Tag Archives: MB-339A

The first M-346 "Master" and its future in the Frecce Tricolori display team

On Dec. 21, 2010, the first  Alenia Aermacchi M-346 advanced trainer from the first batch of six aircraft for the Italian Air Force rolled out at Alenia’s factory at Venegono Superiore, during a ceremony attended by both company executives and representatives of the Aeronautical Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) and local authorities. Another M-346 was inside the hangar but did not roll out. Within a few months the first two T-346A (as the M-346 is designated by the ItAF) will be taken on charge by the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Experimental Flying Wing) at Pratica di Mare airbase, where they will undergo operational evaluation testing. During 2011 the ItAF is due to receive the other four aircraft, becoming the first air force equipped with the most advanced trainer available today to train military pilots destined to fly the latest 4th and 5th generation fighters. Along with the Aeronautica Militare, also the Republic of Singapore Air Force has ordered 12 M-346.  Even though the “Master” will be delivered to the 61° Stormo (currently flying the MB.339A for the basic training and the MB.339CD for the advanced one), that is the ItAF training Wing, many have fantasized of the aircraft wearing the Frecce Tricolori livery. The aircraft with which the 313° Gruppo Addestramento Acrobatico (Aerobatic Training Squadron) “Frecce Tricolori” is currently equipped is the PAN version of the Alenia Aermacchi MB339A. The aircraft, that unlike the A model, fly with no tip tanks, differ from the standard model by the presence of the coloured smokes generation system: this device is controlled by two buttons, one on the stick, for white smoke, and one on the throttle, for coloured smoke. This type of aircraft equips the display team since 1982. Hence it is quite obsolete and, sooner or later, the Aeronautica will be compelled to replace it. However, a certain experience on the type must be gained from the operative squadrons before the aircraft can be used by the Frecce and, above all, the M-346 must be purchased in enough quantity to decide to divert 10 – 12 examples from the 61° to the team. Consequently, the only “new” aircraft that we will see at Rivolto airbase, home of the Frecce Tricolori, in the near future is the ItAF MB.339s with grey livery, on loan from the 61° Stormo, used for the training of the “Al Fursan”, the UAE air force display team. In fact, since 2009, eight fighter pilots from the UAE have been training with the Frecce pilots, with the aim to achieve the team’s operational status in 2011 with a similar version of the aircraft, known as MB.339 NAT (National Aerobatic Team). The Al Fursan team is expected to fly displays with seven aircraft, including one solo. The advanced course being held by the Italian pilots to the UAE colleagues should be completed in January, when the Al Fursan will continue its training at home. In the meanwhile, Alenia Aermacchi has been completing the upgrade of the UAE Air Force six legacy MB-339As and four A explamples, formerly belonging to the ItAF, that will carry the team’s black and gold colour scheme. The following picture was taken by Simone Bovi at Venegono in late November 2010.

Banner target release

The following sequence of images taken by Giovanni Maduli, shows “Bullet”, an MB.339A assigned to the RSSTA (Reparto Sperimentale e di Standardizzazione del Tiro Aereo), releasing a banner target over Decimomannu airbase, before landing, at the end of a firing target practice mission during Starex Exercise.

ItAF 87th Anniversary, Pratica di Mare, 26.03.10

“This is not the time to stand still. This is the time to build, with flexible far-sightedness, the new Air Force’s architecture so that it is integrated and not absorbed in the new joint context that has a strong European and International connotation”: these were some of the words that Gen. Giuseppe Bernardis, Chief of Staff of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) addressed to President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano in his speech during the ceremony for the 87th Anniversary of the ItAF, held on Mar. 26, 2010, at Pratica di Mare airbase. Bernardis explained that over the past ten years the size of the Air Force has been cut in half in terms of personnel and material but it has not lost its capabilities or efficiency, as the ItAF has invested and continue to invest in both the quality of the equipment and, above all, in the training of the personnel.
At the end of ceremony, that saw the usual flypast of the “Frecce Tricolori”, the chief of State and Bernardis, along with the President of the Chamber of Deputies (Italian House of Commons), Gianfranco Fini, the Minister of Defence, Ignazio La Russa, and Defence Chief of Staff, Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, visited the exhibition installed inside the 14° Stormo hangar that was organised in four thematic areas: airspace defense, international operations, rescue activities and logistic support in national and international field. The exhibition had the purpose to underline the concept of a “Constantly Modern” armed force. An interesting static display was installed in the 14° Stormo apron where a large selection of the ItAF aircraft were parked: F-2000A and B, AMX-T, Tornado IDS, C-130J, HH-3F, AB-212, F-16B, SF-260EA, P-180AM, A-319CJ, MB-339CD and A. Below a selection of the pictures taken by me and Giovanni Maduli during the event.