Preparations are being made to familiarize the first Dutch and Polish Air Force pilots with the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master in Italy. The first Dutch instructor pilot in fact started flying the advanced trainer aircraft last week, while the first Polish instructor starts training in November, it was revealed during an Alenia Aermacch-organized media event at the Italian flight training school in Lecce. The first class of four Italian student pilots now also flies the M-346.
The Dutch pilot is to be followed by two Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) student pilots who will use the M-346 for their Phase 4 Lead in Fighter Training (LIFT), the last stage before they begin flying the F-16, or its successor, the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. The RNLAF has committed to trying out the M-346 for Phase 4 for at least a year.
The first Polish instructor – the first of 16 in total – starts training at the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 production facility in Venegono. Later on, Polish training should also move to Lecce. Poland has eight M-346 trainers on order, the first of which is scheduled for delivery in 2016. In the future, the Polish will use the M-346 for flight training at Deblin airbase themselves.
Meanwhile, Alenia Aermacchi is looking to expand M-346’s capabilities, transforming the aircraft into a dual-role platform. At the request of Poland, an added air-to-ground capability for the aircraft is being explored. That version should be able to carry and deliver free-fall bombs, JDAMs, laser guided bombs, a gun pod and rocket launchers.
The Italian company now also markets the M-346 as a ‘companion’ trainer alongside modern fighter like the Typhoon and F-35. A companion trainer offers operational training to frontline pilots while at the same time saving valuable flight hours on expensive frontline jets. The Dutch have shown interest in this concept. The M-346 version – designated T-100 – Alenia Aermacchi is about to offer to the US Air Force as a replacement for the T-38 trainer under the T-X program, should be even more suitable as a companion trainer. More powerful engines and a large MFD in the cockpit should make it resemble an F-35 even more.
Also, the Italian Air Force now uses the M-346 in an aggressor role, providing Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) to Typhoon pilots. Foremost, the first class of Italian Air Force student pilots began Phase 4 flight training at Lecce last week on the M-346.
An extensive feature on the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 and Italian and international flight training at Lecce, is to follow soon at Airheadsfly.com.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): An Alenia Aermacchi M-346 at Lecce. (Image © Elmer van Hest)