Italy is the latest country to offer to pool or share military pilot training with other air forces. “We have many years of experience, and were the first to introduce the practice of ‘downloading’ training from more expensive platforms,” said Col Luca Capasso, deputy chief of the T-346 program office. Alenia Aermacchi has provided the new Italian training system as a package that includes the new T-346 advanced jet trainer and all the ground-based training. The contract was signed in late 2009.
Speaking at the Military Flight Training conference organized in London by Defence IQ, Capasso reported that initial operational test and evaluation of the T-346 began earlier this month. It will last for six months and involve two aircraft flying from Pratica di Mare. Meanwhile, the full simulator will be activated at the main training base at Lecce in late May. After the instructors are trained, the first student course will start at Lecce in January 2014.
The T-346 will replace the Aermacchi MB339C in Phase IV of the Italian syllabus. The MB339C will in turn replace the older MB339A in Phase III. The MB339C has a modern cockpit, and was introduced some years ago as a lead-in fighter trainer. But the T-346 offers much better aerodynamic performance; avionics; and an embedded training system that includes simulated sensors, Capasso explained.
The downloading concept should not be limited to airborne training, Capasso noted. The new Italian syllabus provides for part-task trainers and computer-based trainers to replace some time that students would otherwise have spent in the full simulator, which is more expensive to run.
The pooling of military flying training between countries is not a new idea. The best known examples are the NATO joint program with the U.S. Air Force at Sheppard AFB in Texas, and the NATO Flying Training in Canada venture. Some years ago, air chiefs from 10 European countries signed a joint requirement. But the Advanced European Jet Pilot Training scheme never gained traction.