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Aircraft Review : Leonardo Aermacchi M-346 AJT by Deltawing Simulations This is the excellent Leonardo Aermacchi M-346 AJT "Advanced Jet Trainer". The Aermacchi M-346 Master is a family of military twin-engine transonic advanced jet trainers and light combat aircraft. Originally co-developed with Yakovlev as the Yak/AEM-130, the partnership was dissolved in 2000 and then Alenia Aermacchi proceeded to separately develop the M-346 Master, while Yakolev continued work on the Yakovlev Yak-130. The first flight of the M-346 was performed in 2004. The type is currently operated by the air forces of Italy, Israel, Singapore, Greece, Turkmenistan and Poland. Since 2016 the manufacturer became Leonardo-Finmeccanica as Alenia Aermacchi merged into the new Finmeccanica, then finally rebranded as Leonardo in 2017. As the X-Plane 12 Simulator now has 18 months of maturity behind it, then users are now getting aircraft releases of only dedicated X-Plane 12 aircraft, in other words only true X-Plane 12 designed and higher quality releases. This M-346 is from Deltawing Simulations, a very well known and quality based developer, also known for their excellent F16C Fighting Falcon series of aircraft. Another thing notable is that this M-345 is an official Product and licensed by Leonardo. First impression is the Aermacchi just jumps right out at you, the quality is really very overwhelming, very X-Plane 12 and highly, highly realistic... I love an aircraft that just leaps out at you, your gut says, "This is going to be good", and the experience awaits. The M-346 is designed for the main role of a lead-in fighter trainer, in which aircraft's performance and capabilities are used to deliver pilot training for the latest generation of combat fighter aircraft. Powered by a pair of Honeywell/ITEC F124-GA-200 turbofan engines of 28 kN (6,300 lbf) thrust each, and designed to reduce acquisition and operating costs, the M-246 is capable of transonic flight without using an afterburner . Modeling is absolutely first rate... you will get no complaints from me in this area. Inlet and exhaust outlets are brilliantly conceived, all the diverse panels and riveting are excellent, the detail here does not reflect the sub-$40 price, but for a quality delivered from a far higher 25% price-point... Highlight is the superb twin-canopy, brilliant tinted glass shows a hugely complex cockpit, with two very highly realistic animated pilots, and even their mask air-tubes move with the movements... incredibly well done and like mentioned, highly realistic Another highlight is the gear.... First two front doors open, then the gear uncoils out of the underbody of the fuselage... The gear twists and turns it's way down, the animation detail is brilliant by Deltawing... highly realistic, I love watching the theatrics of it all. When all finally down and locked the gear detail from the struts, links, arms and the hydraulics is focus study stuff, in being just perfect and original to the design. Menu There is a banner menu "Aermacchi M-346" that has four options; Refuel Probe Toggle, Remove Before Flight Toggle, Ladder Toggle, Choks (sic) Toggle and OPTIONS Static elements are very good. The M346 is hung like a Christmas Tree with tags and flags, you also have engine inlet and exhaust covers. Highlight is the Ladder, beautifully detailed, it allows both pilots to insert or extract themselves from the Jet. There is a lovely fuel probe and an earthing cable and clamp.... and also rear wheel chocks. Set to the side is an emergency fire extinguisher. A nice touch is that both pilots can be inserted or removed individually from the cockpit via the OPTIONS menu. You can flip the pilot's visors by using Shift + F2 (front), and SHIFT + F3 (rear), but I found the F3 didn't work? Cockpit The Aermacchi is a twin-seat trainer, but being modern, the layout between the front and the rear are both mirrored in controls and instrumentation. The first look detail is excellent. It's tight in here as the boundaries don't give you much flex room, slightly forward and up are your only movement directions. It is a complex cockpit, but you soon navigate around the instruments, switches and dials if you are familiar with military aircraft. The instrument panel is dominated by the UFCP (Up Front Control Panel) top central and three MFDs (Multi-Function Display) lower, all laid out with universal menus. All four units pop-out via a pointer-circle... In the banner menu there is also the option to "Pop Out The Pop Outs" or switching them to full window menus. Left console covers; APU (Auxiliary Power Unit), yes it is built in! RENG (Engines), TCT, FGS, TRIM and PWR (Power) sections. Right console covers PWR (Radio), ICS, ECS (Environment), IFF (Identify Friend or Foe), INTR LT (Internal Lighting), EXT LT (External Lighting), MASS... rear is the RADIO (right and MAINT. ENG DRY left. Behind the HOTAS stick, is the HOTAS and FCS (flight control system) panel. The highlight of the cockpit is left, these are the lovely Twin-Throttles, again worth a close investigation. Also notable is the Ejection Seat "Safety Catch" SAFE or ARMED. There is a full selection and activation settings for the ejector seat, and very authentic to the real seat operations. The UFCP has input selection keys and data selections, with 8 Function keys, 35 data entry options all done on a 4 line dot-matrix display unit. Data selection cover IFF (Identify Friend or Foe), COMM (Communications), FPL (Flightplan), SP (Steering Point or waypoints), Data Page (Fuel, Height, Laser, Altitude), BARO, AP (Autopilot)/ FD (Flight Director), TACAN, VOR/ILS, CLOCK... it's complicated, but all the selections are noted in the manual, but sadly there are no descriptions of the tools or how to use them, so a bit of study and pushing buttons is required to master the unit, but clever and authentic the UFCP is. Here are a few of the displays available... The three MFDs (Multi-Function Display), are interchangeable, or you can display the same page on either MFD. Selection is via the MENU button top, the Menu selections disappears again with non-selection. Again there are a lot of menu choices (most currently are INOP), but active are FCS (Status), COMMS 1, COMM 2, IN/GPS, CAD 1 (Including AP/FD and ROLL), HSI (Horizontal Situation Display) with "NAV Source", MAP/ TSD and SYSTEMS, there also menus within menus like SYS and FUEL pages. Again the Manual could be more descriptive of these systems and have labels in explaining what they are and how they work, so your work wil be a bit hit and miss in making notes on how to navigate the screen pages. I feel more MFD options will come later from Deltawing, the idea is to do the basics of the MFD first, then do the deeper detail in coming updates. The HUD (Head Up Display) or noted here as the "PDU" or Pilot Display Unit, but I will still note it as the HUD. This one is a very comprehensive HUD, quite different in it's layout arrangement, but very well done and the main feature of the cockpit, we will focus on this HUD in flight. Lower set on the glareshield are the ATL (Altitude) SEL, BARO, CRS (Course) SEL, and HDG (Heading) SEL knobs, and the Caution Warning Panel (CWP) Annunciators. Lower is a (pop-out) backup (here noted as a GHD or "Get Home Display") ISIS or Integrated Standby Instrument System. If you press the lower center of the HUD assembly, it will move you to the rear seat, and vise-versa. Control wise the rear station is exactly the same as the front, most of the same instruments are present back here as well, the only difference are the side panels, that have a lot of the switch panels missing. Lighting There are three knobs for adjusting the internal lighting. CONSOLE and INST (Instrument) does the main honours, and it looks gorgeous. A third knob FLOOD will give you cockpit lighting via four spot-lights... overall totally excellent, but I couldn't find the HUD brightness adjustment. External lighting has flashing white beacons top, lower and tail, inner Navigation lights, and a single taxi light on the front gear strut, and landing lights on each of the rear gear legs... A highlight are the adjustable "Formation" or Slime lights... nose, rudder, rear fuselage, and on the tips of the wings. Flying the M-346 Pooowwwer, what is it about with these trainers that have so MUCH thrust... the Aermacchi is certainly not lacking in this area with those huge Turbofans with 28 kN (6,300 lbf) of some heavy thrust capacity... enough to give you a climb-rate of 112 m/s (22,000 ft/min), then a Mach 0.95 Maximum speed or 1,090 km/h (680 mph, 590 kn) in the old school. You feel it, through your back and in the controls. The other thing with trainers is balance... they are extremely easy to trim and to find that sweet spot, you know the point where you can take your hands off the stick and feet off the rudders and the aircraft will just stay there, powering along at a god fast awful speed, it exhilarating! The M-346 is an absolute gem of a handling aircraft, you get precision here, but also that relaxed control feel in the way the aircraft turns and reacts to your inputs. It doesn't feel like a trainer, but more like an efficient attack aircraft. In the advanced jet trainer role, the original M-346 model is unarmed; however, in November 2015, it was reported that Alenia Aermacchi was close to finalising a combat-capable dual-role variant of the aircraft. During late 2017, a series of armed tests involving the AIM-9L missiles took place. In 2015, an armed variant, designated as the M-346 LCA (Light Combat Aircraft), was offered to Poland; this reportedly included a capability of operating the Brimstone air-to-ground missile. The armed variant is still under development, designated M-346FA. The first pre-series aircraft has however flown from Venegono airfield in July 2020. You are at one with the aircraft, not only in the front seat, but also if you prefer the rear. Realism is provided by the moving front pilot's helmet, it is SO realistic in here. One of the highlights is the comprehensive HUD or PDU. There are 16 display readouts... .... although most HUD's are identical, the layout of the data is different here, so you will need to study the visual references before going flying, it's