Leonardo IFTS Media Briefing; Decimomannu AFB Selected as Home Base for IFTS Step 2

Date: Issue 94 - September 2019

At the 2019 International Paris Air Show, Leonardo displayed its best training solutions; the M-345 Basic Jet Trainer and M-346 Advanced & Lead-in Fighter Trainer that it offers on the flight training market at its outdoor static display area. The two aircraft, designated T-345 and T-346 when used as trainers in Italy, also represent the heart of the International Flight Training School (IFTS), which will be operated under a public-private partnership to provide Basic, Advanced Jet and Lead-in Fighter Training to cadets of Foreign Air Forces.

The ITFS was launched by Leonardo together with the Italian Air Force (ItAF) under a Collaboration Agreement signed on 17 July 2018 at Farnborough International Air Show to offer one of the best training courses for military pilots worldwide. To be based on the Galatina Air Force Base (AFB), located in Southern Italy and home base of the 61st Wing, and Decimomannu AFB in Sardinia, the IFTS Project is designed in two steps; 

Step 1 Galatina Air Force Base: Starting from 2020 the T-345 jet trainers will arrive the Base, which will serve as the Basic Training Excellence Center.

Step 2: Decimomannu Air Force Base: Starting from 2021 T-346s will be transferred to Decimomannu AFB which will serve as the Advanced Training Excellence Center.

Currently the 61st Wing in Galatina AFB hosts 50 foreign Instructor Pilots and Student Pilots (cadets) from 9 foreign countries such as the United States, Spain and France. Starting next year, the flight school will introduce the new integrated system based on the M-345 HET - High Efficiency Trainer (named T-345 by ItAF), which will gradually replace the obsolete T-339A (used for Phase II) and FT-339C (used for Phase III) fleets.

Once it is at its peak, the IFTS is expected to operate 22 T-346 aircraft and up to 22 simulators (currently operates 2 Full Mission Simulators and 2 Flight Training Device), with over 40 civilian and military Instructor Pilots (15 Air Force + 25 Civil [selected by ItAF]), and conduct over 70 Phase 4 courses per year. Leonardo is hoping to achieve over 8,000 flight hours per year, to train 72 to 80 trainees per year once the site is fully established.

On August 19, 2019 the staff of the IFTS at the 61st Wing in Galatina, conducted the first flight training activity of Phase 4 with the exclusive use of the Training Management and Information System (TMIS). The TMIS is an advanced management software developed by Leonardo Aircraft Division with the collaboration of the ItAF. The TMIS system is currently being tested and implemented at the 212th Group/61st Wing which is equipped with 18 T-346As belonging to the ITAF and 3 M-346s (with mixed military/civilian crews) belonging to the IFTS.

In order to provide first-hand information and deeper details on the achievements and what they have done since June 2018 with the IFTS initiative to international media members Leonardo organized a Media Briefing on 19 June 2019 with the participation of Lucio Valerio CIOFFI, Managing Director of the Leonardo Aircraft Division, Colonel Luigi CASALI Chairman of the Italian Air Force IFTS Program Office (Head of Training and Standardization Office, Air Education and Training Command) and Giuseppe RECCHIA, Vice President of Training at the Leonardo Aircraft Division at its chalet during the Paris Air Show.


Giuseppe RECCHIA, Vice President of Training in Leonardo’s Aircraft Division 

“With the creation of the IFTS we aimed to provide training to military pilots. Our aim is to provide training to both to the Italian Air Force (ItAF) and to Foreign Air Forces pilots, to train fourth and fifth generation fighter pilots. As you know, the IFTS was inspired by a common decision of the ItAF and Leonardo to foster synergies in advance training services. Combining the capabilities of both the ItAF as a leading Military Pilot training provider, deriving from 70+ years of experience, and the know-how and capabilities of Leonardo in training systems.  The IFTS, as you are aware of, is based on the most advance scenarios which have been developed and tested by the ItAF with their experience and is based on the most advanced integrated training system, the T-346. The pillars of our project, the pillars of the service are both the know-how and the assets we are providing. Of course, the IFTS is the consequence of a common vision, a joint vision between the industry – Leonardo - and the Italian Air Force.” 

