The Italian air force and Leonardo have selected Decimomannu in Sardinia as the second base for their International Flight Training School (IFTS).
IFTS will be operated under a public-private partnership providing advanced lead-in fighter training to allied air forces, using a fleet of M-345 and M-346 aircraft—designated T-345 and T-346 when used as trainers in Italy—and will be co-located between Galatina Air Base in Lecce and Decimomannu in Sardinia.
Three M-346 have so far been delivered to Galatina for the IFTS and are operational, and the fourth is expected to be delivered by year-end, joining 18 M-346s operated by the air force’s 61° Stormo (61st Wing). At this point, the academy will be ready to begin training pilots, although which air forces will use it is yet to be disclosed.
An initial batch of civil flight instructors have so far completed training, and there will be a total of three ready by the end of 2019 in line with the aircraft deliveries and start of the project.
A preliminary design review of the facility at Decimomannu has been completed, and the first M-345 examples will arrive at Galatina in 2020 to consolidate the basic training excellence center that will be established there, and in 2021 the M-346 will be moved to Decimomannu to add to the advanced training center of excellence there.
“There has been a lot of study that has gone into this,” Col Luigi Casali, head of the air force’s training command, told media at the Paris Air Show on Wednesday, adding that Decimomannu “has the ideal airspace, range, and structures.”
It has a dual runway, dedicated airspace that is suited to advanced training, and live air-to-air and air-to-ground ranges for advanced training. Eventually, 22 M-346 and some 40 civil/military instructors will be based there, carrying out in excess of 70 advanced training courses flying more than 8,000 hours per year.
The parties involved stressed that this extension to Decimomannu is not just a transfer of capability from Galatina, but is a doubling of capability, demonstrating the growth of the program. Plans for IFTS include room for expansion, including for the introduction of red air training and the expansion to other platform types including helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.
IFTS was launched with partners CAE and Babcock, but Leonardo confirmed that the latter is no longer part of the project.