Airbus and Leonardo are to jointly promote integrated training systems (ITS) solutions centred on the Italian airframer’s M-346 advanced jet trainer.

“Both companies will jointly address and pursue business opportunities for the provision of advanced training systems leveraging on proven experience [with the M-346],” the pair announced on 21 June.

M-346 pair

Source: Leonardo

In-service M-346 fleet has accumulated more than 100,000 flight hours

Signed at the Paris air show, their memorandum of understanding also pledges to “study the future solutions to tackle air dominance challenges”, and “explore deepening ties and industrial co-operation”.

Marco Zoff, managing director of Leonardo’s aircraft division, says the cooperation agreement will “provide European and international customers with the most advanced and effective integrated training systems solutions”.

Leonardo notes that the M-346 has so far accumulated more than 100,000 flight hours in operational service.

“A strong, innovative and competitive defence industry is a prerequisite for strengthening the European defence environment and achieving the desired strategic autonomy,” says Jean-Brice Dumont, Airbus’s head of military air systems. “We believe our synergies could give the right answer to customer requirements,” he adds.

The partners are eyeing a projected European market “for more than 400 new aircraft deliveries in the next 20 years” in the advanced training sector. They estimate that the provision of advanced pilot training services – such as for next-generation fighters and in support of operational readiness – will be worth around €12 billion ($13.1 billion) during the same period.

Separately, Leonardo also used the show to announce a new armament option for its M-346FA light-attack aircraft.

The airframer and Nexter are to “pursue a joint development effort by integrating a new 20mm cannon pod”, to be carried on the Italian-built jet’s centreline.

M-346FA pod

Source: Leonardo

Armed M-346FA is being offered with new pod-housed 20mm cannon

Leonardo says a feasibility study has already been completed, during which the partners demonstrated the capability to add a link and case recovery system to the M-346FA.

The selected 20M621 weapon is described as “easy to integrate, operate and maintain”, while also being an “ITAR-free solution” for customers.