brilliant but confusing if you don't know what is what... the basics are shown here. You have to keep it centred in the scope as well, move your POV and you lose a section of the HUD data. Once I had worked it all out, I loved the display, but will note that at certain angle to the bright sky, it can wash out the lower details, so you have to squint closer for the data, this can make tough with reading on approaches. You can't hide or lower the HUD either, so it is always on. No doubt is if you have VR (Virtual Reality) headset, it would be realistically amazing in here, the Deltawing M-346 fully supports the VR environment, its great on a monitor in 2d, but in 3d 360º would be absolutely excellent. The CAD page gives you the standard flying instrument display on the MFD. It has the standard Artificial Horizon and speed and altitude tapes, but there is an option when in the AP mode for the AP details to be also shown on the CAD, and very good it is, sometimes easier to read than the HUD whiteout. My only gripe is that using the V/S Speed and Altitude capture is very hit and miss, sometimes it works, but in most cases refuses to capture your selected altitude, either more refinement is required, or more information on in how it works needs to be forthcoming from Deltawing. Range is 1,925 km (1,196 mi, 1,039 nmi), with an endurance of 2 hours 45 minutes (4 hours with external drop tanks). Ceiling like most trainers is a very high 13,716 m (45,000 ft) to replicate fighter limits, same with the g limits of +8 -3. Sounds, brilliant of course, FMOD 2 in design, they totally reflect the tone and power of the F124-GA-200, its behind you as you accelerate, but aurally around you as you twist the Aermacchi around in the air, so yes it comes with 360º doppler movement... other smaller, switch, gear extension/retraction and alert sounds are all perfect, its a very sonic environment... just listen to the air-pressure opening and closing of the canopy. A feature of the Aermacchi M-346 is the PARS system which is a "Pilot Activated Recovery System"... the idea is to recover the aircraft to a safe flight situation, say if a student panicked, or a loss of conscious (blackout)... there is a button on the console behind the stick that activates the system... So I drop the M-346 into a death roll and fall... ... so I pushed the stick more forward... more nose down and now past the point of recovery... ... then you hit the PARS button, and lo & behold the Aermacchi, just quickly and simply recovered itself to a nice safe level flying position! So the system is very realistic. Fuel system is very good. You have 2x Internal Tanks and 2x Wing Tanks... plus 2x Pylon Tanks for a total of 4075 Lts, or 8965 Lbs of fuel Hit the "EMERG JETT" or "Do NOT Touch" button and the pylon tanks drop away... In one area of the flight envelope, it is the landing that needs skill. This is a powerful, but also slippery aircraft... So first it is at first hard to slow down, certainly if you fly very high and lose altitude quickly, rubbing off the speed is tricky, difficult. You do have a very effective airbrake above your heads to the rear, and it makes a difference. It has two stages of deployment. The default official stall speed is 95 knts, but you would never go that low before falling out of the sky, it feels more like 130 knts, several approaches at the Full (LDG) flap setting, I was already sinking at around 135 knts, so the best approach speed is 140 knts. Slipping to 129 knts I had a nice slope down into the runway, but you feel you are on the edge of lift, worse you feel that your approaching the runway far too fast, it just comes at you at a "hell" of a speed, fast... but how can you go slower? Touch is around 120 knts, but it feels still to fast... this is actually my second approach and landing, the first, then I had literally fell out of the sky with the loss of lift, this time around was better, not perfect but better... so you can see it needs practise to get a landing right at the feeling of the high speed. Once down you feel you are now sprinting down the runway... fast, so be careful on the brakes. To help, once the rear gear hits the tarmac, the both aileron surfaces popup to act as airbrakes, its very well done. So the M-346 is tricky to get right in the lower speed zone, the same in the air as the throttle adjustments have to be absolutely perfect to get the right speeds to keep you aloft, you do however get the right feel the more you spend time in the aircraft. Power on in most phases of the flight, and you simply don't think about it at all, but it is certainly one aircraft to learn and absorb at those slower speeds. I have sort of mentioned it above. the Manual is very good, it is 85 pages including a rough checklist. But there is the issue in that the manual is all images, so you can't search or find certain topics, so the only way to find the information is to constantly scroll through the manual, and look at every area, with it's complex acronyms makes it hard to find, and worse most are not labeled on their action. Notes are few and far between, so with aircraft of this Menu driven