Aermacchi is completing flight testing of a mid-life update (MLU) for the Italian air force's MB339A advanced trainers.

The Italian manufacturer intends to certificate the retrofit package early next year. Aermacchi's MLU aims to increase the structural life of the aircraft as well as introduce new equipment.

The air force is spending L110 billion ($55.2 million) over the next five years, with the hope that the MB339A's operational life will be increased by 10 years. The first MB339As entered service in the early 1980s.

Structural changes include the introduction of materials with improved corrosion resistance, additional inspection panels in crucial areas, including the wing/fuselage junction and the addition of a load measurement system. Much of this work will also improve maintainability.

Cockpit and avionics changes include a 1553 databus, an integrated navigation system, which includes compatibility with the global positioning system and the repositioning of some controls.

Other upgrades include improvements to the electric system to increase power generation, the qualification of a towed banner target for air-to-air gunnery practice installed in a special fairing, a nose landing gear spray deflector to improve operation on flooded runways and external formation lights. The aircraft is also to receive a modern crash data recorder and a crash beacon.

Source: Flight International