THE FIRST M-345 for the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) made its maiden flight from Venegono, home of the Leonardo Aircraft factory, on August 13. This M-345 – to be designated T-345A in Italian service – carries test registration CSX55233 and is the first from an initial batch of five ordered in January 2017. They will be allocated serials MM55233 to MM55237. A contract for a follow-on order of 13 M-345s was signed in June this year.
Delivery of the first five T-345As is scheduled for early next year, probably to the Reparto Sperimentale di Volo (RSV) – the flight test squadron at Pratica di Mare – for an evaluation campaign.
Once this is complete, they will be assigned to the 61° Stormo at Lecce to begin replacing the fleet of T-339As and FT-339Cs. Currently the T-339As are being used to provide primary pilot training under Phase II whereas Phase III, specialised pilot training, is conducted on the FT-339C. Leonardo expects to deliver 45 T-345As to the Aeronautica Militare, including a batch to replace the MB-339PANs in use with the Italian aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori since the early 1980s.