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Assembly work begins on first Polish M-346

Early assembly work is under way on the first Alenia Aermacchi M-346 advanced/lead-in fighter trainer destined to be delivered to the Polish air force in November 2016, as part of a €280 million ($383 million) deal.

Speaking at the MSPO defence show in Kielce, Poland, the Italian airframer says it ordered long lead-time items, such as the aircraft's Honeywell F124 engines, shortly after the order was confirmed in February 2014.

Warsaw has ordered eight M-346s, plus associated simulators and other training equipment. However, Alenia Aermacchi says Poland is considering increasing its commitment to 12 aircraft, as it eyes the potential to train pilots from outside its borders at its Deblin air base.

"They see they can train not just their own pilots but those of other countries as well – from eastern Europe and nations like Bulgaria and Romania too," the airframer says. Closer co-operation on training between the Polish air force and its Italian counterpart is also envisioned, the company adds.

Poland's initial cadre of six M-346 pilot instructors will begin transitioning to the type in early 2016 at Alenia Aermacchi's facility in Venegono, Italy. The airframer says it plans to induct three groups of two pilots each.

The M-346s will replace the Polish air force's fleet of 38 aged PZL Mielec-produced TS-11 Iskras.

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