Leonardo Finmeccanica rolled out the first of eight M-346 Master trainer jets for Poland on Monday 6 June. The aircraft was unveiled at the Leonardo Finmeccanica production site in Venegono, home of all production for the M-346.
The jet wears a two tone camouflage and the emblem of Dêblin airbase below its windshield. The Polish M-346s will be based at Dêblin, where they replace the TS-11 Iskras that have been in use for many decades.
The Masters will prepare future jet pilots for F-16 operations. The first jet will now undergo a flight test program to certify bespoke systems chosen by the Polish Air Force, such as the brake parachute. It will then be delivered to Poland by the end of the year along with a second aircraft. Deliveries will be completed by November 2017.
The M-346 is a product of Alenia Aermacchi, now part of Leonardo Aircraft and part of Leonardo Finmeccanica, and so far has been ordered by the Air Forces of Italy (18), Singapore (12), Israel (30) and Poland (8) for a total of 68 orders. A follow on order from Poland seems likely.
The Italian Air Force reached 1,000 flying hours on the Leonardo Finmeccanica T-346 this week. This milestone was celebrated by instructor pilots, students and other crew of 212 squadron at Lecce airbase in southern Italy.
The 1K hours were clocked since August 2014, when the first T-346 Masters arrived in Lecce. At first the type was used to train instructor pilots, who in turn started to use the jets to train student pilots in October 2015. The Italian Air Force uses the T-346 as a phase IV trainer, which prepares students for the the final step towards fast combat jets.
The first four Italian student have now completed phase IV training on the T-346. Meanwhile, Dutch pilots are also using the Italian made jet for training. A new version of the T-346, marked T-100, is being pitched as the next fast jet trainer for the US Air Force.
For the first time in history the Italian Air Force has used their new Finmeccanica / FNM Aeronautics (fka Alenia Aermacchi) T-346A Masters in the final stage (Phase IV) of the Lead-in Fighter Training (LIFT).
Under the guidance of the Test and Standardization Division at Decimomannu Airbase, the 212th Group of 61 Wing (212° Gruppo / 61° Stormo) executed various missions, including air-to-ground combat, with the new advanced trainer marketed by its maker as the M-346.
Pilots flew both high and low angle mission profiles, engaged in air combat and did that with several levels of difficulties, a statement of the Aeronautica Militare reads. Combat scenarios with targets both Within Visual Range (WVR) as well as Beyond Visual Range (BVR) were tried both during intercept as well as escort missions.
Commanders of the Italian Air Force think that with the T-346A Master they can not only better prepare future pilots for Operational Conversion Training and front-line units, they also feel they can do it quicker than with the older Alenia M-339C (FT339C) the new Masters are replacing.
The first Polish Air Force pilot flew his first flight on the Finmeccanica M-346 in Lecce, Italy, last week. The flight marks the beginning of many more flight hours on the M-346 in Polish service. First deliveries of the type to Poland are scheduled for November.
Polish personnel started ground school in Lecce last November, first using Finmeccanica’s elaborated ground based training system associated with the M-346, which is called T-346 in Italian service.
The Polish will use the jet trainer all the way until phase 4 training, also known as Lead In Fighter Training (LIFT), the last step until converting to high performance jets like the F-16 and F-35
Lecce currently offers flight training to student pilots from Italy, Austria, Greece, Kuwait, the Netherlands and Poland. Click here for a full report on training at this airbase in southern Italy.