters. Several air forces have already expressed their interest in it.
The Grifo radar intended for the M-346FA.

With seven pylons for external loads, the M-346FA will retain the excellent capabilities of the M-346 family in the advanced and pre-operational training roles, but will also be able to operate very effectively as multi-role tactical aircraft, capable of air-to-surface, air-to-air and tactical reconnaissance missions

The third line of the release indicates that Leonardo has not integrated the radar on an actual aircraft, they are likely going to wait for a contract first before cutting steel.

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2141 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. M-346FA’ should include mini AESA radar… as option, 80-100km detection range will be enough.

  2. RMAF Should Go to M-346FT or F/A-50 To replace MB-339. BTW Marhalim, I heared on wikipedia that the Goverment insterested with Fighting Eagle. Are you sure about this ?.

  3. M345 HET could replace both MB339 and Hawk 100 while M346 FT could replace Hawk 200. Lower the cost maintenance as both are the same manufacturer Leonardo.

  4. Isn’t the M-345 an upgraded version of the Siai-marchetti S211 that were used by the Rep.Singapore Air Force, the Philippines Air Force and the Haitian Air Force years ago?

  5. If by some miracle, we chose gripen e/f or super hornet for our mrca, we should choose kai t-50 trainer version. I think the engine are almost the same. The GE F404 and GE 414. For ease of logistic, training n maintenance i guess. Even the legacy hornet has the same one.

    just my sekupang.

  6. Marhalim,
    I just wonder if in the future there will be a dedicated single seat single canopy version of this M-346 FA plus with an inbuilt gun.

    Not everybody has a requirement or can pay for an Eagle or Typhooon or Rafale.

    There will be one if someone pay for it

  7. No doubt the RMAF will have considered what LIFT options are on the market but the fact remains that at the moment; LIFTs are not a priority given the limited funds available and the need to address other areas first. It may not be the best arrangement but the 8 MBB-339s are sufficient for our present needs at present, despite the type not being a dedicated/advanced LIFT. Focus at present is on the MRCAs and MPAs – although funding has yet to be released, approval for procurement has been obtained for both.

    The cash and politics aside; whether the Hawk AJT, T-50 or M346 is the best option performance wise is very subjective. There will be some areas where the AJT performs better than the F-50 and vice versa – each will have its respective merits, whether in areas of commonality, training, cost or performance. Some countries will insist on a M346 and others will insist that another type best meets its LIFT needs.

    On another matter it’s interesting to note that the Syrian Su-22 that was shot down first had a Sidewinder fired at it but was decoyed. It then had a AMRAAM fired at it. Closer to home, photos at Marawi have showPA Simbas and V-1/150s fitted with wooden boards as added protection; can’t blame the crews as both types have thin armour. Not the best of options but better than nothing –
    reminds me of photos showing logs on German Mk4s and Stugs as well as mattresses on U.S. Shermans. Whether the insurgents/terrorists in Marawi have shoulder fired weapons is unknown. To date the only shoulder fired weapon seen in the hands of non state actors, apart from captured M67 RCLs [hardly seen] have been RPG-2s. Delivered courtesy of Gaddafi most of these are not operable anymore. Non state actors have also been reported to have RG-7s but these are yet to be seen.

  8. Right now there is 2 logical paths for tudm for now

    -Get new mrca (typhoon/rafale). Stuck with them up till at least 2040 probably.
    -Delay lift/hawk replacement. Get additional used hawks from saudi/oman. Replacement around 2030 (still probaby m-346 or ta/fa-50)

    -delay new mrca. Get used hornets from kuwait. New mrca (stealthy) 2030
    -get new lift/light fighter to replace hawk and mb339 (m-346 or ta/fa-50) Service up till 2040

    Which option is the best for the future of tudm? The end result in 2030 is either
    1) typhoon/rafale and m-346/fa-50
    2) 5th gen stealth fighter and m-346/fa-50
    Plus the MKM.

    The choice is now in the hands of tudm leaders.

  9. ……. – ”The choice is now in the hands of tudm leaders.”

    The choice is and never was in the hands of the RMAF but in the politicians and the bureaucrats. The RMAF and its sister services make the recommendations but it’s others which decide.

    Logical or not ; the direction the RMAF is taking for the next few years is clear in order of priority : MRCAs and MPAs as well as the various upgrades already contracted or agreed upon. Agree or not the RMAF has a reason to do what it does and the government at present is very unlikely to agree to anything else; that’s the reality. I would have like to have seen the Hawks get a AESA and various other improvements but I guess the RMAF would rather see the cash used elsewhere.

    It will be interesting to see how things pan out with the ex-Jap
    P-3s. Apart from the risk of having an air frame [30/35 years old?] which is maintenance intensive; another issue is that the Japs might deliver the P-3s stripped of various gear. Even if the P-3s are delivered with the various sensors or systems intact; the problem is that some might need replacing in the near future due to age obsolescent issues. We don’t want to be in a position where P-3s are delivered for free but we have to allocate substantial funds for a new radar, ESM, avionics, etc. Personally I’d rather see the MMEA get the P-3s. This would make it easier for the Japs as the MMEA is a non military organisation and has benefited from Jap largesse before. The question is how long will it take the MMEA to raise the needed infrastructure.

  10. Off topic but on the official RMN Facebook, there are pictures dated 27 April of Weststar mounted Starstreak being displayed at Lumut. There are no army or air force personnel in sight. Are these RMN assets?

    Yes, check out the earlier posting on the Starstreak firing, it is posted there that the Starstreak are used by all three services. GAPU is the lead agency for putting them into service but both RMAF and RMN air defence units are equipped with these missiles.

  11. Thanks Marhalim. Do you know the names of the RMN and RMAF air defence units?

    RMAF ones are designated Skn 400 series, I am not sure of the RMN ones

  12. AM,

    The RMN unit that operated Starburst had to be ”reassigned” to other duties after Starburst was retired :]

  13. Azlan,

    That’s interesting. Do you know when Starburst was retired? The last time I saw it exhibited by RMAF was April 2013. And of course a decommissioned triple launcher was exhibited at the RMAF museum way before that.

    Another interesting thing is the RMAF Starburst launcher was exhibited with an IFF device. I haven’t seen this with the Starstreak yet. It is optionally fitted and it is not necessary for live firings with the Banshee target drones we have. Not seeing it doesn’t mean we don’t have it. But it also possible that we have regressed and not replaced the capability when we retired Starburst.

    The Starburst were officially retired when it was transferred to Thales for part payment for the Starstreak.

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