Leonardo has taken the next step in the evolution of its M-346 jet trainer with the installation of a radar.

The company has installed its mechanically scanned X-band Grifo-346 radar in the nose of its M-346FA (Fighter Attack) prototype, which is being used to support the development of a light attack capability.

Eduardo Munhos, the VP for international sales, speaking to journalists here on the eve of the Farnborough Airshow, said the addition of the radar would open the aircraft up to a “new range of clients.” He went on to clarify: “We are talking to air forces all over the world about this new capability.”

The first light attack M-346FAs could be made available to customers in 2020, he suggested.

The M-346FA will also introduce a new wingtip pylon for short-range air-to-air missiles, such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder and the Diehl IRIS-T. Captive carry trials are currently ongoing, but missile firings are planned in the future. Testing has already confirmed the M346’s ability to drop dumb and guided bombs and operate with a gun pod. Leonardo has also completed carriage of Rafael’s RecceLite and Litening laser designator pod.

The Grifo-346 had been designed by Leonardo more than a decade ago for a light attack market, which dried up; however, with growing interest emerging again in lower-cost platforms, Leonardo believes the aircraft will quickly find clients. The radar has been fitted in place of simulation equipment, the black boxes for which have been distributed elsewhere in the aircraft.

The radar features air-to-air, air-to-ground and a number of bombing modes.

The company has talked about installing an active electronically scanned array radar but has elected to use a mechanically scanned system for now to bring it to market more quickly, Munhos said.

“We already know that the M346 is a good aggressor,” says Leonardo test pilot Enrico Scarabotto, “But with a radar it is an even better aggressor,” he added, noting the growing international interest in red-air capabilities, particularly in the UK, which is running its air support to defense operational training competition for a contract-owned, contractor-operated electronic warfare and red-air fleet.