Aermacchi MB-326

The Aermacchi or Macchi MB-326 is a light military jet aircraft designed in Italy. Originally conceived as a two-seat trainer, there have also been single and two-seat light attack versions produced. It is one of the most commercially successful aircraft of its type, being bought by more than 10 countries and produced under licence in Australia, Brazil and South Africa. It set many category records, including an altitude record of 56,807 ft (17,315 m) on 18 March 1966. More than 600 were built.


Aermacchi MB-326
Class Aircraft
Type Attack
Manufacturer Aermacchi
Production Period 1961 - 1975
Origin Italy
Country Name Origin Year
Italy 1957
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Argentina View
Australia View
Brazil View
Cameroon View
Congo (Zaire) View
Ghana View
Italy 1962 View
Italy View
Paraguay View
South Africa View
Togo View
Tunisia View
United Arab Emirates View
United States of America View
Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) View
Democratic Republic of the Congo View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Aermacchi 1961 1975 800 View

The MB-326 was a low-wing monoplane with an all-metal (light alloy) structure. Powered by a Rolls-Royce Viper non-afterburning turbojet with low air-intakes in the wing roots. Each wing had 22 ribs and two spars. The fuel system had one large tank in the middle-fuselage and two in the wingtips. The aft fuselage was almost entirely dedicated to the engine, from just behind the wings. The cockpit had a tandem configuration, which was chosen to give a better aerodynamic fuselage (slimmer) than the more usual side-by-side arrangement. There was a long, low bubble canopy. The rear of each wing had flaps, and ailerons with a trim surface. Wing fences were added mid-wing to increase the lift characteristics.

In the 1950s, a number of countries were operating small jet trainers with a similar performance to their operational aircraft. At this time, several nations commenced development of purpose-built aircraft for the role, such as the Fouga Magister, the T-37, the Jet Provost, and the Aero L-29. Italy, which was still recovering from the effects of the Second World War, could not afford the development of supersonic interceptors or bombers; it instead elected to focus its development efforts on light fighter and trainer aircraft.


The MB-326 was designed by Ermanno Bazzocchi at Macchi. Bazzocchi considered many configurations before it was chosen to proceed with a single-engined design. The airframe was a robust and light structure, all-metal, simple and cheap; powered by an efficient engine, the Armstrong Siddeley Viper. This engine was designed as a short-life unit originally destined for target drones, but showed itself to be far more reliable. This airframe and engine combination led, in 1953, to the MB-326 project.

The Italian Air Force was quite interested, and so the MB-326 took part in the contest.

The contest specifications were:

  • Max load 7 g at maximum weight
  • 5,000 hours lifespan, 50–60 hours between servicing, stall-alert (at 15 km/h (9 mph) more than stall speed)
  • Take-off at max load in 800 m (2,625 ft) over a 15 m (50 ft) high obstacle, or 500 m (1,640 ft) at light weight, landing in 450 m (1,480 ft) at minimum weight
  • Speed (min-max): 110/130–700 km/h
  • Rate-of-climb must be at least 15 m/s (2,950 ft/min) and endurance should be three hours at 3,000 m (9,840 ft).

There were several modifications to the MB-326 project: the horizontal tail surfaces lost their negative dihedral angle, the airbrakes (two in the wings) became one, in the ventral position. In 1956 the AMI approved the project and requested two prototypes (MM.571 and 572) and one airframe for static tests. No weaponry or pressurization was needed, but Bazzocchi introduced them.

The first prototype made its maiden flight on 10 December 1957,[4] flown by Chief Test Pilot Guido Carestiato, and the second flew the following year. The plane showed very good characteristics, but the modifications affected the weight, which was 400 kg (880 lb) more than the initial estimates. The original Viper 8 engine produced 7.8 kN (1,750 lbf) of thrust, so the Viper 9 was adopted, which had 0.7 kN (147 lbf) more of thrust.

I-MAKI, the prototype, was first demonstrated in France. The second prototype first flew on 22 September 1958. It had a new Viper engine, the '11' model, updated to produce 11.1 kN thrust (1,134 kgf, 2,500 lbf).

On 15 December 1958, the AMI placed an order for 15 pre-series examples. In 1960, an order for 100 aircraft was placed, establishing Aermacchi's supremacy in jet trainers.

Direct competition came from the Fiat G.80, being more powerful and the first real Italian jet, having flown five years earlier, but it was also heavier, bigger and more expensive. It lost the contest, remaining without a market.

The MB-326 was one of the last Italian aircraft to set any records, when Guido Carestiano set the C1D group 1 category altitude record of 15,489 m during August 1961.

In the meanwhile, the first machines, after a very long development, finally arrived at the 214° Group's Lecce-Galatina school; temporarily fielded at Brindisi. The type entered service with 43° Flyer course on 22 March 1962. These machines replaced North American T-6 Texans, and within 130 hours, the pilots were as ready as after having 210 hours training in T-6s. This solution was much costlier, but the enthusiasm was great and, with G-91T advanced trainers, there was an "entirely-jet" training course for AMI pilots, and moreover they were all national aircraft. Differing from G.91s that were never convincing as light fighters, the MB-326s immediately scored several export successes

Eight MB-326Bs were ordered by Tunisia in 1965. These were developed from basic MB-326s with a weapons capability, with the 37th series AMI aircraft being converted (it had civilian markings I-MAKC). The main innovation was its ground attack capability, with six underwing pylons, holding a maximum of 907 kg of stores. In the same year, Ghana ordered nine similar MB-326Fs.

The "A" and "C" models were never realized. The "A" was intended as a light attack aircraft, with two 7.62 mm machine-guns in the nose, but was never built. Later, some MB-326s were called "A", but this only meant that they were fitted with an ADF Marconi AD-370. The "C" version was to have the NASARR radar in the nose, to train F-104 pilots, but it only appeared as a mock-up.

Role Advanced trainer/Light attack
Manufacturer Aermacchi
First flight 10 December 1957
Introduction February 1962
Status Limited service
Primary users Italian Air Force
South African Air Force
Brazilian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
Produced 1961–1975
Number built ~800
Variants Aermacchi MB-339


General characteristics

  • Crew: Two
  • Payload: 1,814 kg (4,000 lb)
  • Length: 10.65m (34 ft 11¼ in)
  • Wingspan: 10.56 m (34 ft 8 in)
  • Height: 3.72 m (12 ft 2½ in)
  • Wing area: 19.0 m² (204.5 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 2,237 kg (4,930 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 3,765 kg (8,300 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Bristol Siddeley Viper Mk.11 turbojet, 11.1 kN (2,500 lbf)

Performance

  • Never exceed speed: Mach 0.8
  • Maximum speed: 806 km/h (436 knots, 501 mph) at 4,575m (15,000 ft)
  • Stall speed: 146 km/h (79 knots , 91 mph) (wheels and flaps lowered)
  • Range: 1,665 km (900 Nmi, 1,035 miles) with large tip tanks at 11,500 m (38,000 ft)
  • Service ceiling: 12,500 m (41,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 22.3 m/s (4,400 ft/min)

Armament

  • Guns: provision for 2 × 12.7 mm Browning machine guns in underwing pods
  • Bombs: Up to 2000 lb (900 kg) of weapons on six hardpoints, including gun-pods, bombs, and rockets

End notes