Italy placed an order worth EUR300 million ($339 million) with Leonardo on June 13 for delivery of 13 M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer) aircraft that will supplement five units already on order. The Leonardo M-345 basic/advanced lightweight trainers serve as the lead-in platform for Italian pilots-in-training before they move on to the twin-engine M-346 Master AJTs (Advanced Jet Trainers). Both types are stationed at Galatina air base near Lecce in southern Italy.
The Italian government earmarked $9 million in its 2016 budget to launch development of the M-345, seen as a long-term replacement for the 137 MB-339 trainers that have served the Italian Air Force since 1982.
The Italian Ministry of Defense extended Leonardo a contract on January 13, 2017, for the initial batch purchase of five M-345s, with the first two units arriving on February 15 and the remainder to be delivered this year. The 13 units recently ordered will begin being delivered next year.
Under its requirement, Italy plans to order a total of 45 M-345s.
Italian air force today ordered 13 additional @LDO_Aircraft M-345 jet trainers worth €300m, bringing total ordered to 18 out of the 45 Italy needs to replace MB-339 trainers + re-equip Frecce Tricolori aerobatics teamhttps://t.co/CAZsZKnh41 pic.twitter.com/u7OPUUJgrq
— Giovanni de Briganti (@JoedeBrig) June 13, 2019
The latest M-345 order emerged on the same day the Italian Ministry of Defense announced a funding arrangement with the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE) worth EUR7.2 billion ($8.13 billion) that will underwrite ongoing and future military procurement programs and support the local defense industry. The investment program will run through 2032 and cover major programs such as acquisition of the VBM Freccia 8×8 infantry combat vehicle and Centauo II 8×8 tank destroyer, both manufactured by an Iveco Defense Vehicles and Oto Melara joint venture. Others include midlife upgrades for the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft and Tornado strike aircraft.
The Italian government traditionally uses funding derived from the MISE budget to support major military investment projects rather than drawing from the topline MoD budget.