Regarding infrastructure investment to be carried out in the Decimomannu AFB Mr. RECCHIA provided following information, “The IFTS as you know is an ambitious project – we have identified the final airbase, we need to increase the capacity of the IFTS – we need to create a new infrastructure. We have completed the preliminary design of the new infrastructure that will be fully dedicated to the IFTS at the Decimomannu AFB. We are about the show you the first images of the future infrastructure that we are going to build in next two years. We will create a new ground-based training infrastructure with dedicated simulators to be able to deliver 70+ Phase 4 courses per year.”

Colonel Luigi CASALI Chairman of the Italian Air Force IFTS Program Office 

“I am the head of the Program Office that the ItAF has set up to manage this new project in which, of course, we strongly believe in, the IFTS. We talked about the IFTS also last year, so we know that today the IFTS is focused on training tomorrow’s air warriors, basically. We are training fourth and fifth generation fighters, that’s the focus of the IFTS today. As you can see, the vision (Create a Military Pilot Training Excellence Center Primary Reference for Next Generation Fighter Pilots) is broad.  Big potential for growth, and we’ve already started that. It will be expanding to the other phases of training. So, right now it’s Phase 4 for jet trainers, tomorrow will be Phase 3 and Phase 2 for jet trainers and we will also be expanding also to the other platforms, we will also be providing training also to helicopters, multiengine and UAV platforms pilots. So, broad vision. But not only that, we have a very fine piece of equipment, which is the T-346 Integrated Training System. It has been proven to be state of the art. The technology that is in this Integrated Training System is top notch. I don’t believe we have Air Forces today that can provide the functionalities and the training that we can provide with the Phase 4 training simulators based on the T-346. But this potential, this technology, live virtual constructive technology, I repeat its already reality. We are flying live virtual constructive sorties today at the Galatina AFB. Again, this live virtual constructive technology is there to be exploited. In our vision we are looking to implement radar capabilities, we are looking at the base where we are set up now for IFTS, to create complex scenarios. As you can see, big potential to grow and big potential to exploit on one hand the know how that was developed in 70 years of training by the ItAF and on the other hand, the technology that is there today in the T-346 Integrated Training System. So, having said this on the vision, I would like to move on and give you an operational update from the pilot perspective. What has happened in this last year in relation to the IFTS.

Lots has been done. We’ve been working very hard. We have set up all those measures that were necessary to be able to, for the first time for the ItAF, to have within our structure, civilian instructors, we have developed and set in place all the procedures that are needed to have extra aircraft that are already within the availability of the IFTS today. This in a nutshell has brought us to have three extra T-346 jets down in Galatina AFB today, which arrived in the beginning of 2019. We are forecasting to have a fourth aircraft arrive within the end of the year, and this will force us to increment and I will go back to this in a second, the actual capabilities of Phase 4 training at Galatina AFB. We have not only got the aircraft, but we have actually got our first 2 civilian Instructor Pilots and we are putting in the pipeline an extra 4 civilian Instructor Pilots.   

So, what is happening basically by the end of this year we will have three to four T-346 aircraft dedicated for IFTS and 6 Instructors and we are planning to start our first IFTS Class by the end of this year, beginning of next year. 

There’s another major milestone that has been implemented this year; which is the selection of another base. We need to understand here what’s happening. Basically, lots of experience, lots of international students down at Galatina AFB. Right today as we speak, we’ve got more than 50 international students and instructors down there coming from 9 different countries. We have almost reached our max capacity at Galatina AFB. And again, we want to exploit it more, we want to exploit it further. So, the idea there is to have, at the end of the day, an excellence training center in the basic sector in Galatina and we’ve selected another airfield that will be the main center of training excellence for advanced operations which is the Decimomannu (Cagliari) AFB.   

