Two T-345 trainers in the colors of the 61° Stormo (Wing) have been delivered to the Italian Air Force.
The first two new Leonardo T-345 trainer aircraft (local designation of the M-345), were delivered to the Italian Air Force at Venegono airport, in northwestern Italy, where the final assembly lines of Leonardo Aircraft and Helicopter Divisions are based, on Dec. 22, 2020.
The aircraft sport the markings of the the 61st Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force – ItAF), based at Lecce-Galatina Airbase, in southeastern Italy, and are registered MM55234/61-202 and MM55235/61-203. Interestingly, the aircraft were given the codes in the 61-2xx range, that is not used by the existing lines at Lecce (the MB-339A – designated T-339A; the MB-339CD – designated FT-339C and the M-346A – designated T-346A).
Both trainers flew to Pratica di Mare, home of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Italian Air Force Test Wing) on Dec. 22, 2020, and continued to their final destination at Galatina AB, on Dec. 23, 2020.
As already explained in previous articles here at The Aviationist, the M-345 is the latest evolution of the S-211 trainer, which was redesigned with improved aerodynamics, reinforced airframe, new cockpit and avionics and called initially M-311, before assuming the final name as M-345 High Efficiency Trainer. The aircraft, which shares also some parts with the M-346 Master (T-346A in Italian service), is powered by a Williams FJ44-4M-34 turbofan engine with 1,540 kg (3,400 lb) of thrust, can fly up to 40’000 ft with load factors of +7/-3.5 g and a max speed of 380 KTAS at sea level or 425 KTAS at 20,000 ft. The max range is reported as 760 nm in clean configuration and 1,000 NM with external fuel tanks.
The he Italian Air Force ordered 18 M-345As (a number that may increase up to 45 aircraft) to start replacing the ageing MB-339s, together with ground-based training systems similar to the ones developed for the M-346 advanced trainer. It will be used for Phase 2 and Phase 3 training, where students obtain their Military Pilot Licenses before moving to Phase 4, the Lead-In Fighter Training with the T-346A Master.
The new aircraft will also become the new platform of the Italian Air Force’s Frecce Tricolori display team.
H/T to Oscar Bernardi for the photographs of the two new aircraft!