complexity, then a tutorial is required. Skunkcraft Updater is also available here. Liveries There are eleven liveries with the Aermacchi. Three are Leonardo Factory liveries, and six are the current Air Force operators, altogether they are all excellent in design and 4K quality. Deltawing is the default developer livery, but also the best of the set. _____________ Summary The Aermacchi M-346 Master is a family of military twin-engine transonic advanced jet trainers and light combat aircraft. It is a twin-seater modern powerful trainer that has been a recent success in being active currently in six Armed Forces. Deltawing Simulations, a very well known and quality based X-Plane developer, is also known for their excellent F16C Fighting Falcon series of aircraft. And here is another brilliant Simulation from this evergreen master. Modeling is simply X-Plane 12 wow factor. The aircraft stands out in the simulator for total realism and immersion, both externally and internally. Military systems are first rate including a quality HUD (Head Up Display), UFCP (Up Front Control Panel) top central and three MFDs (Multi-Function Display), that are interchangeable. System depth is already excellent, but expect more pages to follow in updates, its all complex to use, but authentic. This is trainer, so not armed (unless you count dropping the external fuel tanks), but a M-346FA Fighter variant might come in the future. All animations, certainly the complex gear movements are also a highlight. The clever PARS system "Pilot Activated Recovery System" is also very well replicated here. Banner menu covers; Refuel Probe, Before Flight , Ladder, Choks (sic) and pilot OPTIONS in show/hide pilot and opening of the helmet visors are all great well done features... Static elements here are very good, and the aircraft has it's own built in APU. Lighting is excellent inside and out, and features "Formation" lights or Slime. Sounds are also top notch, with 360º FMOD 2 quality and aural cockpit sounds. Gripes are extremely small, more or better documentation... better still a tutorial on theses complex aircraft are required, they are acronym hell, and the details need to be explained. You are starting to expect or are referencing a higher quality and feel factor in these X-Plane 12 only created simulations, these are projects done under the X-Plane 12 environment and are not transitioned from earlier versions of X-Plane. It is highly noticeable in every aspect of these modern creations. But in being also value priced at under US$40, you are getting here the total best of both worlds, higher quality and systems, for a very credible price. The Deltawing Aermacchi M-346 certainly delivers massively in both or all areas. It's nice to fly and balance as well... but the thing that comes across more than anything in the Aermacchi is the higher realism... with projects like these, the real world gap to simulation is closing in even more.... Highly Recommended! ___________________ Yes! the Leonardo Aermacchi M-346 AJT by Deltawing Simulations is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here : Leonardo Aermacchi M-346 AJT On sale: US$39.95 Main Features: Highly detailed 3d exterior model Highly detailed 3d cockpit model Highly detailed landing gear system Highly detailed pilot figures Dual cockpit Custom remove before flight objects Custom particles system Realistic FMOD custom sounds 4K textures Realistic startup sequence Custom cockpit lights Custom external lights Custom external fuel tanks (droppable) Fully custom electronics system Fully custom environmental system Fully custom autopilot Fully custom Fly-By-Wire system 3 individual fully custom MFD displays, as close to the original as possible Supports Skunkcraft updater 11free 4K highly detailed liveries included Supports VR Requirements: X-Plane 12 (not for XP11) Windows, Mac (M1 and M2 are supported) or Linux 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 742 MB Current version: 1.0.0_0r3 (January 26th 2024) Note: In order to use and enjoy VR environment in X-Plane, user hardware and system specs should meet the required specifications for OS, CPU, GPU, MB and RAM which are specified both in the given VR hardware websites and at X-Plane.com. Aircraft download is 741 Mb, and unpacked then installed in your X-Plane Aircraft folder 2.36 Gb. Authorization on startup is required Documents DWSim M-346AJT Manual Design by DeltaWing Simulations Support forum: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/forums/forum/753-aermacchi-m-346-advanced-jet-trainer/ https://deltawingsim.com/ _____________________ Review System Specifications: Windows - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD Software: - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.09rc3 (This is a Release Candidate review). Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 Scenery or Aircraft - LICC - Catania-Fontanarossa Airport 2.1 by FlyDave (X-Plane.Org) - Free ___________________________ Review by Stephen Dutton 29th January 2024 Copyright©2024: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. 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