Greece formally welcomed the first two of ten Leonardo M-346 Master advanced jet trainers, which it is acquiring in partnership with the Israeli government, during a ceremony held at the new Elbit Systems-run International Flight Training Centre (IFTC) at Kalamata Air Base on May 17.
The two aircraft (serials 250 and 251) were noted departing Varese-Venegono Airport in northern Italy on May 12, after undergoing pre-delivery flight tests with Leonardo and receiving their Hellenic Air Force (HAF) colours.
A fleet of ten Masters was acquired as part of a government-to-government agreement between Greece and Israel, which already operates 30 examples of the M-346 (dubbed the ‘Lavi’ in Israeli Air Force service). Acquired through Elbit Systems in a deal worth $1.65bn on April 18, 2021, the M-346 will replace the HAF’s ageing fleet of North American T-2C/E Buckeyes in the advanced pilot training role. As per the contract, Elbit will also be responsible for maintaining the HAF’s M-346 and T-6A Texan II fleets for approximately 20 years.
Formally opened in 2021, the Kalamata-based IFTC has been designed to modernise the HAF’s training capabilities as it transitions to a new fighter fleet, which comprises the recent acquisition of Rafale DG/EG fighters from France and Athens’ ongoing plan to procure the F-35A Lightning II in the near future.
While an initial training building has already been constructed at Kalamata, the installation of relevant flight simulators and other training systems are expected to be added by the end of June. Greece also plans to offer training at the new IFTC to other allied nations.