Elbit Systems of Israel will provide a new flight training program for the Hellenic Air Force (HAF). The yet to be finalized $1.68 billion contract will run for approximately 20 years and will include the establishment of a flight training center in Kalamata, Greece, complete with a full suite of training aids.
Also to be provided are 10 Leonardo M-346 advanced trainers that will be equipped with Elbit’s own embedded training system and avionics, while Greece’s existing Beechcraft T-6A basic trainers will be upgraded to integrate them into the overall system. It has not been revealed if the M-346s will be purchased outright by Greece or if they will be operated on a contractor-owned, contractor-operated (co-co) basis by Elbit. The Israeli company is also to provide logistics support for the duration of the contract. Elbit was selected after a bidding process, with rival CAE also proposing a package based on the M-346.
“We are honored to have been selected to provide such an important capability to the Hellenic Air Force, which we believe will contribute to the further strengthening of the bilateral relationship between Israel and Greece,” remarked Elbit president and CEO Bezhalel Machlis. “This selection attests to the leading position we hold in the area of training, providing tested know-how and proven technologies that improve readiness while reducing costs.”
Part of a wider agreement between the defense ministries of Greece and Israel, the deal underlines the developing military ties between the two nations, which have seen their air forces exercise together. The training center, based at the same location as the HAF’s current academy, is expected to mirror that of the Israeli air force at Hatzerim, where T-6As and M-346s are in use. The new flight training center could also offer its services to other nations.
Greece acquired 45 T-6As, with just under half of the fleet having a light armament capability for weapons training. The advanced training role is currently undertaken by the venerable Rockwell T-2 Buckeye, Greece being one of only two export customers for this type (the other being Venezuela). The original new-build T-2Es have been augmented with ex-U.S. Navy T-2Cs, but they are becoming obsolete. A new advanced training platform is urgently required for an air force that is introducing AESA-equipped F-16Vs and expects to operate both the Rafale and F-35 in the near future.
If the deal proceeds as planned, Greece will become the third European nation—after Italy and Poland—to operate the M-346, and the deal will come as good news to Leonardo. In late December the company achieved an important milestone by delivering the first pair of M-345 HET trainers to the Italian air force. The M-345 HET is a light basic jet-powered trainer that is marketed as a low-cost complement to the more sophisticated M-346.