As part of the expanded weapon’s capability of the M-346 Master aircraft, the Leonardo Group tested the fighter/attack trainer with air-to-air capability launching Raytheon’s AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missile (AMM). The test, performed at the Salto del Quirra test range in Sardinia this week, also included releases of laser-guided bombs (LGB). Rafael Litening targeting pod was used to guide the LGB. The M-346FA is a fighter/attack variant of the Master. It has additional hardpoints carrying ordnance and fuel tanks, and wingtip rails for AAM. This type also uses the Grifo-346 radar. The goals of the missile launch were to measure the effects of missile plume on engine air-intake and aircraft structure, evaluate store management system (SMS) the functionality and safety interlocks and assess handling quality during missile launch. Two combat capable variants of the M-346 – the FT (Fighter Trainer) variant is a dual-role aircraft that keeps both advanced trainer and Lead-In Fighter Trainer functions. As an evolution from the M-346FT, the FA (Fighter Attack) is designed to provide combat capabilities to a wide range of operational needs.

The M-346FT takes of on a test flight carrying Sidewinder AAMs, laser guided bombs and a Litening targeting pod.