TYPE: Advanced trainer, fighter lead-in trainer & light attack


POWERPLANT: MB-339A - One 17.9kN (4000lb) Rolls-Royce Viper Mk 632-43 turbojet (licence built in Italy). MB-339C - One 19.6kN (4400lb) Viper Mk 680-43.

PERFORMANCE: MB-339A - Max speed at 30,000ft 817km/h (441 kt), at sea level 898km/h (485kt). Max initial rate of climb 6595ft/min. Climb to 30,000ft 7min 6sec. Service ceiling 48,000ft. Ferry range with drop tanks 2110km (1140nm), range 1760km (950nm). Combat radius with four Mk 82 bombs and two drop tanks (hi-lo-hi) 393km (212nm). MB-339C - Max speed 902km/h (487kt).

Max initial rate of climb 7085ft/min. Climb to 30,000ft 6min 40sec. Service ceiling 46,700ft. Ferry range with two drop tanks 2035km (1100nm). Combat radius with four Mk 82 bombs (hi-lo-hi) 500km (270nm).

WEIGHTS: MB-339A - Empty equipped 3125kg (6889lb), max takeoff 5895kg (13,000lb). MB-339C - Empty equipped 3310kg (7297lb), max takeoff 6350kg (14,000lb).

DIMENSIONS: MB-339A - Wing span over tip tanks 10.86m (35ft 8in), length 10.97m (36ft Oin), height 3.99m (13ft 1in). Wing area 19.3m2 (207.7sq ft). MB-339C - Same except wing span over tip tanks 11.22m (36ft 10in), length 11.24m (36ft 11 in).

ACCOMMODATION: Seating for two in tandem.

ARMAMENT: MB-339A - Up to 2040kg (4500lb) of external stores on six hardpoints including bombs, rockets, cannon pods, Matre anti shipping missiles (MB-339AM), and Magic and Sidewinder AAMs. MB-339C - Up to 1815kg (4000lb) of external ordnance, as above, plus Maverick ASMs and Vinten recce pod.

OPERATORS: Argentina, Ghana, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, UAE.

HISTORY: As the MB-326 was Aermacchi's most successful postwar design, an upgraded successor was a logical development.

The main change to the airframe was that the forward fuselage was reprofiled to feature stepped tandem cockpits (giving the instructor, who normally sits in the rear seat, greatly improved forward vision). Aermacchi also considered a number of new powerplant options, including turbofans and twins, but settled upon the familiar Viper turbojet for its performance, ease of maintenance and lower acquisition cost, despite higher fuel consumption.

The first of two prototypes flew on August 12 1976, since which time the basic aircraft has been developed into a small number of models. The base MB-339A has accounted for almost all sales and 101 were delivered to the Italian Air Force (some as MB-339PANS fitted with smoke generators for the Italian Air Force's Frecce Tricolori aerobatic team). The MB-339C meanwhile is optimised for lead-in fighter and light attack duties with advanced nav and attack systems, ability to carry missiles, a more powerful engine, lengthened nose and larger tip tanks. So far New Zealand is the only C customer.

Lockheed offered a development as the T-Bird II to meet the US's JPATS requirement, while the Italian Air Force MB-339CD (Viper 632) and export MB-339FD (Viper 680) feature a digital cockpit.

A single seat MB-339K Veltro 2 was built in prototype form only.