Capability of the M-346FA, Light Combat Aircraft Which Offered to Malaysia Until Dubbed Mini MRCA

Capability of the M-346FA, Light Combat Aircraft Which Offered to Malaysia Until Dubbed Mini MRCA
The Leonardo M-346FA (Fighter Attack) Light Combat Fighter

International Military - The Leonardo company manufactures fighter aircraft used by several countries. One of the countries that use fighter aircraft produced by the Italian company is Malaysia.

For the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), Leonardo's company is no stranger. This is because Malaysia has used several of its products, such as the AW139 helicopter and the Aermacchi MB-339CM training aircraft.

Quoted from Defense Security Asia, Leonardo is one of the companies participating in the competition to supply 18 units of Fighter Lead-In Trainer (FLIT)/Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to RMAF. The company has offered the latest variant of the M-346 aircraft, namely the M-346FA (Fighter Attack).

Currently, the M-346 aircraft has three variants, namely M-346 AJT (Advanced Jet Trainer), M-346 FT (Fighter Trainer) and M346 FA (Fighter Attack). Among regional countries, the M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer is no stranger. The reason is, the Republic of Singapore Air Force has been a customer since 2012 with 12 aircraft as well as several air forces from other countries including Italy and Israel.

Being familiar with the RMAF and the Malaysian market, Leonardo's company is one of the main competitors in the competition to supply FLIT/LCA aircraft to Malaysia. Despite the early discontinuation of service the Aermacchi MB-339 advanced training aircraft somewhat tarnished its reputation.

The RMAF used nine Aermacchi MB-339CM advanced training aircraft from 2009 before its service was suspended in 2019. This followed an incident in which one of its aircraft crashed in Kuantan in 2019 and several other technical problems.

Recently, the Ministry of Defense confirmed that it had discontinued the service of the advanced trainer aircraft, even though it had only been in use for 10 years. The act of discontinuing the service of Aermacchi aircraft to some extent tarnished the image of the products manufactured by the Leonardo company. According to foreign media, Leonardo is offering the M-346FA (Fighter Attack) variant for the RMAF tender.

The M-346FA (Fighter Attack) aircraft was introduced sometime in mid-2019 for customers who wanted an M-346 aircraft that was more capable of performing various missions such as the mini MRCA. The variant offered to Malaysia is different from the M-346 AJT variant which is used by the Republic of Singapore Air Force specifically to provide advanced training to Indonesian fighter pilots. The M-346FA variant is categorized as a 'mini MRCA' (multi-role fighter).

The FA (Fighter Attack) variant can be deployed to perform a variety of battlefield tasks such as ground support, including for air-to-ground, tactical, close air support (CAS) and counter-insurgency (COIN) missions. The two-engine aircraft can also be equipped with precision guided munitions (PGM).

In addition, the M-346FA variant was developed to provide pilot training, air combat, airspace enforcement and control as well as tactical monitoring. The aircraft is also equipped with a four-channel 'fly-by-wire flight control' system which enhances flight safety and reliability of the mission being carried out.

As for the aircraft engine, it is powered by two Honeywell F124-GA-200 turbofan engines each providing 2,850kg of thrust. Using internal fuel tanks, the aircraft can operate for two hours and 40 minutes, but the operating time can be extended to four hours when using three external fuel tanks containing 630 liters of oil each.

If you want to fly longer and fly further, the M-346FA aircraft is capable of air-to-air refueling, one of the specifications outlined by the RMAF. This Leonardo M-346FA aircraft uses the Grifo radar which is widely used by other aircraft on the market.

It is also equipped with seven pylon stations to allow it to carry various types of weapons including Iris-T, AIM-9L air-to-air missiles, small diameter bombs, JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) of various sizes, Paveway and regular bombs.

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