Azerbaijan Purchases Italian-Made Aircraft
The Azerbaijani Air Force purchased ten M-346 Master jets and reportedly ordered fifteen more early this week. The planes are produced by Leonardo Aircraft, an Italian company who also sells this model to the Italian, Singaporean, and Polish air forces.
M-346 aircraft are designed for enhanced flight training as well as for combat. They have two turbojet engines F-124-GA-200 and are able to carry up to three tons of missiles and bombs on five nodes suspended under the wing. These weapons can include MK82 500lb and MK83 1,000lb free-fall or retarded bombs; rocket launchers; AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles; Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles; MBDA (formerly Alenia) Marte MK-2A anti-ship missiles. The jets cruise at a rate of 1,059 km (685 miles) per hour but can reach maximum speeds of 1,092 km (679 miles) per hour. They can take off in 320 m (350 yards) and carry a maximum weight of 9,000 kg (9.9 tons).
There are currently 68 M-346 jets in service worldwide. Israel has thirty, Italy eighteen, Singapore twelve, and Poland eight. Azerbaijan’s purchase will make it one of the top owners of these aircraft.
The size of Azerbaijan’s military is limited by the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. Since 1990 the treaty constrains Azerbaijan’s air force to 100 combat aircraft and 50 attack helicopters. Their latest reports place their holdings at 54 combat aircraft. The addition of the Master jets would raise that number to 79.