The Italian Air Force has kicked off first test flights earlier this month with its new T-345 A trainer aircraft, the service has announced.
Undertaken in early December by the Armed Forces’ Experimental Flight Center (CSV), the flights represented the first time the aircraft was flown with air force crews only in the cockpit.
Italy is procuring 18 high efficiency trainer aircraft under two contracts signed with defense technology company Leonardo. Following the order for the first five units, the two sides signed a follow on contract worth 300 million euro in June 2019.
The company will also deliver ground-based training systems and a five year logistics support package.
The new aircraft, the first of which is expected to be delivered in 2020, will join the Air Force’s fleet of 18 twin-engine Aermacchi M-346s based at the Italian Air Force’s Galatina base near Lecce in the Southern Italy, which have already been delivered to provide the advanced phase of pilot training.
The Italian Air Force has identified a requirement for around 45 M-345 aircraft (designated the T-345A) to progressively replace its fleet of 137 MB-339s, that have been in service since 1982, and to become the new platform of Italy’s National Aerobatic Team (Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (PAN). The first production aircraft successfully performed its maiden flight on December 21, 2018.
The M-345’s structure features composite materials and is designed for an operating life of up to 15,000 hours. The aircraft is powered by a non-afterburning Williams FJ44-4M-34, while student pilots and instructors sit on Martin Baker Mk.IT16D ejection seats.