The Italian Air Force accepted the first of six Alenia Aermacchi M346 advanced jet trainers. A second aircraft will follow shortly, and the pair will be flight-tested further by the air force at Pratica di Mare airbase.
The air force will take delivery of the other four aircraft and the ground-based training system next year. Alenia received the €220 million contract at the end of 2009.
The M346 was displayed again at the Dubai Air Show earlier this week. [This aircraft crashed off the coast of Dubai earlier today, while reportedly leaving to return back to Italy. The two pilots ejected and were not injured, according to a spokesperson.–Editor].
In February 2009, the UAE announced that it had selected the type. But no contract was subsequently signed, and Singapore became the first export customer in September 2010. However, the UAE might not proceed with its advanced jet trainer requirement, according to a source who spoke to AIN at the Dubai Air Show.
The UAE Air Force is now introducing the Pilatus PC-21 as a new basic trainer, replacing the elderly PC-7. Because the PC-21 is much more powerful, future Emirati pilots might be able to proceed directly from it to the air force’s BA Hawk Mk102 jet trainers, which would be retained. At present, student pilots proceed directly from the PC-7 to the older BAE Hawk Mk63s, which would be retired without replacement.