Rafael and Leonardo will supply the M-346FA with the Israeli company’s LITENING 5 and RecceLite systems, marking the first integration of these 5th-generation EO/IR pods to Leonardo's latest light combat platform, the companies announced on 6 May.

The M-346FA is the multi-role combat variant of Leonardo’s advanced jet trainer, designed for a wide range of training capabilities, long-term reliability and cost-effective operations. The FA variant is also capable of air-to-surface, air-to-air and tactical reconnaissance missions. Integrated with Rafael’s pods, the aircraft will now have combat-proven, stand-off capabilities using the LITENING 5 multi-spectral airborne targeting pod.

LITENING 5 is in service with 27 air forces and carried by over 25 platforms globally. It delivers real-time, forward-looking infrared (FLIR+SWIR) and day HD color camera imagery. Its high-resolution sensors and effective EO/IR design ensure reliable operation at significant stand-off ranges. LITENING 5 allows the operation of all types of air-to-surface smart weaponry, such as laser-guided, GPS-guided and EO/IR imaging-guided munition. LIENING pods have logged over two million flight hours, with more than two-thirds in contingency operations worldwide.

With the RecceLite intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) system, the M-346FA will be able to perform target search, using advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and automatic target recognition at the ground station and other smart algorithms for efficient detection, tracking and sensor-to-shooter closure. Using its advanced ISR, image processing and AI, the system achieves optimal data exploitation at the ground station of intelligence data relayed in real time and mission execution in near-real time. RecceLite has been delivered to 13 customers world-wide and integrated onto various aircraft, including the F-16, F-18, JAGUAR, AMX, TORNADO, TYPHOON, GRIPEN, HERON TP, REAPER and others.

“This new cooperation with Leonardo opens new markets to integrate our advanced systems to additional light, cost-effective platforms, based on our vast experience and integration legacy in all domains,” commented Guy Oren, Head of Rafael’s Electro-Optical Systems Directorate.

“We see a growing number of nations that have requirements for trainers that are also able to perform close-air support missions, and the addition of Rafael’s globally combat-proven 5th-generation targeting and ISR pods is a significant, force-multiplying enhancement to our platform,” added Senior Vice President Trainers for Leonardo’s Aircraft Division, Emanuele Merlo.

The integration of the Rafael pods adds significant operational capability to the M-346FA. (Photo via Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)

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