PARIS, June 18 (Reuters) - Italian defence group Leonardo SpA on Sunday unveiled the new fighter attack version of its M-346 advanced trainer, saying many air forces had already expressed interest in the planes, especially in Asia and South America.
Leonardo, which presented the new fighter variant at the Paris Air Show, said the M-346 fighter would be equipped with the Grifo multi-mode fire control radar, also built by Leonardo.
It said the new fighter was designed to help different air forces meet their needs rapidly by building on a common base.
“The M-346FA is of interest to many international customers, specifically in the Far East and South America,” a spokeswoman said. She declined to identify any specific potential customers.
“The M-346FA’s characteristics make it not only an excellent advanced trainer, but also a light fighter aircraft capable of carrying out operational missions at far lower costs than those of frontline fighters,” Leonardo said.
It said the jets had seven pylons for external weapons loads, enabling it to carry 2,000 pounds of external weapons. It said the plane could carry out air-to-surface, air-to-air and tactical reconnaissance missions.
It also said the jets could perform combat air patrol missions for more than two hours at a 35,000 foot altitude.
In addition, Leonardo unveiled its new single-engine M-345 basic jet trainer, which had its first flight in December.
Italy has ordered five of the M-345 training aircraft.
Leonardo hoped to sign a contract with a second undisclosed country by the end of the year, the spokeswoman said. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Edmund Blair)