The Italian Air Force has accepted its first Alenia Aermacchi M-346 trainer from an initial six-unit order. The advanced jet trainer will commence flight testing with the Air Force next year as the T-346A.
“The acceptance of the first aircraft in the M-346 series, which will very soon be in service with the Italian Air Force, testifies to the success of Italian high-tech industry and represents the achievement of an undoubtedly important objective thanks to the efforts of all who work at Alenia Aermacchi”, said Giuseppe Giordo, CEO of Alenia Aeronautica and Alenia Aermacchi, and head of Finmeccanica’s Aeronautics division.
“This handover highlights our longstanding and constructive collaboration, going back many years, with the Air Force. We are also proud to be able to supply the pilots of our country’s air force, who are among the best-trained in the world, with a next-generation trainer”.
The first T-346A, to be followed shortly by a second, will initially be assigned to the Flight Test Unit at the Pratica di Mare air base, where it will undergo operational tests. The Air Force will take delivery of the other four aircraft and the associated ground-based training system by 2012, thus becoming the first air force in the world to have the use of a training line based on the M-346.
The contract, worth EUR 220 million, for the purchase by the air force of a first batch of six M-346 aircraft and a ground-based training system, was signed at the end of 2009, and the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 trainer received its military type certificate from the Italian Ministry of Defence’s certification office in June 2011. Such approval is an indispensable requirement if the aircraft is to be used in military operations.
In addition to the contract with the Italian Air Force, at the end of September 2010 Alenia Aermacchi signed the first international contract with the Republic of Singapore within the Fighter Wings Course (FWC) Program, which is aimed to replace the current fleet of trainers. Singapore has 12 aircraft on order. In February 2009, the M-346 was also selected by the United Arab Emirates for their new trainer requirement. However, the proposed deal for 48 aircraft has yet to progress to the contract stage.
Alenia Aermacchi hopes to close the deal and has sent one of the trainers to the UAE to participate in the Dubai air show.