On Monday, May 23, during a flight piloted Lt. Col. Alessandro O., commander of the 212th Flight Group, the 61st Wing passed the milestone of the first 1,000 hours flown by the T-346 aircraft supplied to the air force., reported by www.aeronautica.difesa.it.
The main players of this significant event -the instructors of the 212th Group, students, specialists, Leonardo-Finmeccanica staff stationed in Galatina and a staff representative of the Flight School – celebrated the event.
The story of the T-346 in the Italian air force began in August 2014, when the first type qualifications were issued to the Wing’s pilots. On October 2 of the same year, the first training mission was flown on aircraft with a “temporary” registration by two of the school’s instructors. On Feb 26, 2015 Col. Paul Tarantino, the Commander of the School, took delivery at Venegono of the first of the production aircraft assigned to Galatina Air Base.
ITAF designated the M-346 as T-346A which made its maiden flight in March 2011.
This was followed by the training of the school’s instructors which continued until October 8, when the first Phase IV students, the Lead In Fighter Training (LIFT) candidates, began flying on the aircraft – ground courses had started in the previous August).
Since last November, the school has also started training pilots of the Polish Air Force, which has also acquired the T-346.
The M-346 Master is an advanced and lead-in fifth-generation fighter trainer being developed by Alenia Aermacchi (Italy), a Finmeccanica company. The aircraft is a development of the YAK/AEM-130, a joint programme with Yakolev Design Bureau and Sokol Manufacturing Plant of Russia. In July 2000, Alenia Aermacchi announced that it would cancel the joint project and develop the aircraft alone, as the M-346.
The M-346 provides combat pilot training for front line fighters with high angle-of-attack capability. The aerodynamic design of the M-346 uses vortex lift to provide manoeuvrability and controllability at very high angle-of-attack using a fly-by-wire control system.
The YAK/AEM-130 has flown in prototype form since 1996. As the Yak-130, the aircraft was selected in March 2002 as the Russian AF’s next generation combat trainer.