In 1992, Aermacchi teamed with Yakovlev to develop the Yak-130 basic and advanced trainer aircraft. By 2000 partnership between these companies ended with each developing the aircraft independently. The Aermacchi developed the M-346 Master advanced trainer, which is a highly modified version of the Yak-130. Also it uses equipment exclusively from Western manufacturers. This aircraft made it's maiden flight in 2004. In 2009 Italian Air Force ordered 6 of these trainers with an option for further nine. In 2008 Singapore ordered 12 of these aircraft.
At the moment the M-346 represents the last step of trainer planes developed by Alenia Aermacchi. This company offers other trainer planes like the M-311 are for basic aeronautical training, imitating fast air vehicles and Aermacchi MB-339 for advanced jet pilots. The new M-346 features a reprogrammable flight control system that can be used to simulate the handling of a variety of front-line types. It gives the trainee opportunities to get high operating skills of that 4th+ generation jets such as the Eurofighter, Rafale, F/A-18 Super Hornet and even the 5th generation F-22 Raptor fighter.
The M-346 Master is a classic model airplane with two seats, instructor in the back and trainee in front. The plane has extreme agility by optimized aerodynamics achieved by extension of wings roots and by a variable camber wings, also damage tolerance capacity. It also has improved inherent strength and structural integrity, obtained by using composite materials and light alloys.
The M-346 Master is powered by two Honeywell F-124-GA-200 turbofans for better performance and reliability. This plane is capable of transonic flight without using an afterburner. It has a digital flight control system.
High acceleration skill and opportunity to maintain an energy makes this air vehicle one of the best trainer planes, as all above-mentioned in whole gives technical feature highly similar of real fighter jet, therefore can be realized the same accelerations and maneuverability including high angle of attack as on fighter jet. It is worth mentioning that the advanced electronics also gives the opportunity to create and imitate the image of battlefield and situations that can meet future fighter pilot and all this in very low consumptions.
The M-346A is a production version for Italian Air Force. There is also a proposed version of a light attack aircraft. This aircraft has nine hardpoints for a variety of guns, bombs, missiles and rockets.