During their approach to Dęblin, the “Master” jets, locally named “Bielik” (Polish for white tailed eagle), flew in formation with the TS-11 Iskra trainer aircraft which were sent to welcome the new airframes.
The delivery of the first two of 8 aircraft was preceded with long preparatory stages, as it required the Polish pilots to be trained at Lecce-Galatina airbase, in Italy, home of 212° Gruppo (Squadron) belonging to the 61° Stormo (Wing) of the Italian Air Force, the flight school that operates the T-346s (this is the ItAF designation) in Italy.
The first flight of the Polish jet took place on Jul. 4, 2016, while Lt. Col. Konrad Madej was the first Polish pilot to fly the jet, an Italian airframe, on Mar. 2, 2016.
The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 “Master” is a dual-engine LIFT (Lead-In to Fighter Trainer) jet for the latest stage of a fighter pilot training which aims to develop the information management and aircraft handling skills of future pilots before they are assigned to the OCUs (Operational Conversion Units).
The aircraft has also been selected by Italy, Israel and Singapore.
Among the things said during the visit one is particularly interesting: a claim has been made by the school officials that the Polish indigenous PZL I-22 Iryda trainer program will be reactivated, with the jets being manufactured in Chełm, alongside small UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and drone systems.
The news is very surprising and somewhat bizarre, considering that Poland has already procured the brand new M-346 Master advanced jet trainers, with the first deliveries for the Polish Air Force Academy in Dęblin expected to take place in November. The first two examples of the M-346 Master for the Polish Air Force are already undergoing the relevant test flight program in Italy. Eight Masters have been ordered by the Polish Air Force, with an option for more aircraft.
Whereas the M-346 is one of the world’s most advanced jet trainers, that couples impressive performance with a full digital cockpit, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, carefree handling, VCI (Vocal Control Inputs), a Helmet Mounted Display as well as many other things that make the aircraft perfect to prepare pilots to the most modern combat planes, PZL Iryda is an old indigenous design dating back to the 1970s. Its main purpose was to replace the older TS-11 Iskras.
The airframe was not a successful design, and test pilot Jerzy Bachta died during the flatter tests of the jet.
Ultimately the jet was redesigned PZL M93K and M93V variants, with M96 version to follow, with modified wings (Fowler Flaps), power-plant (Rolls Royce Viper engine) and new avionics. Eight such airframes were used by the 58 Training Aviation Regiment of the Polish Air Force. Initial plans were to procure 19 aircraft, that were never built due to problems and lack of funding.
Hence, the revival of such an unsuccessful aircraft seems to be quite unlikely: in the mid-1990s, the Iryda’s avionics were already unsuitable to train the pilots for the modern jet fighters. Even more so today, the obsolete design would be completely anachronistic to train Polish pilots destined to fly 4.5 and 5th Gen. jets, such as the F-16 Block 52+ or the F-35.
The fact that Iryda’s production could be restarted may just be a part of the publicity created by the new Polish right-wing government, which strongly emphasizes the need to reactivate the domestic industry and develop its potential. As shown by the Ministry of Development’s decision to scrap the Airbus Caracals helicopter deal, announced on Oct. 4, because the offset agreement options were insufficient.
An awesome new clip shows the new multi-role variant of the M-346 trainer.
Unveiled for the first time at Farnborough International Air Show in July 2016, the M-346FT (Fighter Trainer) is the new multi-role version of the M-346 Master, one of the world’s most advanced jet trainers.
The aircraft, whose characteristic is to pass very easily from the trainer aircraft configuration to an operational one thus “combining the operational and training requirements of the Air Forces all over the world, assuring top performances and remarkably lower costs” integrates a wide range of systems and sensors for tactical support and air defense: including a tactical data link, a self-defense system, reconnaissance and targeting sensors and a large array of weapons.
