ROME, March 22 (UPI) -- Finmeccanica reports it is to deliver nine additional Aermacchi M-346 advanced training aircraft to the Italian Ministry of Defense beginning this year.
The contract for the planes, valued at more than $337 million, was issued by the ministry's National Armaments Directorate. It includes logistics support and an additional development phase of the plane's integrated training systems.
"The Aermacchi M-346 is the most advanced trainer aircraft available on the market today, the only one in the world designed to train pilots who will go on to fly new-generation, high-performance defense aircraft," said Mauro Moretti, Finmeccanica's chief executive officer and general manager.
"It has won all the most important international bids and we are offering it as the platform on which the new American 'Top Guns' trainer aircraft could be based."
The nine new -346 aircraft ordered will bring the number of the trainers flown by the Italian Air Force to 18.
The Aermacchi M-346 is a twin-engine transonic aircraft with a maximum speed of 572 knots, a range of 1,070 miles and a service ceiling of 45,000 feet. Other operators of the aircraft include Israel, Poland and Singapore.