Israel has formalised its plans to operate a fleet of 30 M-346 advanced jet trainers, with the nation's defence ministry having signed a formal contract on 19 July with Italian manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi.

"The deal is part of a larger government-to-government agreement between Israel and Italy that includes aircraft, engines, maintenance, logistics, simulators and training, provided also by other Israeli and international companies," Alenia Aermacchi says.

 M-346 - Alenia Aermacchi

Alenia Aermacchi

First aircraft deliveries will be made in mid-2014, with the M-346 to replace the Israeli air force's Douglas TA-4 Skyhawk trainers. The aircraft and related equipment are to be acquired by an Elbit Systems/Israel Aerospace Industries joint venture dubbed TOR Systems using private sector funding, with access to be leased to the service.

"This achievement is an outstanding success for Italy, both at an institutional and industrial level," says Alenia Aermacchi chief executive Giuseppe Giordo. The Finmeccanica company has valued the contract as being worth $1 billion, with its share to be "around $600 million".

Israel will follow Italy and Singapore in operating the M-346, with the latter nations having so far signed orders to acquire six and 12 aircraft, respectively. Alenia Aermacchi also still hopes to finalise a deal with the United Arab Emirates, which selected the type in 2009 for a 48-unit requirement.

Source: Flight International