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The Next Level of Training - Leonardo Offers IFTS to Turkey

Delivering proven integrated training solutions, the world-renowned International Flight Training School is set to become an international reference for advanced lead-in fighter training

Issue 93

The Italian aerospace company Leonardo promoted the International Flight Training School (IFTS) at the IDEF ‘19, 14th International Defence Industry Fair to meet the pilot training needs of the Turkish Air Force. Leonardo Aircraft Division Head of Sales Engineering, Carmine RUSSO and Test Pilot Giacomo IANNELLI attended a conference held on the second day of the fair and introduced the IFTS to the Turkish officials and members of the press.

Headquartered in Rome, Leonardo is an Italian multinational company, which specializes in aerospace, defence, and security, with 180 sites worldwide and is the ninth largest defence contractor in the world. Leonardo has designed, manufactured and supported over 2000 trainers sold to more than 40 nations. The company has a product range that covers the entire training syllabus from basic with the new M-345 to advanced fighter training with the M-346. Leonardo’s range of solutions also includes a Ground-Based Training System (GBTS) fully integrated with the aircraft and is able to provide high-quality training while improving efficiency. These platforms and systems allow Leonardo to offer a turnkey training solution for customers worldwide, delivering the highest quality standards at all stages.

International Flight Training School Sets the New Standards of the Future

The IFTS was launched by Leonardo together with the Italian Air Force and is based on the M-346 advanced jet trainer. The collaboration agreement was signed at the Farnborough International Air Show in London, UK. The school is currently located at the Galatina Air Base of the Italian Air Force in Lecce, Italy. The base hosts 18 M-346 aircraft (designated T-346A by the Italian Air Force) as well as four additional aircraft supported by Leonardo. The flight training school at the 61st Wing Galatina Air Base delivers  flight training courses including; Phase II-Primary Pilot Training (Flight Line Selection) for all trainees intended to identify their future assignment to different types of aircraft (fighters, remotely piloted aircraft, rotorcraft, transport), Phase III-Specialized Pilot Training (Fighter Pilot License) involving fighter and remotely piloted aircraft pilots, Phase IV-Lead-in Fighter Training (LIFT) to allow the transition to fighters, and Pilot Instructor Training (PIT) to become jet instructors. The Galatina Air Force Base is also equipped with live-virtual-constructive (LVC) training technologies including advanced CAE (Canadian Aviation Electronics) M-346 full-mission simulators. Leonardo’s LVC enables trainees on the ground to interact with pilots in the air, flying real aircraft, during the same training missions. Thanks to the LVC (Live, Virtual and Constructive Simulation) technology featured by the advanced simulation system of the T-346, trainees can interact with pilots in flights during the same training mission.

The IFTS leverages the existing training assets and expertise in advanced military pilot training of the Italian Air Force. It combines Leonardo’s technological and product capabilities with the experience of the Italian Air Force in the field of military flight training, to ensure the further growth and internationalization of the Italian Air Force’s (ItAF) training school while at the same time increasing its capabilities and the range of pilot training solutions offered to the customers. Starting from 2021, the IFTS will be able to deliver courses for Italian Air Force and international Air Force crews, fulfilling the training demands for military pilots worldwide. In order to maximize the success of this initiative, the Italian Air Force’s entire advanced and pre-operational training syllabus will be moved to a new, dedicated facility. The advanced training syllabus, based around Leonardo’s integrated training system, is designed to be modular and versatile to train the student pilots of several nations for 4th and 5th generation fighters.

M-346 - Lead-In Fighter Trainer for Advanced Pilot Training 

Leonardo’s integrated training system is based on the M-346 jet, designated the T-346A by the Italian Air Force. It is the backbone of the 61st Wing, which trains pilots and instructors from Italy and nations such as the USA, Spain, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, Argentina, Greece, and Kuwait. The T-346A is the cornerstone of operational training allowing the introduction of the ITS (Integrated Training System) and prepares pilots to transition to the latest-generation combat aircraft including the Eurofighter and the F- 35. The M-346 has already been purchased by Italy, Israel, Singapore, and Poland for a combined order of 72 units. The Leonardo M-346 is used in the entire training system at Phase IV Lead-in Fighter Training (LIFT) stage, allowing new military pilots to be trained in complex scenarios thanks to its exceptional avionics and aerodynamical performance.

The M-346 Master is a military twin-engine transonic trainer aircraft. Originally co-developed with Yakovlev as the Yak/AEM-130, the partnership was dissolved in 2000 and Alenia Aermacchi (merged into Leonardo) developed the M-346 Master separately. Powered by a pair of Honeywell F124 turbofan engines, the M-346 is designed for the principal role of lead-in fighter trainer and is capable of transonic flight without using an afterburner. The M-346 Master is the central element of an Integrated Training System (ITS) and is designed to provide knowledge, skills and the practice needed for the effective use of modern combat aircraft. The M-346 was purpose-built for a wide range of training capabilities, long-term reliability and to provide cost-effective operations. 

The M-346 has a four-channel Fly-By-Wire Flight Control System, redundant main systems, state-of-the-art avionics with the latest human-machine interface with Multi-Function Displays (MFD), Head-Up Displays (HUD), Hands-On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) controls, in-flight safety features like PARS (Pilot Activated Attitude Recovery System). An APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) provides autonomous operations. The Embedded Tactical Training Simulation (ETTS) allows the M-346 to emulate on-board sensors, weapons, Computer Generated Forces (CGF) as well as allowing pilots to interact in real-time with a virtual tactical scenario in a Live (aircraft in flight), Virtual (simulators) and Constructive (ETTS) - LVC environment, further enhancing flexibility and cost reduction. The wide flight envelope, high thrust-to-weight ratio and unmatched maneuverability allow the M-346 to offer handling similar to those of next-generation combat aircraft, like Eurofighter Typhoon or the F-35. Thanks to its integrated Helmet Mounted Display, Night Vision Goggles (NVG) fully compatible cockpit, Voice Command, in-flight refueling probe and five hard-points for different external loads both air-to-air and air-to-ground, the M-346 can carry out a complete tactical training syllabus for military pilots. The M-346 can also carry out effectively aggressor and companion training roles, ensuring maximum efficiency, effectiveness, commonality, operational flexibility and combat training capabilities to Air Forces worldwide.

A Unique Opportunity for the Turkish Air Force 

Considering the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) will have to withdraw the T-38 Talon from service, the IFTS offers an exceptional opportunity for the Turkish Air Force. Currently, the TurAF operates a mixed fleet of KAI KT-1 and TAI Hürkuş turboprop aircraft for basic training, however, the T-38 Talon covers the advanced phase of Lead-in Fighter training. As a possible replacement of the aging Talon, TAI is developing the Hürjet as Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT) but the aircraft is expected to make its first flight in 2022, and the first aircraft is planned to be delivered in 2025. Having an aircraft with similar characteristics to those of the F-16 during the advanced phase of pilot training is quite an important factor. In this regard, the M-346 offers unique capabilities such as Embedded Tactical Training Simulation (ETTS), Integrated Training System (ITS), and LVC (Live, Virtual and Constructive) simulation environment. Choosing the proven M-346 as the next jet trainer aircraft until the Hürjet becomes operational will not only allow Turkey to fill a critical gap in advanced fighter training but also bolster its cooperation with Italy in the defence sector.