UPDATED 13 May 2015| Future Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16 and possibly Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II pilots will train with the Italian Air Force on Alenia Aermacchi M-346 jets, thanks to an agreement that was signed last week by the Chiefs of Staff of the two air forces. The agreement envisages the detachment of an instructor and two student pilots of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, to be stationed at the Italian Air Force’s flight school in Lecce.
UPDATE 13 May | The Royal Netherlands Air Force confirmed that the first two pilots started training in Lecce on 12 May. The training is a 3 year experiment to see if the M-346 is suited for training F-35 pilots. If successful, current training in the US could partly move to Italy.
It is the two countries’ intention that this first group of pilots represent the starting point for an extended cooperation in the years to come. The Dutch visited Lecce earlier this year.
The instructor and the two students will follow the standard training programs of the Italian military pilots. The training system is already acknowledged and appreciated by other countries, which have sent their personnel to train at the Lecce-Galatina school. Austria is one of those countries
— Aeronautica Militare (@ItalianAirForce) 10 mei 2015
The Italian training program was recently reconfigured to catch up with operational and technological advances. The flight training school at Lecce, also known as 61 Stormo, this week changed it’s logo from a penguin to a more aggressive, bird-like emblem to suite the change. More on the Italian training recipe is here.
The M-346 trainer (called T-346 by the Italian Air Force), is evaluated with great interest by several air forces that plan to operate new-generation aircraft. The type is in use in Italy, Singapore and Israel, with Poland set to join.
Dutch pilot training starts on the Pilatus PC-7, after which student pilots usually move to the US for training on the T-38 Talon. For that part, the Dutch now eye the M-346 with the Italians.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The M-346 advanced training jet (Image © Dennis Spronk)