As we reported last week, Rome-based Leonardo S.p.A. and Paramount Group, a defense and military training companies based out of Praetoria, South Africa, are currently developing an combat configuration of the two-seat Aermacchi M-345 jet trainer for the African market. The M-345 is based on Leonardo’s twin-engine M-346, which has already proven itself as the trainer and light attack aircraft of choice for Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Poland, and Italy.
While there are no currently available specifications or requirements that would provide insight into what an “operational” M-345 would look like, Paramount Group’s main contribution to the M-345 is the Smart Weapons Integration on Fast-Jet Trainers (SWIFT) mission system.
Like Paramount’s earlier Flexible Light Armaments System for Helicopters (FLASH) weapon and sensor suite, SWIFT is a scalable, multi-role, light attack aircraft mission system designed for non-conventional asymmetrical warfare and basic intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISR). The system is even compatible with equipment suitable for anti-tank operations.
“We are very excited to launch and demonstrate our Smart Weapons Integration on Fast-Jet Trainers (SWIFT) mission system alongside the African debut of Leonardo’s M-345 jet trainer. SWIFT is focused on current threats and current customer requirements. It offers low acquisition and operation costs and is suitable for non-conventional or asymmetric warfare. It addresses the customers growing need for multi-role configuration to adapt to different mission roles without major reconfiguration and extended time delay. The platform can be described as short timeframe, light combat, and surveillance solution utilizing the best of the best in the defense industry,” said Ralph Mills, Paramount Advanced Technologies CEO while signing the agreement during the Africa Aerospace & Defence exhibition in Pretoria.
Lucio Valerio Cioffi, Leonardo’s Aircraft Division Managing Director, said: “We think that the collaboration with a high-level partner such as Paramount is strategic to develop a new M-345 trainer operational configuration for the African market. The M-345 is a basic/advanced trainer with multirole capabilities and costs comparable to a turboprop aircraft. These characteristics and more make the M-345 perfectly suited for the African market.”
“It is through collaboration on a global scale that we have been able to develop and bring to market, first FLASH and now SWIFT. The development of these two platforms embodies a collaborative approach where all the Paramount partners contribute to the solution and providing a robust, highly supportable and a cost effective light weaponized solution. This collaboration of South African and global defense OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] create a broader marketing and support network. Some of our partners include Thales FZ, Hensoldt, Genesys Aero, FN Herstal and Denel Dynamics,” says Mills.
Close to 40 companies are cooperating on Paramount’s SWIFT program, with 15 having signed market agreements.
Air forces around the globe are evaluating cost-effective, light attack aircraft to fill the operational roles of more expensive and more complex fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Beyond cost benefits, larger fleets of light attack aircraft allow for more consistent air coverage and response time, as well as training availability.
Still a trainer at heart
Leonardo’s work on the Future Aircrew Training (FAcT) project and the Fighter Lead-In Training (FLIT) project has resulted in a sophisticated onboard training environment on board the M-345 provides pilots with a robust, multi-faceted training platform.
FAcT and FLIT leverage an embedded tactical training real-time data-link with other pilots and aircraft in flight and on ground simulators. With those systems, pilots can practice preplanned high-efficiency maneuvers on a ground-based training system and then fly in virtual formation with aircraft in the air before running maneuvers in real life.
Furthermore, it is possible to plan mission scenarios and then download the flight data through a Mission Planning and Debriefing Station (MPDS) and analyze the missions during the post-flight debriefing phase.
William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include 'literally anything that has to do with space,' past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology. And also sportscars.
Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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