An upgraded variant of the M-345 High Efficiency Trainer is to be produced for the Italian air force by Leonardo. Photo courtesy Leonardo
Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Leonardo is to deliver new jet trainer aircraft to the Italian air force and also develop and deliver a new helicopter to the Italian army.
The two contracts with the Italian National Armaments Directorate of the Italian Defense Ministry have a combined value of more than $530 million, the company said.
"The signing of these two contracts is the result of constructive discussions between the Italian Government and industry, which helped identify the requirements and the best technological answers," Mauro Moretti, chief executive officer and general manager of Leonardo, said. "Thanks to this joint understanding, we'll be able to deliver advanced solutions to our national customer by optimizing available financial resources and developing new technologies, skills and industrial processes in our country."
Under the first award, Leonardo is to deliver five Aermacchi M-345A trainer aircraft to the air force. The aircraft will work alongside the fleet of 18 twin-engine Aermacchi M-346s already ordered and currently used by the Italian air force for the advanced phase of pilot training.
The aircraft to be delivered will be upgrade variants of the M-345 High Efficiency trainer, which has a top speed of 460 miles per hour.
The M345A training system will be inserted between the initial basic flight screening and the T-346 advanced trainer.
The high-performance M-345A and its advanced ground-based training systems, will provide the Italian air force with a significant boost in the effectiveness of training, improved efficiency and a reduction in operational costs, Leonardo said.
The second contract is for the development, production and testing of three reconnaissance and escort helicopter prototypes. Through this new program, based on a total requirement for 48 units, the Italian army will be able to replace the current fleet of AW129s, which are expected to be retire from service by 2025.