To replace the thirty Sukhoi Su-22 “Fitter” still in service with the Polish Air Force, Leonardo offers the M-346FA, the combat version of the Master.
On his official Twitter profile in Poland, Leonardo recalls that the M-346FA offers enormous operational advantages and has many similarities with the training version already in use with the Warsaw Air Force.
Indeed, the Polish Air Force has ordered, starting from 2018, sixteen M-346s in training version in service at the 48. Eskadra Lotnicza (48th Flight Group) in Dêblin.
The Polish Sukhoi Su-22 Fitters
Currently, Siły Powietrzne (Polish Air Force) has 21 Su-22M-4 single-seat bomber fighters and 6 two-seater Su-22UM3K operational conversion fighters in charge.
Eighteen Su-22s being updated will be kept online until 2026, equipped with partially digital instrumentation and a new VHF / UHF radio. These aircraft are or will undergo a structural reconditioning and will receive a new low visibility tri-tone grey camouflage livery. But albeit partially modernized, the Fitters are obsolete aircraft, 110 units entered into service with the Polish Air Force in 1985, and need, as soon as possible, a replacement with a modern aircraft.
The main features of the M-346FA
The M-346FA 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 less than one meter.
The Grifo-346 has Air-to-Air, Air Combat, and navigation modes. The capabilities, in addition to the already indicated SAR mode, include the Inverted SAR, the Ground Moving Target Indicator on SAR and the Sea Moving Target Track.
The aircraft has an advanced level suite for net-centric communications including a secure communications system and a tactical data link (TDL) and an extremely complete self-protection system (DASS – Defensive Aids Sub-System). The DASS includes a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), a Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) and a Chaff & Flare Dispenser (CFD). In addition, a data presentation system integrated in the rider’s helmet (HMD) and voice commands are available.
Load capacity and usable weapon systems
The M-346FA is equipped with seven external attachment points for a wide range of loads, which make the aircraft capable of carrying out multi-role missions. The load capacity is more than two tons. The interface of external loads complies with MIL STD-17; the aircraft is equipped with MIL-STD-1553B armament Bus Control.
In fact, the Litening pods for laser targeting and the RecceLite for reconnaissance and surveillance (RECCE) can be used. To increase electronic warfare capabilities, an ECM pod can be installed on the central beam under the fuselage. It is possible to install a pod with cannon on the central beam of the fuselage also for Slow Mover Intercept missions.
Advanced air-to-ground weaponry includes GBU-12 and 16 Paveway II, Lizard 4 and TEBER (250 lb) LGB laser-guided bombs, GBU-38 and 32 JDAM GPS-guided bombs as well as GPS / LGB and GBU-guided Lizard 2 -49 for Battlefield Air Interdiction (BAI) and Close Air Support (CAS) missions. Other advanced ammunition loads include Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) and SPICE (250 lb) EO / GPS for missions. The MBDA Marte ER anti-ship missile for Tactical Air Support for Maritime Operations (TASMO) should also be integrated in the future.
Air-to-ground missiles such as Brimstones as well as laser-guided rockets for precision attacks are also usable. At air-to-air level for Air Policing / Homeland Defense missions, in addition to the AIM-9L / M missiles, IRIS-T as well as medium-range air-to-air missiles can be used.
Moreover, three additional 630-liter fuel tanks are transportable to increase the range of action and / or transfer autonomy in addition to the in-flight refuelling capacity thanks to the special probe installed.
Added value of the M-346FA
The integrated on-board system for tactical training simulation (ETTS), derived from the AJT, allows the M-346FA to also be used as a jet aircraft for advanced and pre-operational training (LIFT). In fact, it can offer the full range of simulated flight training functions and to integrate into the M-346’s training system (ITS), fully qualified and with Live, Virtual, Constructive (LVC) functionality.
Finally, the M-346 is perfectly capable of assuming the role of aggressor during advanced exercises and of replacing operational aircraft in training.