Leonardo has signed a contract with the Armaments and Airworthiness Department of the Italian Ministry of Defence for the supply of 13 M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer) aircraft, for a total value of €300 million. This follows an initial contract for five aircraft, bringing the number of M-345 trainers ordered by Italy to 18. The contract includes ground-based training systems and a five-year logistics support package.

Lucio Valerio Cioffi, managing director of Leonardo Aircraft Division, said: “With its high performance and advanced integrated training system, the M-345 will significantly improve the effectiveness of the Air Force’s training, improve efficiency and reduce operating costs. The new aircraft, the first of which is expected to be delivered in 2020, will join the Air Force’s fleet of 18 twin-engine Aermacchi M-346s based at the Italian Air Force’s Galatina base near Lecce in the Southern Italy, which have already been delivered to provide the advanced phase of pilot training.”

The Italian Air Force has identified a requirement for around 45 M-345 aircraft (designated the T-345A) to progressively replace its fleet of 137 MB-339s, that have been in service since 1982, and to become the new platform of Italy’s National Aerobatic Team (Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (PAN).

The first production aircraft successfully performed its maiden flight on December 21, 2018.