Italian aerospace company Leonardo recently announced that its Aermacchi M-345 High Efficiency Trainer (HET) has completed its maiden flight. On December 29, the prototype tandem-seat basic jet trainer took to the skies over the Venegono Superiore airfield in Varese, Italy, under the command of test pilots Quirino Bucci and Giacomo Iannelli. According to the company, the 30-minute flight went off without incident.

Billed as Leonardo's latest-generation military trainer aircraft, the M-345 is intended for the international market as both a trainer and an operational aircraft, and is designed with an eye to not only a low sticker price, but also low maintenance and operational costs. This is due in part to the airplane's advanced avionics that includes the Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS), which monitors the state of the aircraft and reduces the need of general overhauls.

The M-345 has a wingspan of 8.47 m (27.78 ft) and weighs in at 3,300 kg (7,275 lb). It's powered by a Williams FJ44-4M-34 turbofan engine belting out 1,540 kg (3,450 lb) of thrust, and boasts pressure refuelling systems and an On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) for greater efficiency and less need for ground crews. Cruising speed is 400 kt (460 mph, 740 km/h) with a service ceiling of 40,000 ft (12,000 m) and a ferry range of 760 nm (824 mi, 1,410 km).

The M-345 also has an avionics suite that the company says is up to combat jet standards and includes Hands On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) controls, Head up Display (HUD), and real-time Multi-Function Displays (MFD).

"The aircraft conducted itself perfectly, meeting the expectations of the design parameters while showing excellent performance," says Bucci. "The engine in particular demonstrated a great capacity to react to regime changes, which is a fundamental characteristic for a basic training aircraft."

Leonardo says the Aermacchi M-345HET will complete its flight tests later this year. These will include advanced avionics checks, and expanding the engine and flight envelope.