Leonardo M346 – Effective and Proven

More than 100,000 flight hours achieved by the global fleet

Leonardo M346 market sales orders
Italian Air Force T-346A advanced trainer jets.

Over the past decade, advanced training and light combat jets have gained a prominent place in the defense market. With the growing need by many nations to replace old trainer and combat fleets, LIFT-LCA platforms are now one of the first choices as they have low acquisition and maintenance costs.

Although many of today's light jets have yet to prove their effectiveness and have capabilities still under development, Leonardo's M-346 dual-role aircraft has already amply proven itself to be effective and reliable. It has already trained hundreds of fighter pilots, as well as being used in combat and Aggressor roles.

The excellent performance of the M-346 is often confirmed and appreciated by its users. Here is some feedback from officers from various armed forces.


In 2012, after ordering its F-35s, the air force recognized that it needed to replace its aging A-4 Skyhawk training aircraft with a new advanced high-performance trainer that would meet its modern needs.

"We looked for an actual trainer," said Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Ido Nehushtan, the commander in chief of the Israeli Air Force at the time of the procurement. "Flight safety is absolutely a priority and the aircraft needed to show best value for money for the whole package of training.

"We went to the market and looked at the different candidates. We decided on 150 different criteria of comparison and flew each and every one of the options."

Brig. Gen. (Res.) Shmuel Tzucker, the former head of Israeli Ministry of Defense procurement and production administration, says that selecting the right training aircraft was a crucial decision for such an advanced air force.

"We decided to take the Leonardo M-346 because we found, at the end of the day, it was the best aircraft. Thirty aircraft we ordered for delivery over two years," he said.

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Lt. Maciej Grzywa, pilot and future instructor at the Polish Air Force said in an interview that he dreamed of flying front-line fighter aircraft before being assigned to training jets, however, the extraordinary performance of the M-346 Bielik offers to him the same satisfactions.

"I don't regret the fighters because flying the Bielik is extremely satisfying […] The aircraft moves smoothly in the air, is agile, fast and has great acceleration. I still remember how I was impressed by one of the first aggressive maneuvers. Right after take off, I went up at a 35 degree angle. It was amazing! I've never done anything like this before," he said.

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The Polish Air Force Flight Training School in Deblin has also received a certificate from the US Air Force confirming that the M-346 Bielik training system for F-16 pilots is equivalent to US training in the T-38 Talon.

"We have met the requirements imposed by the United States for the training of pilots of fourth and fifth generation aircraft. This was a huge success for our staff," Major Pilot Mariusz Fischer, M-346 Bielik instructor, said. The Americans greatly appreciated the M-346.

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Leonardo M346 market sales orders


The Italian Air Force has underlined several times how the introduction of the M-346 has revolutionized its flight training process. The M-346 has taken over many of the activities that were previously carried out by the Operational Conversion Unit with the Eurofighter Typhoon, allowing a considerable saving of money in the training of young pilots.

Thanks to its valuable capabilities, the M-346 has become the backbone of the International Flight Training School (IFTS). The IFTS is the result of a strategic collaboration between the Italian Air Force and Leonardo aimed to create an advanced flight training centre based in Italy. It is a virtuous example of collaboration and public-private synergy, capable of satisfying the growing demand of partner countries for the training of their pilots at highest standards. The partnership between Italian Air Force and Leonardo combined the Air Force's established know-how and Leonardo's excellence in military pilot integrated training systems maximizing cost-effectiveness for Italian Air Force, whilst strengthening the international role played by Leonardo as a Training Service Provider.

The first international customers were the Qatar Emiri Air Force, the German Air Force, the Japan Air Self Defense Force and the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

On 4 July the IFTS project marked a new major milestone when pilots of the Italian Air Force and foreign partners, including Qatar and Singapore, began the first phase IV course at Decimomannu Air Base, Sardinia. Meanwhile, two pilots of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and the first six students of the Qatar Emiri Air Force have concluded phase IV of the Advanced/Lead-In to Fighter Training programme.


In 2021, during the presentation of the first quarter results, Leonardo announced the finalization of an important contract for the export of some M-346 aircraft. The company later confirmed that it had received an order from Qatar for 6 aircraft. Four of them have already been delivered while the remaining 2 are scheduled for delivery by the end of the year.

In addition, the Greek Ministry of Defense has signed a contract with the Israeli Ministry of Defense to provide, through Elbit Systems, training for the country's aviation pilots, including the acquisition of 10 M-346 jets.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: Italian Air Force, Leonardo

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