The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is buying 48 M-346 advanced jet trainers. This 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 last year. 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 Russias top fighters (like the Su-27, MiG-29 and many modern Western fighters). It can also perform as a light bomber. The nine ton aircraft 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.
Four years ago, Russia decided to standardize on the Yak-130 jet trainer, and production began two years ago. So far, the Russian Air Force has bought 56. Algeria has ordered 24, and will begin receiving those this year. 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 14 M-346s, and the UAE order is the first export sale.