Mastering the Master in Italy

Standing proudly in front of the M-346 Master. (Image © Italian Air Force / Angelo Guerrieri
Standing proudly in front of the M-346 Master. (Image © Italian Air Force / Angelo Guerrieri)

The Italian Air Force is a step closer to the full introduction of the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master as its advanced jet trainer. A fresh set of new instructor pilots flew two T-346A aircraft (the M-346 is called T-346A in Italian service) to Lecce airbase last week, to be used by the based 61 Stormo.

The pilots have learned everything there is to know about the T-346A, including its Embedded Tactical Training System (ETTS), which is capable of simulating radar, airborne threats plus complex air-to-air, air-to-ground and electronic warfare scenarios to student pilots. Airheadsfly.com learned more about the M-346’s capabilities when visiting Alenia Aermacchi’s production facility near Milan last May.

The M-346 is part of the Alenia Aermacchi Integrated Training System, which readies pilots of 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft – such as Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35 – for operational challenges, while not actually using those aircraft. The M-346 provides the same valuable training, while the more expensive fighter aircraft stay available for active duties.

The very first T-346A destined for Italian fighter pilot training at Lecce. The Aeronautica Militare uses the designation T-346A. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The very first T-346A destined for Italian fighter pilot training at Lecce. The Aeronautica Militare uses the designation T-346A. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Italy has 15 T-346A aircraft on order. At Lecce, student pilots will fly the T-346A in preparation of flying the Eurofighter Typhoon, among other aircraft. Future Singapore Air Force pilots have training in the aircraft for quite some time now. Last July, the first of 30 M-346 trainer were delivered to the Israeli Air Force, which inaugurated a new Flight Training Center for the M-346 in September. Poland has eight aircraft on order, with deliveries starting in 2016.

Source: Italian Air Force, with additional reporting by © 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest