Portugal eyes Leonardo M-346 for pilot training

Portugal eyes M-346 pilot training
Portugal eyes Leonardo M-346 for pilot training.

Portugal is considering leasing an advanced trainer aircraft from an external provider to train pilots of the Portuguese Air Force. The operation involves the purchase by the contractor of the Leonardo M-346 advanced trainer jet.

The nation has struggled with training its fighter pilots since the Alpha Jets' retirement in early 2018, sending some crews to the United States as an interim solution.

In early January, General Manuel Teixeira Rolo, Chief of the Portuguese Air Force, said the US option is not viable in the long term and that they are considering a "power by the hour" contract with a local provider.

Rolo identifies Lisbon-based leasing specialist Hi Fly as the company involved. While the sister military business SkyTech would acquire and operate the aircraft.

The involvement of other partner countries will be essential for the success of the project. Rolo hopes that Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway can also join the initiative.

All three countries currently use the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Belgium and the Netherlands will soon switch to the F-35. Consequently, the project needs an advanced jet capable of training pilots for fourth and fifth generation aircraft.

Rolo believes the M-346 is the prime candidate for the role, although he doesn't rule out other options.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: Italian Air Force

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