Many of you may know Decimomannu AFB, I would say it’s the European fighter town. It’s been a base where we had many international partners join us in the past years there, Great Britain was there, Germany was there, United States was in Lecce (Galatina AFB), of course now it goes up and down so what we want to do now is focus on Decimomannu AFB.  It has the ideal airspace, the ideal ranges, it has the ideal structure to be able to exploit fully IFTS there. So, this is Step 1. The IFTS today – this is what has happened in the past year, and as I said we got the aircraft down there, we found our instructors, we are getting our first students there and we will be able to increase our student through put in 2019-2021 by 8 students per year, it’s not much but it’s what we can do, because we are busy, its full, there’s not a lot of spare capacity down there. For this reason we are going to use these next couple of years to invest heavily in Decimomannu AFB and to have Galatina AFB be an international center of advanced training based on a campus that will be fully dedicated to the students and will be able to exploit this capability, but furthermore, it will put the students in an ideal environment to be able to succeed. We always keep that in mind. That is our main business. We want to provide the future air warriors for our Air Forces, so that’s number one.

Step 2 is Decimomannu AFB. We highlighted the fact that in 2020 Galatina AFB will be getting the T-345 which is again, a fine piece of equipment, new technology, new airframes, new ground based training system and this will allow us to consolidate and further grow our actual capability in the basic training sector in Galatina. In the meantime, we are working on Decimomannu AFB and in 2021 is when we are planning on start moving the T-346 assets from Galatina AFB to Decimomannu AFB. Again the end game here is pretty clear - international training center for the Basic Training sector in Galatina on the T-345, which has just been acquired and in Decimomannu AFB the Advanced Training of excellence based on the T-346 integrated training system and all the environment of Decimomannu AFB. 


By Decimomannu AFB, I already touched on these briefly; first of all, a dual runway to support high training volumes, something we need when we start developing that amount of hours. We’re talking about almost 9,000 hours only in Decimomannu AFB for Phase 4 and it will be even more in Galatina AFB. So, we are talking of numbers that for sure need two dual runway operations.    

Dedicated airspace – we talked about that, it’s there, it’s there to be used, it’s there to be exploited and that is one of the main reasons why we decided to go to Decimomannu AFB. Live-fire air-to-air and air-to-ground ranges for advanced training are also available in Decimomannu AFB and of course the weather in the Mediterranean is ideal for advanced training operations.

And I would like to add to this the fact that Decimomannu AFB is today the main deployable base for our frontline fighters. That’s another added value for Decimomannu AFB. It means that our Advanced Training excellence will have continuous interaction and contact with the frontline fighters and thus encouraging the exchange of information, the continued exchange of best practices in order to make this happen.

In conclusion, it’s a great partnership between industry that owns our integrated training system, that developed it that maintains it and on the other side, the ItAF, our experience in flight training and our experience in the international environment, and bringing in an excellent international flight training school to-train 4th and 5th generation fighters.”  

Answering a question on when they expect the Final Operational Capability for the Decimomannu AFB, Lucio Valerio CIOFFI, Managing Director of the Leonardo Aircraft Division provided following answers:

“We are planning to have Decimomannu AFB available not later than at the beginning of 2022, so at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022. In terms of the customers – the market will follow us.  We want to increase to up to 70 courses per year. We will have additional and new customers as we are providing a different service at Decimomannu AFB. I would like to underline that we are not moving a capability from one place to another, we are creating a double capability with one in Galatina AFB dedicated to Phase 2 and Phase 3 with the new T-345s that you have seen in the static display - with an increasing number, now we have 18, we will arrive at 33 and then at the end to 45, which is the requirement. And at the same time, we will move Phase 4  Decimomannu AFB because we have a big ground capability which is also Red Air and UAV and so on, so I think it is an ambitious project that has already started, it’s not an idea such as last year.  It’s a real project with aircraft flying with a service which has been created by a team in which the ItAF provides experience, the plan, the know-how and we provide technology in order to become the best training service provider for the future.”