Leonardo and Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze Nr 1 S.A. (WZL1), part of the PGZ Group, have signed a contract for the long-term support of the Polish Air Force M-346 Bielik fleet, improving the existing cooperation by allowing a further increase in fleet availability in order to meet Polish Air Force’s growing needs of training combat pilots.
Leonardo, as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), will be responsible for the engineering support services resulting from its role in the operation system and supply chain management. WZL1 will act as the main contractor, coordinating the entire process, complementing and supporting areas by which Leonardo is not directly involved. WZL1 is also responsible for direct cooperation with the end user.
Leonardo also cooperates with WZL1 on the basis of separate agreements, in the process of training and establishing maintenance and repair competences at WZL1 to support the operation of M-346 aircraft with the AJT system. The experience derived from the support system for the operation of the global fleet of M-346 aircraft aims to guarantee the entire Logistics Support System of Bielik high process efficiency and technical and logistic support in the training system.
Dario Marfè, SVP Commercial and Customer Services at Leonardo Aircraft Division, said: “With more than 100,000 hours flown, the cutting-edge M-346 has cemented its position as the world’s best advanced jet trainer for today’s and tomorrow’s fighter pilots. At the forefront of jet training technology, the M-346 will continue to represent the best way to develop a fighter pilot’s skills for decades to come. This agreement strengthens Leonardo’s partnership with WZL1, creating new opportunities to transfer additional activities in Poland, in accordance with a proven and flexible logistic support model that Leonardo has established in several countries, which foresees a transfer of capabilities to local defence industries.”
In February 2014, the Polish Air Force chose the M-346 as the successor to the legendary TS-11 Iskra training aircraft. Then in November 2018, in a ceremony at the Polish Air Force’s 4th Air Training Wing in Dęblin, the M–346 received the official name Bielik in Polish service. Since its introduction into the Polish Air Force fleet, the M-346 has been assigned to the 41st Training Air Base in Dęblin. The current fleet of 16 aircraft is the result of two additional batches after Poland’s initial choice.
Poland's M-346 Bielik system has also been certified by the US Air Force for the training of fourth and fifth generation fighter pilots, an important milestone that has enabled Poland to train many of its students at home rather than abroad.
More than 100 M-346 aircraft have been ordered by major international air forces including those of Italy, Israel, Poland, Singapore, Qatar, and Greece. The aircraft is also the backbone of the International Flight Training School (IFTS), a collaboration between Leonardo and the Italian Air Force, which has already been selected by Japan, Germany, Qatar, and Singapore.