M-346 FA for Nigeria?

The African press reports the news of the conclusion of the contract between Nigeria and Leonardo for the purchase by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) of 24 M-346 FA (Fighter Attack) light combat/advanced training aircraft within the framework of a contract whose estimated value is 1,200 million euros.

In support of the news is the confirmation of the NAF communications manager, who confirmed the rumors circulated in recent months that, on several occasions, have led to the negotiation being concluded positively.

Furthermore, the purchase of these aircraft is indicated in official NAF documents as part of the planning with the necessary resources already authorized.

Replacement for the old Alpha Jet

The aircraft will begin delivery in 2024 and will replace aging Alpha Jets used in the dual role of light attack aircraft and advanced trainers.

There is a technological chasm between the two aircraft; the Alpha Jet is a 1970s training aircraft used for operational tasks and has now reached the end of its operational life, while the M-346 FA is a true light attack fighter-bomber, “light” only in terms of amount of war. transported cargo in terms of useful tonnage, which exceeded two tons.

In fact, the Italian aircraft is equipped with a Grifo-346 multimode radar with optimized antenna, built-in IFF, with the ability to track ten targets in Track-While-Scan mode, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capability with resolution of minus of one meter.

The Grifo-346 has air-to-air, air combat and navigation modes. Capabilities, in addition to the SAR mode already indicated, include inverted SAR, moving target indicator on land in SAR and moving target tracking at sea.

The aircraft features an advanced level suite for network-centric communications that includes a secure communications system and tactical data link (TDL) and an extremely comprehensive self-protection system (DASS – Defensive Assistance Subsystem). The DASS includes a radar warning receiver (RWR), a missile approach warning system (MAWS), and a scrap and flare dispenser (CFD).

Additionally, a data display system integrated into the pilot’s helmet (HMD) and voice commands are available.

Loading capacity

The M-346 FA is equipped with seven external hardpoints for a wide range of payloads, making the aircraft capable of carrying out multi-role missions; the external loads interface complies with MIL STD-17 and the aircraft is equipped with MIL-STD-1553B weapons bus control.

The Litening pods can be used for laser targeting and the RecceLite for reconnaissance and surveillance (RECCE), both from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. To increase electronic warfare capabilities, an ECM pod can be installed on the center beam, under the fuselage. It is possible to install a gun capsule in the center beam of the fuselage also for slow-moving interception missions, as well as for ground fire support.

Advanced air-to-ground weaponry includes GBU-12 and 16 Paveway II, Lizard 4 and TEBER (250 lb) LGB laser-guided bombs, JDAM GBU-38 and 32 GPS-guided bombs, as well as GPS/LGB and GBU Lizard 2. -49 guided bombs for battlefield air interdiction (BAI) and close air support (CAS) missions.

Other advanced munition loads include small diameter bomb (SDB) and SPICE (250 lb) EO/GPS missions. The MBDA Marte ER anti-ship missile should also be integrated in the future for Tactical Air Support for Maritime Operations (TASMO) operations.

Air-to-surface missiles such as the Brimstone can also be used, as well as laser-guided rockets for precision strikes.

At the air-to-air level for Air Police/National Defense missions, in addition to the AIM-9L/M missiles, the IRIS-T and medium-range air-to-air missiles can be used.

Three additional fuel tanks with a capacity of 630 liters can be carried to increase range and/or transfer in addition to in-flight refueling capacity thanks to the special probe installed.

Photo @Leonardo

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