Leonardo (Aermacchi) M346 Master

In the 1990 Yakovlev and Aermacchi jointly developed a jet trainer slash light fighter aircraft. In the end both companies went their own way, each taking the design further. Aermacchi (now known as Leonardo) made the M346 Master of it, Yakovlev the Yak-130.

The M346 has a mid-wing configuration. These wings have a swept leading edge, but a straight trailing edge. The leading edges have extensions until the front seat. Where they connect to the wings, the M346 has small fins, pointing up like winglets.
The student and instructor sit behind each other, under a canopy that opens as a single piece, sideways. The nose is pointed. The air intakes are just behind the canopy, below wing leading edge extensions. They are rectangular of shape when seen from the front, and at a slight angle compared to the air flow when look at from the side (like on the T-4).
The air flow channels are directly attached to the wings, without space in between. The exhausts are placed below the tall vertical stabiliser with a hooked tran­si­tion. They are without externally visible pipes. The horizontal stabilisers have a slight anhedral. At the base of the vertical stabiliser is a small air inlet. Finally, the landing gear has all single wheels, with the nose gear retracting rearward. The nose gear has long doors.

The wing shape with leading edge extensions and straight trailing edge, best visible from this angle, is one of the best recognition points of the M346.

Like on the Kawasaki T-4 the air intakes are rectangular and at a slight angle with regard to the air flow. Note the typical fin at the junction of the wing leading edge extension and wings themselves.


This is the basic training version, simply designated M346. In Italian service it is known as T-346A though. It was also offered to the USAF as a replace­ment for the T-38. This version was named T‑100.

M346B is a version for the Hellenic air force that has Israeli avionics.

M346FA, M346FT & M346LFFA

Versions capable of carrying weapons under the wings are designated M346FA (Fighter Attack) and M346FT (Fighter Trainer). The former is a dedicated fighter, while the latter can switch roles. They have evolved into the M346LFFA, Light Fighter Family of Aircraft. The latter has a hardpoint at each wing tip as well.

The M346FA has hard points under the wings to store a range of weapons.

Confusion possible with

Yakovlev Yak-130

yak 130

Originating from the same design, it is logical that the M346 and Yak-130 look very much the same. The easiest diffe­rence to spot is the landing gear and its doors. The Yak has a trailing link gear, while the M346 has straight legs. Also the nose gear doors are smaller on the Yak and the main gear doors are on the outside when extended. Additionally, the Yak has no fins/strakes on top of the wing, at the leading edge extension, no inlet at the base of the vertical fin and the attachment of ex­haust to the rear fuselage is with a curved transition.

Hongdu L-15

yak 130

The Chinese looked at Yakovlev for support in developing a new advanced jet trainer. Hence it is no surpise that it is a Yak-130 look-a-like. The main differences compared to the M346 and Yak-130 are the exhausts that extend beyond the tail, and the bigger main landing gear doors. (photo: Xu Zheng/WikiMedia)

Kawasaki T-4

kawasaki t 4

The M346 and T-4 both have a realitively large vertical stabiliser and similar air intakes. The T-4 has no leading edge extensions of the wings, but has visible ex­haust pipes.

Alpha Jet

alpha jet e

The main difference between the Alpha Jet and M346 is the space between the wings and the engine nacelles. Also the air intakes of the Alpha Jet are semi circular, and the canopy of the student and instructor open separately.

PZL I-22 Iryda

pzl m 96

Like on the Alpha Jet above, the Iryda has space between the wings and engine nacelles. Additionally, the air intakes of the I‑22 are closer to the wing lea­ding edge.

KAI T-50

su 25k

While this Korean jet has only one engine, which should be enough to avoid confusion, the large tail, lead edge root extensions and air intakes could make you doubt. But then a look at the gear and location of exhaust should take these doubts away.

Sukhoi Su-25

su 25k

In particular the two-seat variant of the Su‑25 is similar to the M346FA, but most versions have a single seat. Also notable are the nearly straight wings and more triangu­lar shaped vertical stabiliser.