Leonardo and Wojskowe Zak?ady Lotnicze Nr 1 (WZL1) have signed a contract for the long-term support of the Polish Air Force (PLAF) M-346 Beilik fleet of advanced jet trainers. WZL1 will coordinate the entire process, complementing and supporting areas where Leonardo is not involved. Under the agreement, the partners will further increase fleet availability to meet the PLAF’s growing needs for training combat pilots. Leonardo, as the manufacturer of the M-346 jet, will look after engineering support services while WZL1 will act as main contractor. Leonardo also cooperates with WZL1 on separate agreements in the process of training and establishing maintenance and repair competencies at WZL1’s headquarters to support the operation of M-346 aircraft with the AJT system.
The Aermacchi M-346 Master is a family of military twin-engine transonic advanced jet trainers and light combat aircraft. Originally co-developed with Yakovlev as the Yak/AEM-130, the partnership was dissolved in 2000 and then Alenia Aermacchi proceeded to separately develop the M-346 Master, while Yakolev continued work on the Yakovlev Yak-130. The first flight of the M-346 was performed in 2004. The type is currently operated by the air forces of Italy, Israel, Singapore, and Poland. Since 2016 the manufacturer became Leonardo-Finmeccanica as Alenia Aermacchi merged into the new Finmeccanica, finally rebranded as Leonardo in 2017.
Poland is, besides Italy, the only European user of the Alenia Aermacchi M346 Master advanced jet trainer which is developed in order to economically produce pilot’s training, and which features a cockpit layout resembling the cockpits utilized in case of the F-16C/D Fighting Falcon, Eurofighter Typhoon or even the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. The Polish Air Force M436s are operated by the 48. Eskadra Lotnicza (48.el)/4. Skrzyd?o Lotnictwa Szkolnego (4.SLSz, 4th Flying Training Wing) at Dêblin air base. Poland’s M-346 “Bielik” system has been certified by the U.S. Air Force for the training of fourth and fifth generation fighter pilots, an important milestone that has enabled Poland to train many of its students at home rather than abroad.
On 23 December 2013, it was announced that Poland had selected the M-346 to meet a requirement for an advanced jet trainer. A contract for eight aircraft was signed on 27 February 2014. The first two M-346s arrived at Deblin in November 2016. The delivery deadline was originally November 2016, but delays meant delivery and acceptance was not complete until 22 December 2017. In December 2017, Poland’s Ministry of National Defence announced it was seeking financial penalties from Leonardo of up to 100 million zlotys (U.S. $28 million) over the delays. In March 2018, Poland had signed for an additional four aircraft and support package, plus options for a further four aircraft, and a support package.