The Italian air force's first two T-346A advanced jet trainers were rolled out at Alenia Aermacchi's Venegono plant in December, ahead of their planned delivery to the service's Test Wing at Pratica di Mare air base by mid-April.
Once handed over, the M-346 variants will enter "an intensive operational test and evaluation period", says Brig Gen Enzo Vecciarelli, the air force's combat forces commander. "In the meantime we have put together, with Aermacchi's industrial team, a joint office to better respond to our requirements and ease the aircraft's service introduction," he says.
© Alenia Aemacchi
Another four T-346s will be delivered during 2011 and assigned to the air force's flight school at Lecce. Instructors will start converting to the type in 2012 and the first trainee pilots should fly it the following year, Vecciarelli says.
Alenia Aermacchi chief executive Massimo Lucchesini says the last two aircraft from the six-strong batch are already in work on the company's M-346 production and final assembly line. Another nine will be produced for the Italian air force, and work is also being undertaken on Singapore's order for 12 of the type.
The assembly line will have a start-up production rate of 24 aircraft a year, with the capability to double that number.