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M-346 Kit

Kinetic 1/48 M-346 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2018 Manufacturer Kinetic
Subject M-346 Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48063 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice kit Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $39.99

First Look

M-346 Kit
M-346 Kit
M-346 Kit
M-346 Kit

You've probably heard the saying that 'synergy is defined as achieving your goals with someone else's money'. Here is one good example. The Yakovlev OKB embarked upon a new trainer design designated the Yak-130 (NATO Codename: Mitten) about the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Designed to replace L-29 and L-39 trainers, the Yak-130 was one of several concepts competing for a 1,000 aircraft purchase from the Russian Air Force. With the new Russian Federation suffering from money problems, Yakovlev could not secure the resources for development of the Yak-130. Instead, they partnered with Italy's Alenia Aermachhi to co-develop the design in 1993 and the first prototype, the Yak-130D, first flew in 1996. The joint Russian/Italian partnership ended in 2000 leaving Yakovlev OKB to continue their development of the Yak-130 alone.

In the meantime, Alenia Aermacchi secured the rights to develop their own version of the aircraft, now designated M-346, and the aircraft was resdesigned with Honeywell F124 turbofan engines and NATO compliant avionics. The first M-346 flew in 2004 and was adopted as the new advanced trainer aircraft for the air forces of Italy, Israel, and Singapore. Like all good advanced trainer designs, the M-346 was further developed with weapons stations on the wingtips, under the wings, and under the fuselage, to carry a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. This new multi-role aircraft is currently being marketed around the world. As you read about the M-346, you'll note a number of manufacturer's titles associated with the aircraft, but when Alenia Aermacchi merged with Finmeccanica in 2016, the corporate folks quickly realized they were going to need larger business cards for the lengthy corporate name and instead rebranded the company as Leonardo in 2017.

Externally, the current Yak-130 and M-346 look very similar, but each of the M-346's F124 engines produce 750lbs more thrust than the Yak's AI-222 engines giving the M-346 the ability to fly supersonic (neither aircraft have afterburners). The leading edges of the Yak-130's horizontal stabilators have a dogtooth similar to the wings' leading edges while the M-346 has straight leading edges on its stabilators. The standard M-346 does not have wingtip weapons stations (that is a recent development) while the Yak-130 has wingtip pods housing chaff/flare dispensers. At present, the M-346 also has the option for air refueling, though that isn't a difficult update for the Yak-130 at a future date. The M-346 was briefly a contender for the USAF's T-X advanced trainer program, though that award was recently given to Boeing using a joint Boeing/SAAB design. During its marketing run through the US, the M-346 was designated as T-100.

Kinetic recently released the M-346 kit, the first in their Gold Series line. Developed in 1/48 scale, this kit is a beauty, with smooth styrene surfaces and finely scribed surface details. The kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on five parts trees (duplicate tree not shown) plus upper and lower fuselage halves, one tree of clear parts, and one fret of photo-etched parts. Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Nicely detailed Martin Baker Mk16 ejection seats with photo-etched crew restraints
  • Nicely detailed cockpits
  • Photo-etched HUD frame
  • Positionable canopy
  • Choice of plain canopy or canopy with det-chord traces
  • Intake ducts down to compressor faces
  • Turbine faces at ends of exhaust ducts
  • Photo-etched wing fences
  • Nicely detailed wheel wells
  • Positionable speed brake
  • Positionable leading edge and trailing edge flaps
  • Positionable ailerons
  • Positionable stabilators
  • Positionable rudder
  • Choice of flight test nose (instrumentation boom) or standard nose
  • Correct radome
  • Optional air refueling probe
  • Optional weapons pylons

Weapons options include:

  • 2 x GBU-12 LGB
  • 2 x AIM-9M Sidewinder
  • 3 x external fuel tanks

The two weapons sprues also include AIM-9X, AIM-120A, AIM-120B, Mk.20, and GBU-38 for your spares box.

Marking options include:

  • M-346 Prototype 1
  • M-346 Initial Production
  • M-346 Lavi, 102, Israeli AF
  • M-346, 325, Republic of Singapore AF
  • M-346, 7701, Polish AF
  • M-346, 61-10, Italian AF

This is a really nice looking kit that isn't complex, so this should be an easy build for most modelers. The M-346 is one of those designs (along with the Yak-130) that looks right and will look great in any one of a variety of color schemes provided in the kit. Chances are that you'll spend a little more time masking and painting this model than building it. I'm looking forward to getting this on the bench!

My sincere thanks to Lucky Model for this review sample!