|Italian Air Force Typhoons and T-346As fly in formation.|
The Hornet fleet of the Spanish Air Force (SpAF) is coming to the end of its operational life and Spain will have to start looking at a replacement soon. The nation has already carried out the MLU of their F18 jets between 2004 and 2008 and they can’t receive a new major upgrade. In addition, the CASA-101 trainer aircraft fleet will also be retired in a few years.
The market offers different right platforms to replace the two types, but according to Spain’s need for cost reduction, we have selected only the two aircraft that we think are the best choice: the Eurofighter and the M-346FA.
The choice between these two planes would allow Spain to focus on all-in-one-fleet as the nation is doing with the NH-90 program to reduce operating and maintenance costs. Furthermore, it could considerably reduce the total number of aircraft. Currently the SpAF fleet consists of around 70 Hornets and 60 C-101s.
The Hornet is a multi-role fighter used by the SpAF mainly for the air-ground role and the Eurofighter has successfully demonstrated that it can fulfill this task. Germany has already tested the aircraft to release laser bombs and since January 2018 the Luftwaffe is ready to deploy its jets to cover air-to-ground role in the NATO missions. The choice of the Eurofighter would allow Spain to have only one type of aircraft for all combat missions. In addition, this option would help the national economy considering that the Spanish aerospace company Airbus is a member of the Eurofighter consortium.
Alternatively, the new M-346FA is able to perform the same tasks as the Hornet and CASA C-101. The introduction of the new variant of Leonardo’s aircraft would allow Spain to increase the level of training of its students and at the same time to cover several missions currently operated by the Hornet.
According to the company, the M-346FA is an extremely effective and low-cost tactical solution for the modern battlefield, as it offers Air Forces the greatest effectiveness with all the M-346’s AJT (Advanced Jet Trainer) features, including the advanced and pre-operational training capabilities of the basic version. It can be used in the present operational scenarios to replace the modern and expensive 20/30 tonne class fighter aircraft. The M-346 is extensively tested by the Italian Air Force which often successfully employs the jet in the role of Agrressor and in the CAS missions.
Both options could meet the operational and economic needs of the SpAF. The main difference is that the Typhoon could cover the role of bomber and not that of trainer while the M-346FA could cover both of them allowing the nation to introduce only a new type of aircraft. The upgraded Typhoon could support the light aircraft in the most demanding missions if required.
Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: Italian Air Force