The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has become the third international customer of the International Flight Training School (IFTS) in Italy.

Following a technical agreement signed between the Italian air force and the JASDF, Japanese pilots will take part in advanced training courses at the school, says Leonardo, a partner in the venture.

M-346 IFTS

Source: Leonardo

An M-346 sporting the IFTS logo

“Signing today the technical arrangement, I deeply appreciate your and your staff’s extensive support and cooperation,” says JASDF chief General Shunji Izutsu.

“I believe that this is a significant step to deepen defence cooperation and exchanges between the Koku-Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) and Italian air force.”

The school’s other customers are Germany and Qatar.

Following a series of discussions, JASDF officials visited the IFTS location at Italy’s Lecce-Galatina air base in September 2020, and saw at first hand Leonardo’s integrated training system centred on the M-346 (designated T-346A in Italian air force service) advanced jet trainers.

Without giving specific numbers, Leonardo says the number of Japanese students at the school will gradually increase in the coming years, and that Japanese instructors could also work there.

The IFTS is run by Leonardo and the Italian air force. The school also involves an industrial partnership between Leonardo and CAE related to aircraft and simulators.

The school’s fleet is expected to grow to 22 M-346s. In addition to its first branch at Galatina, a second branch at Sardinia’s Decimomannu air force base is under construction.

In early September, Japan’s defence ministry issued a request for tenders related the replacement of Tokyo’s fleet of Fuji T-7 basic trainers and Kawasaki T-4 intermediate trainers.