Alenia eyes ‘son of Yak’ for USAF light attack fighter

For calling the M-346 jet trainer the ‘son of Yak’, neither Alenia nor Aermacchi may ever forgive me. But, in my defense, the M-346 is a westernized and updated version of the Yak-130 originally produced by the Yakovlev/Aermacchi joint venture in the early 1990s.

Now, this descendant of Soviet aeronautical skills could become Alenia’s bid for the US Air Force’s potential order for 100 light attack fighter-trainers.

The US-based subsidiary of Finmeccanica has confirmed to Flightglobal that the M-346 is being considered for the company’s response to the USAF’s request for information, which was issued last week. The M-346 is also Alenia’s probable candidate for the USAF’s T-38 replacement contract, called T-X.

Alenia North America also is considering offering the all-Italian (versus half-Soviet) MB-339 trainer. Interestingly, the USAF previously rejected the MB-339 for its primary trainer in favor of the Hawker Beechcraft (nee Raytheon) T-6A Texan II.

Both the M-346 and the MB-339 are the first jet-powered options to be publicly proposed for the potential light attack order.

The competition is dominated by turboprop-powered aircraft, ranging from high-end the (ie AT-6, Embraer Super Tucano) to low-end (ie Air Tractor AT-802U) to nostalgic revivals (OV-10, PA-48). The USAF also is considering several unknown clean-sheet designs.


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16 Responses to Alenia eyes ‘son of Yak’ for USAF light attack fighter

  1. J. Cramer 8 August, 2009 at 9:58 am #

    “Both the M-346 and the MB-339 are the first jet-powered options to be publicly proposed for the potential light attack order.”

    Sort of spells it out right there. I don’t see a jet fitting the need the USAF is trying to fill. Just not the right envelope.

    Nice plane though.

  2. mike j 8 August, 2009 at 7:04 pm #

    Could someone please explain to the USAF that people (our forces and civilians both) are getting killed, right NOW, because they haven’t got the the right kind nor enough air cover? Lease some planes like the Navy is doing, no commitment, just get something in the air.

  3. Duncan 9 August, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    The YAK-130/Macchi 346 history is even more complex. Part of the drawings were mady in late eighties in Czech Aero Vodochody by Czech/Russian team under program that should have been “L-49″, follown-on to L-39, as Aero was the principal manufacturer of Warsaw pact trainers. Czechoslovak DV-2 engines were part of that project, but after the end of Cold War all technical documentation went to Yakovlev, desperately looking for money to move on. Its other program went wrong (Yak-141) for luck of funds, the lift system of  F-35B shows a lot of similarity to the original Yakovlev lift fan design. Finally Yakovlev made deal with Alenia, but did split later. Anyway, the Ferrari style M-346 airframe is more a heritage of L-39 construction school, not M-339.

  4. Mark 9 August, 2009 at 7:54 pm #

    Explain to me how & where US Forces are being killed because of lack of Close air support.


  5. mike j 9 August, 2009 at 9:01 pm #


    Troops recently KIA in Afghanistan were killed by roadside bombs. Army Task Force ODIN had some success neutralizing bomb placers in Iraq using C-12s, UAVs, and attack helos. USAF should be following up on that, COIN CAS would be ideal for a shooter, but instead we’ll wait for the QDR.

    We might have prevented the black eye we got from the Farah province incident earlier this year had the Afghan forces had air cover in the first place. CAS didn’t arrive there until the Afghan Police and Army were already pinned down and our Marine QRF joined them. The engagement required B-1B strikes with 500 & 2000lb JDAMs, which killed civilians- the people we’re supposed to be making friends with. Bad feelings from the population will inevitably result in US casualties.

  6. MZ 10 August, 2009 at 4:21 pm #

    What would have the replies have been if you told Ed Heinemann (designer of the A-1 Skyraider) and Edgar Schmued (credited in Wikipedia as the designer of the T-38 Talon) that one of the leading candidates to replace their aircraft would be designed by the Russians and/or Czechs? My guess is that they would have been aghast. How our world changes.

    The M-346 appears to be a potentially good candidate for both roles.

  7. Purba Negoreo 11 August, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    A superb little aeroplane, absolutely fantastic to fly by all accounts- a real little sportscar.
    My nation’s criminally underfunded airforce (TNI-AU) was to equip itself with these, although there is now rumour of domestically fabricated EADS Mako instead.
    The Sukhoi Su-31 is a superb aircraft too- far superior to the F-18 and the F-16, as well as the dreadful I have no idea why my nation, Indonesia, after being sodomized so long by USA continues to buy their shoddily constructed, overpriced weapons.
    The YAK-141 was years ahead of its’ time.
    I hope the rumoured YAK-143 will emerge.
    I suggest the J-85 engine would be a very viable and cost effective powerplant to satisfy the GE component of the US Military-Industrial-Congressional-Complex or “Iron Triangle”.

  8. Jon 11 August, 2009 at 6:03 pm #

    Not to disagree with you but following your logic, I would have expected the L159 – designed by Aerovodochody after the Soviets left – and the M346 to have similar design features. Another interesting fact, after the Soviets’ left, Aerovodochody designed and built the L139 as a demonstrator to prove they could build a westernized aircraft compatible to western needs. It had heavy western content including the engines Garrett/AlliedSignal/Honeywell 731-2. After they built this aircraft they embarked on the L159 aircraft project which is powered by the Honeywell F124 engine, the same power plant as the M346. Unfortunately for the Czechs, they did not do a good job marketing the aircraft and were easily overmatched by BAE in head to head competitions.

  9. barry martin 11 August, 2009 at 7:08 pm #

    why not use the uav aircraft we already have like the reaper? just want to spend some more money? barry

  10. Obamanite 11 August, 2009 at 10:16 pm #

    Ah, Purba Negoreo – That’s pretty strong language there. Sodomized by the USA? Wow. Really? Sort of like how Indonesia “sodomized” East Timor? Or the human-rights abuses perpetrated by Indonesia which led to the arms embargo imposed by the U.S.?

    Your assessment of the F-16 and F-18 as “shoddily constructed,” which sounds like sour grapes, would be hardly credible to the air forces that have bought Migs and Sukhois, which have a nasty tendency to want to become quickly landborne once airborne, and whose engines have the reliability of a Yugo or, worse yet, a Jaguar or Range Rover. It says something that virtually no nation that can afford a Western fighter has opted for a Russian craft, and the only ones that have, have done so either because Russian craft are apparently cheaper – not factoring in all those that have gone on to plummet from the sky – or because the U.S., at times, does have some standards (unlike France or Russia) and won’t sell certain weapons to certain states that are so flagrantly horrible in the manner in which they pursue to maintain their “territorial integrity” that no matter how much one tries to pinch one’s nose, it still stinks. Like, you know, Indonesia. Unless, of course, you have lots of oil, like Saudi Arabia. In which case, we’ll sell you everything and anything…

  11. Luca 23 August, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    This is not a “update” or a copy of yak. Bullshit.
    This is a fully new plane of course a development of the “history” between yak and aermacchi.
    Macchi produced all the time very good trainer-planes, this one is the best of all. It could be a very good alternative for the usa.

  12. Alina Moor 18 December, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

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