Tag Archives: T-346

The Italian Air Force has unveiled a new indigenous trainer: the T-344 V.E.S.P.A.

The Italian Air Force is developing a new indigenous jet trainer.

The Italian Air Force has identified the new trainer that will replace the SF-260EA in the role of initial flight screener of its student pilots.

The mock-up of the new indigenous project, dubbed T-344 V.E.S.P.A. (Very Efficient Smart Power Aircraft) was unveiled during a press open day organised at Cameri airbase as a side event of the EURAC (European Air Chiefs’ Conference) on May 7.

The T-344 is based on the Caproni C-22J, a light jet-powered aircraft developed in the 1980s: it features a side-by-side digital cockpit, two 170-kg thrust engines, retractable tricycle undercarriage, maximum speed of Mach 0.48 and service ceiling of 25,000 feet.

T-344 1

The cockpit is not pressurized, meaning that the pilots will have to use the flight helmet and oxygen mask.

T-344 5

The V.E.S.P.A. is being developed through Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Italian Air Force Test Wing based at Praitca di Mare) by the ItAF itself, that will assign production to an aerospace company at a later stage.

With the new jet trainer the Italian Air Force will complete the renewal of its fleet of trainers that in the future will be based on three flight lines: T-344, T-345 (ItAF designation for the M-345 HET) and T-346 (already in service at 61° Stormo multinational training hub).

Interestingly, other innovative projects were showcased at Cameri.

HH101 Cameri

Among them, the AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar, the new CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) helicopter that the ItAF will use for Special Forces support, Personnel Recovery in hostile environments, MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) and SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) missions; the Alenia Aermacchi MC-27J Praetorian, a gunship version of the successful C-27J Spartan equipped with pallettized machine guns, targeting sensors and C3I-ISR (Command, control, communications and intelligence – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) systems; the AgustaWestland AW-149, that could find its way to the ItAF SAR fleet in the future; and the P.1HH HammerHead UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), that the ItAF has already procured (three UAS systems, consisting of six aircraft and three ground stations and complete with ISR configuration, that will be delivered early next year).

P1HH Cameri


Even a scale model of the MALE 2020 medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV project developed by Italy, France and Germany.

MALE 2020

Among the future project, even some very known ones, including the Eurofighter Typhoon, the T-346A (carrying dummy IRIS-T missiles), the mock-up of the M-345/T-345 in the Frecce Tricolori color scheme, and the HH-139 SAR helicopter.

M-345 mock up

Also one the two F-35s assembled in Italy and destined to the Aeronautica Militare could be seen at Cameri, along with the two types the Joint Strike Fighter is going to replace in the ItAF, the Tornado and the AMX, as shown by the much interesting image below:

F-35 AMX Tornado Cameri

Image above: Italian Air Force

All the images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s photographer Iolanda Frisina during the press day at Cameri airbase unless otherwise stated.

Italy to provide Israeli Air Force with the M-346, an advanced training plane that "already looks on to the F-35".

On Feb. 16, Israel’s Ministry of Defense has announced the selection of the Italian M-346 Master as replacement of the aging Air Force’s fleet of A-4 Skyhawks, used as advanced trainers for combat pilots designated for fighter jets.

A deal worth 1 billion USD for 30 M-346s to be delivered from 2014.

As pointed out by the Jerusalem Post the deal is much more complex as, in return, Italy will commit to purchase just over $1 billion of military platforms from Israeli defense companies, including those airborne warning and control system (AWACS) G550 Eitam that took part to the 2010 and 2011 edition of the Vega multinational exercise in Decimomannu, in Sardinia.

The selection of the M-346 could jeopardise Israel and South Korea defense deals with Seoul (which offered the T-50 trainer along with a package of reciprocal acquisition) complaining that the A-4 replacement tender was not conducted in compliance with the international standards.

However, the Head of the Instructional Division, Colonel C’, has explained on the IAF on the official website the reason of the choice (highlight mine):

“I flew the Korean plane and it’s a lot like the F-16. In that aspect it has many advantages, seeing as it is easy to get used to the plane and continue from it directly to the F-16. Of course, it is a little smaller and less powerful, but it is similar to the F-16 in its operation.
The Italian plane is a combination. It integrates the F-16, the F-15 and the Eurofighter. It’s a dual-engine aircraft while the Korean plane has one engine, which is an important security aspect, but has less experience than the Korean aircraft which is already serving as an instructional plane.

We weighed each pro and con: in suitability, capabilities, security, instruction and readiness and arrived at the conclusion that in spite of the lack of experience, the Italian plane is preferable. It already looks on to the F-35 and can be compatible with training for it. It prepares us better for the future, and that was also a consideration”.

The M-346, is one of the most advanced trainer aircraft available on the market today with an avionics system modelled on those
used in new-generation fighter aircraft, such as Eurofighter, Gripen, Rafale, F-16, F-18, F-22 and the F-35.

In 2010, 12 M-346s were also purchased by the Republic of Singapore Air Force, once again to replace ageing A-4 Skyhawks.

On Nov. 18, 2011, the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 CP-X615 crashed in Dubai shorthly after take off. The captain and the passenger successfully ejected and were recovered with minor injuries. The aircraft was returning in Italy after attending the local air show.

On Feb. 6 the Italian Air Force has received its second M-346, designed T-346, that flew from Venegono to Pratica di Mare, where the Experimental Flying Wing (RSV – Reparto Sperimentale Volo) will conduct a test campaign prior to its operational deployment. Once the evaluation is complete, the first two T-346As will be taken on charge by the 61° Stormo at Lecce which will also take delivery of the other four aircraft purchased by the ItAF.

Image credit: Alenia Aermacchi