EXCLUSIVE: The first two Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Advanced Jet Trainers for the Israeli Air Force (IAF) arrived at Hatzerim Air Force Base in Israel on Thursday 9 July 2014. The M-346, of which Israel ordered 30 in July 2012, will gradually replace the Douglas TA-4 Skyhawk trainers currently operated by the IAF. Israel is now the third country to operate the M-346, the advanced jet trainer that also features in this exclusive Airheadsfly.com report.
Alenia Aermacchi calls the delivery “an important milestone which marks the team job achieved in strict collaboration with Alenia Aermacchi’s industrial counterparts, TOR and Honeywell”. Final construction of the very first Israeli M-345 began in 2013, and a roll out event took place in March 2014.
With the introduction of the M-346, the IAF can finally phase out the A-4 Skyhawk, a type that has served Israel since 168, first as fighter bomber and as trainer aircraft later in its career. The A-4 is called Ayit (Eagle) by the Israeli, whereas the new M-346 is called Lavi (Lion). At Hatzerim, the new type is likely to enter service with 102nd squadron, known as the Flying Tigers.
Meanwhile, at Alenia Aermacchi’s plant in Venegono (near Milan), production of the M-346 is in full swing: in addition to the two aircraft delivered, other 6 M-346s for the IAF are completing final assembly whereas five others are in the process of structural part assembly. All 30 aircraft are expected to be delivered by the end of 2016. Construction of the first of eight trainers for Poland is expected to start that same year. A total of 56 aircraft are now order. The aircraft is already in service with the Italian and the Republic of Singapore Air Forces.
The M-346 is the most advanced/lead-in fighter trainer aircraft currently produced and the only new-generation trainer optimized for the role of training pilots who fly on latest-generation high-performance military planes. Thanks to its advanced technical design solutions and to the adoption of the latest “design-to-cost” and “design-to-maintain” concepts, the M-346 provides reduced acquisition and operational costs. Furthermore the reduced number of hours necessary for its maintenance make the aircraft excellent for cost-effectiveness.
Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 Integrated Training System (ITS) includes, together with the aircraft, an exhaustive Ground Based Training System (GBTS), enabling the student pilot to learn and rehearse the entire aircraft syllabus and all training objectives on the ground, before replicating them in flight.
Source: Alenia Aermacchi, with additional reporting by Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest