Lavi M346 Trainer
Israel's defence ministry selected Alenia Aermacchi's M-346 as the new advanced jet trainer for the Israeli air force, with a contract to include 30 aircraft. Announced on 16 February 2012, the selection decision ended a long competition between the M-346 against the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50. With both types deemed capable of replacing Israel's remaining Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, Israel used the contest for the sale of systems and equipment developed by Israeli companies to Italy or South Korea.
Giuseppe Giordo, Alenia Aermacchi’s Chief Executive Officer and Responsible for Finmeccanica’s Aeronautics Sector, has commented: “We would like to thank the Israeli Ministry of Defence for their trust in and their choice of the M-346, a fact that confirms the product excellence, result of the skill and expertise of Alenia Aermacchi’s human resources”. The aircraft has just been delivered to the Italian Air Force and, in the short term, will also be in service with Singapore’s Air Force. “This new and important achievement - Giordo has added – represents the result of the synergic collaboration between the Italian Industry and Authorities and represents, as well, a big-value success for the Italian high-technology aeronautical industry and for the whole “Country System”.
An Elbit Systems/IAI joint venture would acquire 30 M-346 trainers for use by the Israeli air force. The Israeli defense ministry's failure to issue a formal request for proposals for the $1 billion trainer deal caused anger in South Korea.
The M-346 is the ideal platform for a latest-generation integrated training system. Its flexibility means that it can also be configured as an affordable advanced defence aircraft for operational roles. Thanks to its innovative technical characteristics, the aircraft also stands out on account of its high degree of safety and low acquisition and operating costs. The M-346 has been designed using the latest “design-to-cost” and “design-to-maintain” concepts, with an avionics system modelled on those used in new-generation fighter aircraft, such as Eurofighter, Gripen, Rafale, F-22 and the future JSF.
Israel's defense ministry expected the first aircraft to be delivered during 2014. Alenia Aermacchi presented the first M-346 advanced trainer for the Israeli Air & Space Force in a ceremony held at company’s plant in Venegono Superiore, Italy, on 20 March 2014. This moment was particularly important to Alenia Aermacchi which, in less than two years, has signed the contract and performed the roll-out of the first aircraft for Israel: a result, this one, which marks the great team job achieved in strict collaboration with Alenia Aermacchi’s industrial counterparts, TOR and Honeywell.
The delivery of the first M-346 to the Israel Air & Space Force was scheduled in summer 2014. The first two advanced trainer M-346 produced for the Israeli Air Force (IAF) have been delivered 09 July 2014 to the Hatzerim Israeli Air Force Base, which will gradually replace the TA-4s currently operated by the IAF. Alenia Aermacchi’s site of Venegono (near Milan) continued the production activities: in addition to the two aircraft delivered, other 6 M-346s for the IAF are completing final assembly whereas 5 others are in the process of structural part assembly. All 30 aircraft are expected to be delivered by the end of 2016.
Israel was able to use Washington's Foreign Military Financing mechanism to complete the purchase, as the M-346 is powered by Honeywell F124 engines and features other systems also manufactured in the USA.
The Israel Air Force (IAF) inaugurated in September 2014 the new Flight Training Center for the "Lavi" - M346 Trainer at Hatzerim airbase. Elbit Systems, the prime contractor, developed and delivered the new "Lavi" Ground Based Training System (GBTS) center together with Alenia Aermacchi (Finmeccanica Group), CAE and Sellex ES (Finmeccanica Group),, following a selection by "TOR - Advanced Flight Training", which is responsible to the IAF for the operation of the trainer aircraft. Elbit Systems will provide the GBTS center with logistics services for twenty years.
With the introduction of the M346 trainer, more emphasis is being given to ground-based training in the IAF flight school's advanced training phases, for both fighter pilots and Weapon Systems Operators (WSO's). The GBTS consists of two Full Mission Simulators (FMS) and two Operational Flight Simulators (OFS), all linked together, offering an experience that is almost identical to real flight. Both pilots and WSOs will undergo training ranging from basic familiarity with the aircraft to the highest level of combat flight competence. This training will be performed based upon a new innovative concept where a high percentage of the syllabus is being practiced at the GBTS, with the trainees visiting the GTBS on a daily basis. The GBTS, which serves as the training "Center of Excellence", is based on Elbit's SkyBreakerTM concept and technology, previously known as the Mission Training Center (MTC), and will enable flight school cadets, as well as graduate pilots and WSOs, to practice unusual and in-flight emergency procedures, and at a more advanced level, to simulate complex combat scenarios in single aircraft or as part of a formation.
This comprehensive training solution was selected by the IAF, so the pilots and WSOs will be ready and qualified to progress directly to 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft (F-16, F-15, F-35).
Parallel to training in the Flight Training Center, the cadets, young pilots and WSOs will proceed to airborne training, using Elbit's Embedded Virtual Avionics (EVATM) onboard training system, integrated by Alenia Aeromacchi into an M-346 trainer, which transforms the aircraft into a virtual advanced fighter and allows the trainees to achieve an essential experience in operating advanced systems, such as virtual Radar, Optical sensors and Electronic Warfare systems, as well as virtual Air-to-Air and Air-to-ground weapons.
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