VENEGONO SUPERIORE, Italy, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Italian aircraft manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi says assembly has begun on the first M-346 advanced jet trainer ordered by Israel.
The M-346 is a transonic aircraft based on the Yak-130, which was developed by Yakovlev of Russia and Aermacchi as a joint venture. It has a maximum speed of 572 mph, a range of 1,070 nautical miles, a service ceiling of 45,000 feet and a flight endurance of 2.7 hours without the use of external fuel tanks.
Israel has ordered 30 of the aircraft, which will replace T-4A Skyhawk trainers now in use.
Alenia Aermacchi said the three major components of the first aircraft are currently being joined to form the aircraft's structure. Final assembly of the aircraft will be delivered to Israel by the middle of next year.
"Thanks to a highly skilled workforce and to one of the most up-to-date, automated, production lines, the program is on time and budget to deliver the aircraft to the Israeli Air Force that will fly soon the most advanced jet trainer available on the market," the company said.