Leonardo's M-346 gets new chances in Kuwait

Leonardo M-346 Kuwait
Leonardo M-346 advanced trainer jets.

According to British media outlet HullLive, the Kuwait government has interrupted negotiations with the British aerospace company BAE Systems for the purchase of the Hawk aircraft. Kuwait had previously shown interest in the British-made jet to launch the Air Training College to train pilots and technicians. The change of plans of Kuwait could be related to the interest that the nation has been showing for years towards Leonardo's advanced M-346 aircraft and the Italian Air Force flight training school. 

Kuwait officials have been able to test the skills of the Italian-made aircraft on various occasions. At the end of November 2018, the Italian Air Force flight school at the 61st Wing handed over military pilot licenses to seven Kuwait Air Force students after they successfully completed phase IV - LIFT flying the T-346A aircraft (Report here). During the same period, Italian Air Force and Leonardo SpA conducted a Middle East Tour with Frecce Tricolori, Eurofighter and T-346A to show the ability of Italian pilots and technology in Arab countries, including Kuwait City. Recently, at the beginning of July 2019, seven other Kuwaiti officials completed the flight course at the 61st Wing. 

This strong interest of Kuwait towards Italy certainly derives from the great opportunities at reasonable prices that Leonardo and ITAF can offer both with the M-346 and the International Flight Training School (IFTS).

M-346

The Aermacchi M-346 is currently considered the most advanced trainer jet in the world. It is a twin-engine, lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT), optimised for the final phase of training for future military pilots. The M-346 is specifically designed as an aircraft with excellent flight characteristics, it primarily aims at providing future pilots with adequate training at reasonable costs. The aircraft, despite being simple, represents next-generation fighter jets and has been chosen for pilot training in combat aircraft for the next 15 years.

The advanced jet, already in use by the air forces of Italy, Poland, Singapore and Israel, enables extraordinary performance thanks to a cutting-edge man-machine interface, advanced digital instrumentation, high manoeuvrability, voice commands and helmet mounted display. The M-346 can also simulate flight characteristics of other aircraft and replicate a series of sensors and weapons as if they were actually installed on the plane, making pilot training as realistic and complete as possible.

Moreover, it can also play the role of light combat aircraft thanks to the latest M-346FA (Fighter Attack) variant.

IFTS

The advanced M-346 trainer aircraft and the proven experience in training student pilots from all over the world make the 61st Wing of the Italian Air Force (ITAF) a training centre of excellence with international scope, intended to best train the pilots of the future.

The school in Galatina is a real academy that includes classrooms, simulators, mission planning and debriefing stations, and thanks to the new training syllabus the it has been developed to anticipate activities envisaged at operational conversion squadrons as much as possible and to prepare pilots to operate next-generation multirole aircraft, keeping operating costs low thanks to the use of various simulation systems.

The courses cover the basic and advanced pilot training phases within the Integrated Pilot Training System (IPTS) 2020.

The Aermacchi M-346, named T-346A by the ITAF, is an essential part of the Integrated Training Systems (ITS) for pre-operational training. In fact, the syllabus includes 180 training events, which envisage 50% of flight training on a real aircraft and 50% of ground based training with the aid of the simulator, thus allowing a significant reduction in costs.

Pilots on board the M-346 can develop the skills required to manage complex on-board systems, information and manoeuvrability of a high-performance aircraft, far before being assigned to operational squadrons.

The ITS ground segment, the Ground Based Training System (GBTS), includes a computer-based academic training system for self-learning, the Part Task Trainer (PTT) cockpit simulator to provide pilots with an 180° field of view and two Full Mission Simulators (FMS), advanced simulators providing pilots with 360° field of view, an ejection seat for a realistic training experience and the possibility of wearing a helmet equipped with a display integrated with the on-board instrumentation.

The key element of the integrated training system is the possibility of interconnecting several simulators to the aircraft in flight in real-time for assigned training sessions, during which one or more instructors within the simulator can perform joint missions with the students “up in the air”.

Other than the M-346, the Italian Air Force has already found a replacement for the other trainer jet used for the basic and advanced phases of pilot training: the Aermacchi MB-339A. It will be replaced by the new Aermacchi M-345 starting from 2020.

Written by Matteo Sanzani