January 30, 2014:
Poland is buying eight Italian M-346 advanced jet trainers with the option to buy four more. The M-346 is considered one of the best jet trainers on the market and the Italians have decades of experience with this type of aircraft. The M-346 is a 9 ton, twin engine, two-seat aircraft. Top speed is 1,000 kilometers an hour. Max range with two drop tanks is 2,500 kilometers. The aircraft can also carry three tons of weapons, including bombs, missiles and a cannon pod. Thus the M-346 is an excellent dual use aircraft, as a trainer and fighter-bomber. The M-346 began production in 2008. Development began in the 1990s, as a joint venture with Russia. But the two projects split in 2000, with the Russians continuing to develop theirs as the Yak-130.
The Yak-130 is capable to performing many of the tricky maneuvers of Russia's top fighters (like the Su-27/30, MiG-29 and many modern Western fighters). It can also perform as a light bomber. The nine ton Yak-130 has a max speed of 1,000 kilometers an hour and a flight lifetime of 10,000 hours in the air. The pilot instructor and trainee sit one behind the other, and two engines make it a safer aircraft to fly. The Yak-130 can carry an external load of three tons (of bombs, missiles or fuel tanks). Max range, on internal fuel, is 2,000 kilometers. Russia is selling the aircraft to foreign customers for about $15 million. The M-346 costs fifty percent more.
In 2005 Russia decided to standardize on the Yak-130 jet trainer, and production began in 2010. So far, the Russian Air Force has bought 56 and Algeria ordered 24. The Russian Air Force says it will buy 200 of them to equip four regiments of light attack aircraft. So far, the Italian Air Force has bought 15 M-346s, Israel 30 and Singapore 12.