|Leonardo M-346FA multirole combat aircraft.|
During the last G-20 held in Osaka, Japan, the Argentine government resumed the evaluation concerning a possible acquisition of ten FA-50 Golden Eagle light fighters produced by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). According to South American and Korean sources, Presidents Moon Jae-In and Mauricio Macrì met in Osaka to discuss the deal as well as officers from the General Staff of the Argentine Air Force and KAI executives. The interest of Buenos Aires for the Korean aircraft began about three years ago, but the signing of the contract was never finalized due to the difficult financial situation that afflicts the South American country.
However, the problem is not only related to payment as some members of the Fuerza Aerea Argentina would prefer Leonardo's M-346FA. This is an understandable preference considering the great advantages that the jet is offering to many armed forces. The Italian-made Aircraft would be an excellent substitute for the current old A-4 Skyhawks and would guarantee the nation an excellent multi-role capability at a low acquisition and operational cost.
The M-346FA boasts features similar to those of the advanced Typhoon fighter jet as recently declared by the Italian Air Force. Its abilities have also been confirmed by Giacomo Iannelli, Project Test Pilot Trainer of Leonardo's Aircraft Division: “First of all, the Low Altitude speed is very high even with external loads, while other supersonic aircraft have a better performance in a clean configuration, but get considerably worse when loads are added.
The manoeuvrability is excellent thanks also to the 4-channel digital fly-by-wire flight control system and this allows fast manoeuvring during close air combat. The remarkable specific excess power allows the return to baseeven with full payload, with one engine inoperative (OEI), at an adequate altitude to keep out of the more common range missile threat, guaranteeing a notable survivability capability. The so-called Carefree Handling makes sure that the pilots can focus on the mission, without having to worry about risking to exit the expected flight envelope.
The twin-engine configuration assures a high battlefield survivability and, at the same time, the fuel consumption is kept low thanks to the engine's efficiency, definitely providing a good range, that can be further extended by air refuelling, a capability which is already operational within Italian Air Force. The Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) assures completely autonomous flight operations.
Furthermore, the visibility is excellent as the M-346 was born as a trainer, it is a two-seater aircraft and this is very important during low altitude flight. The back-seater pilot can also be act as a Weapons System Operator or a more specialised FAC-A (Forward Air Controller – Airborne) role”.
Written by Matteo Sanzani