Leonardo M345 wears Italian Air Force livery

M345 Italian Air Force livery
An M345 trainer jet in Italian Air Force livery lands at Leonardo plant in Venegono Superiore after a Functional Check Flight (Photo Credit: Gianluca Galli).

At the beginning of June 2020, Leonardo officially began the Functional Check Flights of the first series aircraft that will be delivered shortly to the Italian Air Force. These jets wear the livery of the Italian Air Force as shown by the image taken by Gianluca Galli on 11 June 2020 outside the Leonardo plant in Venegono Superiore, northern Italy.

The operational livery marks the maturity of the aircraft that is ready to enter the fleet of the Italian Air Force flight school at the 61st Wing in Galatina AFB, southern Italy.

Currently the flight line of the 61st Wing is composed of three different aircraft (MB-339A, FT-339C and T-346A), but soon it will be standardized first to two aircraft (T-345 and T-346), then to a single aircraft (T-345) as the T-346 fleet will move to Decimomannu AFB, Sardinia, under the International Flight Training School (IFTS). The T-345 will inherit the role of the MB-339 and will become the backbone of the Galatina flight school, offering superior capabilities at low operating costs.

The M-345 is able to guarantee optimal training performance thanks to a modern avionics and a training package that includes flight simulators and other teaching aids on the ground and an integrated simulation system on board.

M-345’s avionics feature the latest human-machine interface with HOTAS controls, Head-Up Displays (HUD), Multi-Function Displays (MFD), while the on board Embedded Tactical Training Simulation (ETTS) system allows the whole spectrum of simulated training functions in flight with a link to a LVC, Live Virtual, Constructive environment.

Basically, it means that the system allows the aircraft in the air to integrate with other simulated "good" or "bad" aircraft, allowing students to deal with any possible operational scenario.

The T-345 will be used in phase II “Basic Training” and phase III “Advanced Training” anticipating to students the systems and avionics that they will find later in the T-346A (during phase IV “Lead In to Fighter Training”) thus benefiting from a continuity of training between the two platforms.

The leaders of the Italian Air Force have estimated a need of about 45 M-345s for the replacement of the MB-339 fleets of the flight school and the Frecce Tricolori of which 18 jets have been ordered to date.

The M-345 is also observed with great interest by several foreign countries such as Canada, Thailand and Africa.

However, the M-345 is much more than a jet trainer, thanks to its modern avionics, high external load capacity (more than 1,000 kg, 4 under-wing pylons) and performance, the aircraft is also suited for operational roles, with the capability to employ weapons like IR air-to-air missiles, gun pod, rockets and 500 lb class bombs.

Written by Matteo Sanzani

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