Israeli Air Force Receives Its Fifth M-346 Jet

The Italian aircraft will be used to train Israeli fighter pilots.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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A M-346 at the Hatzerim Air Force Base, this week.
A M-346 at the Hatzerim Air Force Base, this week.Credit: Reuters
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israeli Air Force received its fifth Italian M-346 jet this week. The Air Force will use these planes – called "Lavi" in the IAF – for the training of pilots. The aircrafts are manufactured by Alenia Aermacchi, an Italin firm.

The first of these jets arrived in the Hatzerim Air Force Base in July, but up to now they were only flown by trainers in the military school of aviation. In two months pilots in their last stage of pilot school will begin training in the new jets.

"It’s the most comfortable jet for training I have ever seen," an officer involved with bringing the jet to the Israeli Air Force told Haaretz. Up to this point IAF pilots have logged 200 hours on the jet. According to the IAF the main advantage of the new jets is that they are similar to the F-16.

As a part of the deal, the IAF also purchased simulators on which 40 percent of the training of fighter jet pilots will take place. The running of the simulators and the maintenance of the new jets will be done by a private contractor. "The question was whether or not we can maintain such expensive facilities. We found that the overall costs were lower when done by civilians rather than by military personnel and conscripts," the officer explained.

According the Defense Ministry's acquisition plan, over the next two years, the IAF will receive 30 M-346, in accordance with a deal signed in Italy last year. The deal is estimated to be worth 2 billion dollars. The Italian ministry of defense is supposed to purchase military products from Israel too – a satellite, a spy plane.

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