The Aermacchi MB-326 is one of the most successful jet trainers and light attack aircraft ever built with over 800 examples produced between 1961 and 1975. Until its development was sponsored by the Italian Air Force, the MB-326 began life as a private venture and was designed by Ermanno Bazzocchi. The MB-326 was primarily produced as a two-seat training and light attack aircraft but it was also developed as a single seat combat aircraft designated as the MB-326K. A total of 15 nations have flown the MB-326 including South Africa who called the type the Impala. Today the National Test Pilot School in the USA uses the MB-326 to train test pilots flying from Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
Whilst in Italian Air Force service the MB-326 achieved a number of world records including altitude and endurance records. In addition to the training role, the type was also used as an Electronic Countermeasures platform with five specialised MB-326RM models being produced. The MB-326 was eventually replaced by the MB-339 in Italian Air Force service and was finally retired in 2010.
A pair of MB-326s will be appearing on static display at this year's Air Tattoo as part of our celebration of the Italian Air Force centenary. One being a two seat example which was made airworthy in 2013 to mark 100 years of Alenia Aermacchi and is painted in its traditional high viz orange scheme. The other is an MB-326K which flew for the first time in 2019. This example never actually completed production when its customer, Zaire, entered financial difficulties. It is painted to represent another MB-326K which was not delivered to Zaire and became a gate guard at Practica di Mare Air Base.
Photo Credit: Luigino Caliaro
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