The Israeli air force is to name its Alenia Aermacchi M-346 advanced jet trainer the 'Lavi', re-using the name previously carried by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) fighter developed in the 1980s and scrapped because of heavy US opposition.
The first of 30 M-346s is due to be delivered to Israel in 2014, with its arrival expected to transform the air force's fast jet training system.
Currently Israeli fighter pilots undergo the advanced stage of their flight course using the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk and Lockheed Martin F-16A/B. Following the introduction of the new type, students will instead fly the M-346 Lavi, which will be operated by the "Flying Dragon" squadron at the air force academy at Hazerim air base.
The Italian-built type will allow pilots to train in the operation of radar and advanced weapon systems, with the use of simulator technology to enable "team flying" to be performed on the ground. The new Lavi will also carry some Israeli systems that will make it more "responsive" to the operational needs of the service, says an air force source.
IAI was forced to pull the plug on developing the Lavi fighter in 1987, after having flown two prototypes of the fourth-generation design.