The M-346 Master platform couples impressive performance with cutting edge human-machine interface and features a full digital cockpit, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, carefree handling, VCI (Vocal Control Inputs), a Helmet Mounted Display as well as the ability to simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and to replicate a wide variety of sensors and weapons as if these were actually installed on the aircraft.
Indeed, with the advanced jet trainer version, 68 examples of which have been ordered and about 50 already in service with the Air Forces of Italy (18 jets, performing training as well as aggressors tasks), Singapore (12), Israel (30) and Poland (8), pilots can learn to use the radar, drop LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) on moving ground targets designated through an Advanced Targeting Pod (TGP), and shoot radar-guided missiles against enemy aircraft, even if the plane is not carrying with any of these systems: the on-board computer generates the required HUD and radar symbology and offers a different weapons load out in accordance with the training goals of the mission.
Along with the ability of simulating some external payload, the M-346FT will carry electronic countermeasures and will employ several “real” air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, including air-to-air missiles (IRIS-T and AIM-9), a 12.7 mm gun pod, GBU-12 and GBU-49 laser-guided bombs, JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) and also the Raytheon Small Diameter Bomb and a reconnaissance pod (the RecceLite, based on the footage below).
Based on the M-346 is also the T-100, an advanced variant of the Master offered by Raytheon Company, with principal partners Finmeccanica (now Leonardo) and Honeywell Aerospace, as the next-generation training plane for the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Pilot Training competition worth 350 jet trainers to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s T-38 Talons.
Konrad Madej is the commander of the Polish 48th Training Squadron, based at the 41st Training Aviation Base in Dęblin, being a facility which cooperates with the Dęblin Air Force Academy, also known as the “School of Eaglets”.
Poland acquired 8 examples of the jet, the first four of which are already being assembled at the Venegono Superiore Finmeccanica facility.
They are expected to be received by the Polish Air Force in November this year. Along with the Master jet, Poland also acquired the whole training program, including ground-based systems. The ground segment of the training facilities include flight-planning and mission analysis stations, mission simulator, ejection simulator, along with a computerized training system.
Meanwhile, six Polish pilots are involved in the training courses delivered by the 61° Stormo at Lecce.
After completing their M-346 training program in Italy, these pilots will become instructors at the Training Aviation Base in Dęblin.
Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 kicked off at Trapani airbase, Italy.
On Oct. 19, Trapani airbase, Sicily, Italy, home of the 37° Stormo (Wing) of the Italian Air Force, hosted the opening ceremony of Exercise Trident Juncture 2015, the largest NATO exercise in more than 10 years.
Running from Oct. 3 to Nov. 6 (with the live exercise taking place from Oct. 19 onwards) at 16 different locations, Trident Juncture 2015 is an advanced and much realistic exercise involving around 36,000 troops from more than 30 nations (27 NATO Allies plus partners), more than 230 units, more than 140 aircraft and more than 60 ships.
The aim of TJ 2015 is to train the troops of the NATO Response Force (NRF) and other Allied forces, to increase their readiness to respond to a wide range of challenges. In other words, with the Russian military build-up at the eastern and southern flank of the alliance, its goal is to send a clear message to any potential aggressor: “The exercise will show that we can protect all our allies from any kind of threat,” said Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top commander in Europe.
The opening ceremony included an air power demo featuring Italian Air Force KC-767 tanker and Typhoon, Tornado and AMX combat planes, Spanish F-18s, Polish, Greek, American and Portuguese F-16s.
The Italian Air Force has deployed several assets to Trapani (MOB – Main Operating Base) of the exercise and will take part in the drills, with 6 Eurofighter Typhoon, 7 Tornado (IDS and ECR) and 4 Amx ACOL jets; 4 more Typhoons will operate from their homebase at Grosseto while a Predator drone will perform ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions from Amendola.
Also supporting TJ45 are a C130J and a C27J from Pisa, along with a KC-767 tanker from Pratica di Mare.
Image credit: NATO, The Aviationist’s photographers Alessandro Borsetti and Giovanni Maduli