Leonardo has signed contracts with the Italian National Armaments Directorate of the Italian Defence Ministry for an initial batch of five Aermacchi M-345 trainer aircraft and for the first phase of development and delivery of the new reconnaissance and escort helicopter (Nuovo Elicottero da Esplorazione e Scorta) for the Italian Army.
The combined value of the contracts is in excess of €500m.
The Italian Air Force has a total requirement for around 45 M-345s (designated as T-345 by the Italian Armed Forces) to progressively replace the 137 in-service MB-339 aircraft which entered into operation in 1982. The prototype M-345 made its first flight on 29th December.
The new 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. Together, the two aircraft types will form the world’s most advanced training system for military pilots.
According to Leonardo, the M-345, thanks to its high performance and 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. The first delivery is expected by 2019.
The multiyear contract for the new reconnaissance and escort helicopter (NEES) of the Italian Army envisages the study, development, industrialization, production and testing of a prototype and three initial production aircraft.
Through this new programme, based on a total requirement for 48 units, the Italian Army will be able to replace the current fleet of AW129 which are expected to be retired from service by 2025, after over 35 years in operations.