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New 20mm Cannon Pod for M-346FA

M-346FA with Nexter 20M621 20mm cannon pod [© Leonardo]

A new 20mm cannon pod for the M-346FA thanks to the agreement between Leonardo and Nexter, a company of KNDS.

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Press Release, Paris, 21 June 2023: Leonardo and Nexter, a company of KNDS, have jointly launched a development programme aimed to introduce a new Gun Pod on the M-346 Fighter Attack (FA).

After a successful 10 months’ feasibility study, which has demonstrated the capability of adding a Link & Case Recovery (LCR) system to the M-346FA, Leonardo and Nexter, a company of KNDS, have decided to pursue a joint development effort by integrating a new 20mm cannon pod to the M-346FA.

Modern air combat requires to provide fighter aircraft with calibre of cannon to address targets with explosive or penetrating shells. A 20 mm cannon offer an advantageous solution compared to 12.7 / .50 calibre in terms of range, precision and final effects. The 20M621 weapon solution, easy to integrate, use and maintain, is a NATO calibre ITAR free solution designed for air application. As others weapons, and systems developed and produced by Nexter for air domain, it is light and offers effectiveness and performance.

Emanuele Merlo – Senior Vice President Line of Business Trainers at Leonardo Aircraft said: “Leonardo is strongly convinced that Nexter is the right partner. Nexter’s 20 mm gun pod integration will boost combat responsiveness of M-346FA in Homeland Defense, COIN, CAS/Close-In Combat missions, thanks to an ITAR free solution suitable for many customers worldwide.

Philippe Reynes – Head of Weapon Systems and Turrets Programs at Nexter Systems said: We are proud of the relationship of trust we have built up with Leonardo by taking the constraints specific to aerial platforms very seriously. For example, the safety of these platforms is ensured by the fact that our pod recovers all the links and casings after firing. Plus, the NC621 is mechanically harmonised to guarantee maximum precision for the pilot. This system is an example of our expertise as a medium calibre weapon manufacturer.

Nexter, major actor in the gun firing function in aeronautics domain, is one of the rare suppliers enabled to develop and produce Medium Calibre guns and ammunitions. The M-346 FA is a ‘light combat’ version of the M-346 advanced trainer with multi-role capabilities including close air support missions, even in urban areas, battlespace air interdiction for national defence and tactical reconnaissance. The M-346 FA maintains all the features of a trainer aircraft with the addition of new generation equipment and sensors, making it an effective operational solution in the light combat role.

The aircraft is equipped with multi-mode Grifo-M-346 radar, developed by Leonardo and optimised for the M-346FA: a dependable, high-performing solution offering superior accuracy and enabling exceptional system modularity. The M-346FA is protected by a complete passive defence system (DASS – Defensive Aids Sub-System), while the integrated communication system and tactical datalink (TDL), which may also be integrated in a version compliant with NATO requirements, ensure the highest levels of interoperability. The M-346FA can integrate different types of armaments and external loads, including air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions (such as IR, radar and/or laser/GPS- guided munitions), gun pods, and target reconnaissance and designation pods, integrated with Helmet Mounted Displays (HMD).

The integrated on-board tactical training simulation system – Embedded Tactical Training System (ETTS) – can also be used in advanced and pre-operational training, offering a complete spectrum of simulated in-flight training operations in conjunction with the Integrated Training System (ITS) of the M-346, which has Live, Virtual, and Constructive (LVC) functions. The M-346FA’s ability to refuel in flight enables it to perform long-range missions requiring greater autonomy and a high degree of endurance. The M-346FA allows operators to conduct multiple roles using a single platform. For example, the aircraft can effectively carry out Aggressor and Companion Trainer missions, offering users a highly flexible platform for today’s rapidly changing world.

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