A Leonardo M-346 advanced combat trainer sporting the livery of the RSAF (Republic of Singapore Air Force) was involved in a firing campaign with the SUU-20 in Hungary.
From Sept. 6 – 8, 2023, a Leonardo M-346 “Master” with Italian experimental registration CSX55166 and Singaporean livery was involved in a firing campaign over the Central Training and Live Fire Range of the Hungarian Defence Forces (HDF) situated in the Bakony mountains, in western Hungary.
The aircraft carried out several sorties over the range, using SUU-20 rocket launcher and practice bomb dispensers: the M-346 can be fitted with two such dispensers, each capable of launching four 2.75 inch diameter Folding Fin Aerial Rockets (FFAR) or carrying up to six BDU-33D/B practice bombs.
The BDU-33 are quite common dummy bombs used to “clone” the same launch characteristics of the 500-lb MK-82 free fall bombs. Each BDU-33 weighs 25 pounds, has a teardrop shaped metal body with a tube cavity lengthwise through the center, a conical after body, and a cruciform type fin in the aft end of the bomb body. A firing pin, inertia tube, and striker plate are separate components of the bomb. A receptacle is located forward of the center of gravity to install a single suspension lug if required.
The Mk-106s is a 5-pound thin-cased cylindrical bomb used to simulate the high-drag (retarded) Mk-82 Snakeye bombs. It is composed by a bomb body, a retractable suspension lug, a firing device, and box-type conical fins.
From what we have heard, the M-346 was flown by Italian test pilots whose purpose was to carry out testing required to integrate the SUU-20/A on the RSAF M-346 (the pod is already used on the Master of the Polish Air Force). The first export customer for the type, the RSAF selected the Master in 2010 and procured a total of 12 M-346s along with the ground based training system.
Benedek Levente shot an interesting footage showing the M-346 during its bombing runs with the SUU-20: you can see the jet perform several dry and “hot” passes, dropping dummy bombs on the range in “level” and “glide” events.
By the way, one might guess what’s the reason for using dummy free fall bombs considered that the current and future scenarios require the “smart” weaponry. The reason is quite simple: this kind of training is extremely formative. Some of the attack profiles used to drop inert weapons on targets under visual conditions are quite similar to those used to deliver LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs).