Leonardo And Airbus Announce Joint M-346 Integrated Training System Collaboration

Leonardo Airbus M-346
An Italian Air Force M-346 trainer prepares for a mission. (Photo: Stefano D’Urso)

The two companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding at Paris Air Show 2023 to pursue opportunities on the European Advanced Trainer market and study solutions for future military pilot training.

Leonardo and Airbus have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly promote integrated training systems and study the future solutions to tackle Air Dominance challenges. The new collaboration was announced on June 21, 2023 during the third day of the Paris Air Show 2023 at Le Bourget airport.

The two companies agreed to jointly address and pursue business opportunities for the provision of advanced training systems on the European Advanced Trainer market, leveraging on the Leonardo M-346’s proven experience, thanks to over 100,000 flight hours performed worldwide by the aircraft. According to the press statement, the European market  will account for more than 400 new aircraft deliveries in the next 20 years, plus an additional 12 billion € for the provision of advanced pilots training services.

The statement

“A strong, innovative and competitive defence industry is a prerequisite for strengthening the European defence environment and for achieving the desired ‘strategic autonomy’”, said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air System Airbus. “Leonardo is globally recognized as a key player in the military pilot training business segment and we believe our synergies could give the right answer to our customer requirements”.

Airbus and Leonardo said they will also explore deepening ties and industrial cooperation to tackle future military pilot training domains, based on cooperation and synergies on specific platforms and programs and in the framework of a broader European and International collaboration. Let’s not forget that both companies are heavily involved in the European sixth generation aircraft programs, with Airbus working on the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) and Leonardo working on the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP).

Also, Leonardo recently inaugurated the new, expanded campus of the International Flight Training School (IFTS), which, at the moment, is not involved in the collaboration.

An Italian Air Force M-346 trainer takes off from Lecce-Galatina air base for a training mission. (Photo: Stefano D’Urso)

A growing market

Given the amount of cutting-edge technologies involved, both companies believe air power renewal and emerging trends demand the full capacity of the current most advanced solutions and the accelerated development of new capabilities and technologies for fighter pilot effectiveness management, including aircrew and ground crew training as one of the key pieces to keeping fighter pilots proficient with the ability to exercise their skills and readiness.

“With this agreement, Leonardo and Airbus combine their distinctive experience and capabilities in order to provide European and International customers with the most advanced and effective Integrated Training Systems solutions”, said Marco Zoff, Leonardo’s Aircraft Division Managing Director. “Thanks to a common technology development roadmap based on M-346 ITS, the two Companies will also progressively shape advanced capabilities for the future air power, by intercepting emerging needs and forging innovative solutions, to provide effective next-generation fast-jet pilot training and operational readiness in complex scenarios”.

What future for the Airbus Future Jet Trainer?

Given this last statement, some questions are left open regarding the fate of the Airbus Future Jet Trainer announced in 2021 to meet training needs of fifth-generation and next-generation combat aircraft. The trainer was initially being developed to meet the requirements of the Spanish Air Force, with the European market also in mind, however no updates have been provided in the last two years.


About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.