A special event was held at the International Pilot Training Center at 120 ATW Kalamata, where representatives of the Greek Government and the Ministry of Defense, the Hellenic Air Force, as well as representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the Israeli Air Force and Elbit Systems, welcomed the two first M-346, the modern training aircraft that will undertake the training and familiarization of the Air Force’s new generation of Icari to the requirements of modern fighter jets. The two M–346s are the first of 10 aircrafts expected under the Government-to-Government agreement between the Hellenic and Israeli Defense Ministries, with Elbit Systems undertaking the creation of an International Flight Training Center at 120 ATW Kalamata. The aircraft are equipped with Elbit Systems’ integrated virtual avionics that simulate combat and flight scenarios in order to bring the training experience of the pilots to the highest level. The M-346 aircraft are expected to fly thousands of hours per year.
Present at the 120 ATW Kalamata ceremony were the Minister of Defense, Mr. Nikos Panagiotopoulos, Deputy Minister of National Defense of Greece, Mr. Nikos Chardalias, the Chief of the General Staff of the National Defense, General Konstantinos Floros, the Chief of the General Staff of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Themistoklis Bourolias, the Head of SIBAT, the IMoD International Defense Cooperation Directorate, Brig.-Gen. Yair Kulas, the head of the Israel Air Force Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar, Mr. Rani Kril, Executive Vice President International Marketing and Business Development and Mr. Yoram Shmuely, General Manager of Elbit Systems Aerospace. Also present was the Ambassador of Israel in Greece, Mr. Noam Katz, as well as representatives of the Hellenic air forces, and representatives of the region and the local government from Kalamata and the wider area of Messinia.
Manufactured by Leonardo, the M-346 is a twin-engine, tandem-seat aircraft with fully digital flight controls and avionics. It is equipped with a fly-by-wire control system and has an interface with Head-Up Displays (HUD).The training systems features integrated on-board technology that simulates tactical training and is completed by the Ground Based Training System that optimizes fleet and simulator management. The handling of the M-346 is similar to that of next-generation combat aircraft maximizing the flight training of pilots. Since the launch of the International Flight Training Center in 2021, the project is ahead of schedule, with the progress achieved praised by both the Defense Ministries of Greece and Israel. During a recent visit to Greece, Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant praised the project, saying that “The International Education Center at the Kalamata airbase is an excellent example” of the growing defense ties between the two countries.
The fleet of T-6 aircraft now benefit from 100% logistic availability supported by the Logistics Center established at the airbase to provide ongoing technical support. In addition, the first training building has been completed and within the first half of 2023, the advanced flight simulators as well as ground and fleet control and communication systems are expected to be installed. The work has been based on the extensive experience that the Company has gathered from various programs around the world. The Israeli Ministry Of Defense has contracted Elbit Systems for handling several training fleets for the IAF – including the Grob G120, the Bell 206, AW119 helicopters, the Texan T-6A basic trainer fleet and the M-346 advanced jet trainer fleet; the Israeli Ministry of Public Security also contracted the Company for the delivery, operation and maintenance of Israel’s Air Tractor aerial firefighting fleet. In 2016 Affinity, an Elbit Systems JV, was contracted to procure, operate and maintain the Phenom 100, Beechcraft T-6 and GROB G-120TP fleets of the UK MFTS for the Royal Air Force. These bring the total number of aircraft operated by Elbit Systems to over 170.
Director of SIBAT, the IMoD International Defense Cooperation Directorate, Brig-Gen (res.) Yair Kulas: “We thank our counterparts at the Hellenic Ministry of National Defense for our ongoing defense and industrial cooperation and for their confidence in Israeli defense industries. Today marks an important milestone for the International Training Center, and we are proud to take part in this event together with our close partners.”
Yoram Shmuely, General Manager of Elbit Systems Aerospace: “We are proud to provide the Hellenic Airforce with leading training centers and capabilities. The landing of the first two planes at the International Training Center in Kalamata is a significant milestone for not only Elbit Systems, but for the growing strategic relationship between Israel and Greece.”
The Minister of Defense, Mr. Nikos Panagiotopoulos: “The new International Flight Training Center is the result of many efforts by the Greek State, the Ministry of National Defense, in order to achieve the best possible solution for the training of new pilots of the Greek Air Force. The Israeli side and Elbit Systems offered the most adaptable and understandable approach in the field of flight training. Our ambition is that the International Flight Training Center will provide basic, advanced and operational flight training to all airmen and over a period of 22 years using T-6 and M-346 aircraft. The most important thing is that this will bring revenue to the Greek Air Force and international prestige to the training center since the International Flight Training Center is indeed the biggest agreement and the most strategic project in the field of defense cooperation between Greece and Israel to date.”
The Chief of the General Air Staff, Lieutenant General Themistocles Bourolias: “In the new era, when the demand for high quality air training is constantly increasing worldwide, the foundation of the International Center will undoubtedly offer to the Hellenic Air Force enormous potential, enhancing its role in the international military aviation scene and placing it among the military aviation elite as well as in this sensitive domain of modern, comprehensive and realistic training. The new training aircraft that we welcome today and the International Flight Training Center in Kalamata constitute important steps in modernizing air training, which is the basis of the function and effectiveness of the Hellenic Air Force. We aspire to provide our Airmen, in the air and on the ground, adequate air training and professional expertise on modern aircraft systems and simulators, producing quality warriors that will ensure a gentle transition to next aircraft generation, assimilating the new technology and air culture effortlessly.”
The Chief of the General Staff of the National Defense, General Konstantinos Floros: “The International Flight Training Center at 120 ATW Kalamata will offer our pilots and the pilots of our allies, partners and friends theoretical and in-flight training that will enable their smooth transition to their combat wings. This project effectively underlines the excellent cooperation between Greece, Israel and Italy, who share the same vision for peace, security and stability, in our common neighborhood, the East Med and beyond. It is such de facto multilateral cooperation plans that we are looking for and these are the mutual benefits that we want to achieve not only for our countries, allies, partners and friends, but also for the wider region! I would like to thank and congratulate everyone who worked to successfully achieve today’s very important milestone. I am extremely optimistic about the bright joint training future of our Air Force!”