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Italian Air Force receives first M-345 trainers from Leonardo

T-345A jet trainer
Photo: Italian Air Force

The Italian Air Force has taken delivery of the first two M-345 trainer aircraft from Italian defense contractor Leonardo.

The M-345 aircraft (designated the T-346A by the Italian Air Force) were delivered to the 61° Stormo Jet Training Wing at Galatina Air Base, where they are replacing the MB-339 aircraft currently in service.

The new aircraft are joining the air force’s fleet of 18 twin-engine Aermacchi M-346s which are providing the advanced phase of pilot training.

With the arrival of the first T-346As, 61° Stormo is beginning a process of integration with the future International Flight Training School (IFTS), an advanced flight-training center that will be built at the Italian Air Force’s base in Decimomannu, Sardinia.

The Italian Air Force has a requirement for up to 45 M-345s to progressively replace 137 MB-339s, which first entered service in 1982.

T-346A will also become the service’s new aerobatic team airplane.

M-345 features a Williams FJ44-4M-34 turbofan engine optimized for military and aerobatic use. The cockpit is based on HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) controls and features a glass cockpit with a three-color MFD (Multi-function Display) touch screen. The aircraft’s heads-up display is mirrored by a fourth screen in the rear seat.

The first two aircraft, produced at Leonardo’s plants in Venegono Superiore, were officially delivered to the Air Force on December 22, after completing testing and acceptance procedures. The air force started first test flights on the aircraft in December last year.