The first two M-346 Masters for Poland, ordered in 2014 as the result of the Polish Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) tender, recently entered final assembly at Finmeccanica’s Venegono facility. They are the first of at least eight Italian made jet trainers for Poland, with more likely on the way. The first six pilots currently undergo training at the Italian Air Force’s 61 Wing at Lecce airbase.
To commemorate the progress made on the first two jets, general commander of the Polish Army Miroslaw Rozanski this week signed the fuselage of first Polish M-346 Master. The text on fuselage reads “from Italian to Polish land”, paraphrasing the Polish national anthem word and anticipating the actual delivery of the aircraft in November.
Four of the eight ordered M-346 Masters are already in various stages of final assembly. More pics showing M-346 production are here. Roll out and first flight of the first Polish Air Force M-346 are planned for May. With two expected in November, a further six should arrive in Dęblin airbase in 2017 in three batches of two.
The cockpits of Polish M-346s are optimised for F-16 training, with three MFDs arranged similarly to the F-16’s cockpit. Specific Polish features include a drag chute and a sliding cockpit curtain for IFR training. The jets will also be the first featuring an airframe-integrated P5 datalink pod.
Since eight aircraft look to be insufficient to support proper training in Dęblin, exercising an option for a further four is a strong possibility. If the whole training system works as expected, even twelve M-346s may not be enough. The Polish Air Force Academy says it is receiving many requests from foreign air forces about training fast jet pilots.
The new Masters are a massive leap forward from the 1960s-era and much-loved TS-11 Iskras. Full Mission Simulators and datalink capabilities should allow to significantly reduce costs of Lead-In Fighter Training (LIFT) and allow to move most of current Polish training in the US back to Poland.
An updated version of the M-346, designated T-100, is in the race to become the new jet trainer for the US Air Force. Finmeccanica has joined forces with Raytheon for the project.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com contributor Paweł Bondaryk
Featured image: The very first aircraft for Poland. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)