The Israeli Air Force now has its full complement of 30 Leonardo Finmeccanica M-346 Lavi advanced jet trainers operational. The final one has been commissioned this week.
With the new jets, the skies of Israel will be free of the Skyhawk – the legendary A-4 that was the Lavi’s predecessor after having been commissioned in the 1960s.
The commissioning of the full 30 jets – known in Italy as the Master – went with some bad mouthing on the biggest competitor: the Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 Golden Eagle. “At the end of the day, the Italian plane was better than the Korean one. We choose wisely for the Lavi,” Israel’s head of procurement of the Ministry of Defence – Shmuel Tzuker, said to The Times of Israel.
USA’s T-X program
An interesting remark, since a derivative of the T-50 is also in the running to replace the US Air Force’s Northrop T-38 Talon advanced jet fighters. This Lockheed Martin/KIA T-50A is also facing the heat of the M-346, enroled in the USA’s T-X program as the Raytheon/Leonardo Finmeccanica T-100. According to Israel the M-346 is better in quality of training, safety, maintenance, specs and costs of operation.
So far, 68 M-346 Lead-In Fighter Trainer versions have been ordered by the air forces of Italy (18), Singapore (12), Israel (30) and Poland (8). But there are new markets at the horizon.
A noticeable development which may also interest countries like Israel and Poland is the recently presented armed version of the Italian advanced trainer. At the 2016 Farnborough International Airshow Leonardo Finmeccanica showed of its M-346FT (Fighter Trainer) with light multi-role capabilities including laser guided bombs and air-to-air missiles. Airheadsfly.com already went inside deep at Lecce Airbase, aka the Master’s nest.
Israeli Air Force (IAF) flight school students flew the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Lavi for the first time this week at Hatzerim airbase, six months after the first aircraft arrived in Israel. During the occasion, it was remarked that the M-346 will continue to be used ‘for as long as the IAF carries out manned flights’.
The M-346 is operated in Israel by 102 ‘the Flying Tigers’ squadron and replaces the A-4 Skyhawk, which has been in service for 40 years. Student pilots prepared for their flights in new simulators, part of a Flight Training Center for the M-346. The new aircraft and its associated training systems are regarded as one of the most advanced training programs in the world.
“This is a historical and exciting event”, said Captain Alon, commander of the first class to fly on the new type. “The M-346 holds advanced capabilities similar to those of the F-15 and F-16, and will better prepare the pilot cadets for their work in the squadrons.”
The Israeli’s have 30 M-346s on order, with eight so far delivered. The type is also ordered – or already used – by Italy, Singapore and Poland.
The opening of ‘a new era in the training of fighter pilots’. That’s what the Israeli Air Force (IAF) had to say about the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master (named Lavi in Israel) as the fifth aircraft arrived at its new home base on Thursday 6 November.
The M-346 is operated in Israel by 102 ‘the Flying Tigers’ squadron at Hatzerim airbase. The first two aircraft arrived there last July. Since then, the IAF opened a new Flight Training Center, which follows up on the M-346 concept. “It’s not just a plane, it is part of a new system”, according the IAF officials. Israel has 30 Lavi aircraft on order, with the last one to arrive in 2016.
After Italy (15), Singapore (12) and Israel (30), Poland recently became the fourth customer to order the M-346. The Polish contract of 8 raised the number of M-346 aircraft ordered to date to 56. The aircraft is already in service with the Italian and the Republic of Singapore Air Forces.