Leonardo has delivered the first two M-346 aircraft for the Italian Air Force’s International Flight Training School (IFTS) project.
IFTS was formed under an agreement signed between Leonardo and the Italian Air Force in July to improve training services delivered by the airforce’s 61st Wing.
The M-346 aircraft arrived at 61st Wing’s base in Galatina in southern Italy, where they joined the Italian Air Force’s 18 other M-346s.
The aircraft have been procured to meet the growing demand for training services at the IFTS project.
In a statement, Leonardo said: “The Leonardo-Italian Air Force IFTS Agreement was inspired by the common decision of these two preeminent national entities to foster synergies to the benefit of the country: combining the capabilities of the largest Italian industrial player in the aerospace, defence and security sectors with the airforce’s expertise in the military flight training domain.”
A new integrated training system is set to arrive at Galatina next year as part of plans to reinforce the 61st Wing for improved operational capability. The reinforcement is seen as key to the establishment of the IFTS.
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The system is based on the M-345 high-efficiency trainer (HET) aircraft developed by Leonardo’s Aircraft Division.
Powered by a Williams FJ44-4M-34 turbofan, the M-345 is expected to replace the T-339A used for the second phase of training and the T-339C used for the third phase.
Phase IV, Lead In to Fighter Training (LIFT) of the IFTS project will allow it to meet the demand for pilot training from foreign airforces. The training project has future expansion plans with another base in Italy.
Operational training at the 61st Wing Air Base involves preparing pilots to transition to the latest-generation combat aircraft, including the Eurofighter and the F-35 Lighting II joint strike fighter.