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The Leonardo M-346 is a twin-engine advanced jet trainer which began life as a joint project between Alenia Aermacchi of Italy and Yakovlev of Russia. The project eventually split resulting in the visually similar M-346 and Yak-130. The highly advanced systems of the M-346 are able to simulate the radar and weapon systems of any western combat aircraft. In addition, instructors flying simulators on the ground will appear as virtual aircraft on the systems of M-346s in the air allowing for mock dogfights and combat training without the expense of always requiring a second aggressor aircraft. The M-346 has been chosen by multiple nations as their new advanced trainer and an armed version has also been developed which has been ordered by Nigeria and Turkmenistan.
The Italian Air Force operate the M-346 as the T-346A in the advanced jet trainer role. The air force operates a core fleet of 18 aircraft and serve as the final stage in training before pilots move on to the frontline. Italy has also set up the International Flight Training School in conjunction with Leonardo which uses both the 18 Italian aircraft plus 4 owned by Leonardo. The school moved to Sicily in 2022 and currently trains pilots from Qatar, Japan, Germany, Singapore, Austria, Canada, UK and Saudi Arabia.
We are pleased to announce that the Italian Air Force are providing their T-346A solo display for this year's Air Tattoo. Flown by test pilots from the 311° Gruppo Volo known as the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Experimental Flight Unit), the aircraft will be displaying as part of our celebration of the centenary of the Italian Air Force. Photo Credit: Peter Van Loey