Aerospace and defence company Leonardo delivered the first two M-345 jet trainer aircraft to the Italian Air Force, which to-date has ordered 18 units from a total requirement for up to 45 aircraft. The new type, designated T-345A by the Italian Air Force, will gradually replace the 137 MB-339s which have been in service since 1982. The Italian Air Force’s acquisition of the new aircraft is an important step forward in the modernization of its fleet, with the M-345 replacing the MB-339A in Air Force’s second and third military pilot training phases. The M-345 has also been chosen as the new aircraft of the Italian Air Force’s acrobatic team, the “Frecce Tricolori”.
Marco Zoff, Leonardo Aircraft Managing Director, said: “Building on our heritage and expertise in jet trainers, the M-345 will allow our customers to achieve a significant improvement in training effectiveness while at the same time reducing operating costs. This first delivery to the Italian Air Force is a key milestone, the result of a longstanding and productive team working closely together with the operator.”
The new M-345, designed to meet basic and basic-advanced training requirements, will complement the in-service M-346, which is used for advanced pilot training. Leonardo’s integrated training system developed around the M-345 platform, is representative of the company’s technological leadership in training pilots to fly current and future generation aircraft. The system benefits from experience with, and technology developed for, the M-346, which includes a “Live Virtual Constructive” capability. This allows aircraft which are flying live training missions to incorporate simulated “friend” or “foe” elements into scenarios, allowing the pilot to be exposed to the full range of possible operational situations.
The M-345’s engine is a Williams FJ44-4M-34 turbofan optimised for military and aerobatic use. The cockpit is based on HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) controls and features a glass cockpit with a three-colour MFD (Multi-function Display) touch screen. The aircraft’s heads-up display is mirrored on a fourth screen in the rear seat. A sophisticated on-board training simulator confers a number of benefits. For instance, M-345 pilots are able to plan maneuvers before live training, allowing for higher efficiency during flight. Trainees are also able to fly in formation with other pilots in the air and those training on the ground in simulators, via a real-time data-link.