Tight schedule for Leonardo’s M-345


LEONARDO’S FLIGHT test programme for its M-345 HET (High-Efficiency Trainer), the latest jet trainer in the Aermacchi family, is progressing well. M-345, CPX.624, a pre-series aircraft destined to complete the test programme took to the air for the first time on December 21, 2018.

The first phase of the programme, which comprised around 40 flights in less than two months to check handling and systems reliability, has been completed.

The flight envelope explored included speed up to 250kts CAS (Mach 0.65), ceiling up to 35,000ft, and load factors up to + 5/- 2g. After these tests, the aircraft was grounded for a layup aimed at upgrading flight test instrumentation to support Phase 2 of testing, equipment upgrade and other minor modifications before the aircraft received its definitive paint scheme. Everything was completed just a few days before the jet’s participation in the Paris Air Show on June 17-23.

According to the company, the test data confirms the M-345 off ers better performance than its direct competitors. Phase 2 of the test programme, scheduled to be carried out between July and November 2019, will result in the issue of the Type Certificate before the end of the year.

The Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) has signed two contracts for the T-345A. In January 2017, the first included five aircraft. A second announced on June 12, 2019, valued at €300 million, covered 13 aircraft, initial provisioning (such as ground support equipment, and spare parts), the ground based training system, and integrated logistic support. Maiden flight of the first AM aircraft (c/n LN1) was scheduled for July 2019, while the other four will follow closely. Reports from an AM test pilot who carried out three flights in February investigating performance, flying and handling qualities, avionics, and human-machine interface were generally favourable.

Reportedly, the aircraft proved to be easy to steer on the ground with eff ective brake performance, and has a robust engine not subject to stall or anomalous behaviour, even after rough handling. Particularly good was the fuel consumption at medium and high altitude. Flight control input requirements were judged similar to other aircraft in the same class. The cockpit, with its wide head-up display and three large multi-function displays provide the pilot all necessary information and flight awareness.

The operational test and evaluation programme to be carried out by the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Flight Test Wing) is scheduled to start in early 2020, and delivery of the first aircraft by summer the same year.

In total, the Aeronautica Militare has a requirement for 45 aircraft, including those to be assigned to the Frecce Tricolori aerobatic team.

Test data seems to confirm the M-345 can outperform turboprop powered competitors for a similar expenditure. This was always Leonardo’s objective.

For the purposes of export sales, it remains essential that development and service introduction milestones are strictly met. Several countries have reportedly shown a real interest in the M-345, and Leonardo has revealed it is working in Canada for the Future Aircrew Training (FacT) programme, and Spain, for replacement of its T-35 Pillan and CASA C101 trainers. Leonardo signed a contract with the Paramount Group in September 2018 for marketing the jet in Africa.

Pre-series production M-345 CPX.624 at Leonardo’s Varese-Venegono.