Italian M-346 Jet Trainer Flies Non-Stop to Qatar
(Source: Defense-Aerospace.com; posted Nov 22, 2018)
An Italian Air Force Aermacchi M-346 jet trainer has flown non-stop to the Persian Gulf and back. It is seen here accompanied by a Eurofighter while tanking from a KC-767A tanker, a capability that is unique among jet trainers. (Italian AF photo)
PARIS --- An Italian Air Force Aermacchi T-346A jet trainer has set a new record by flying non-stop from Pratica di Mare air base, near Rome, to Al Udeid air base in Qatar, a distance of over 4,000 km.

The aircraft, accompanied by two F-2000A Eurofighters and a Boeing KC-767A tanker, was on a 10-day promotional tour of the Gulf, co-sponsored by the Italian Air Force and Leonardo. The tour comprised demonstrations in Qatar, Kuwait City and Bahrein., where they took part in the Bahrain International Air Show where the Italian Air Force’s aerobatic team, Frecce Tricolori, took part in the flight display.

The non-stop transit flights to and from the Gulf were made possible because the M-346 is refuelable in flight -- the only jet trainer to have such a capability.

The T-346 (the Italian Air Force designation for the M-346 Master) took six hours to fly to and from the Gulf, with five refuelings each way.

At each stop, the aircraft – belonging to the air force’s Experimental Flight Department -- carried out technical demonstrations and demonstration flights, to boost Italy’s high-tech sales in the region.

One of the goals of the tour is to sell the M-346 to the Gulf countries, both in the standard trainer version as well as in the lightweight fighter variant, which it is developing for light attack or air police missions which do not always require a high-end, and expensive, fighter.

Kuwait has ordered 28 Eurofighters combat aircraft from Leonardo. These are the most advanced Eurofighters available, and will be the first to be fitted with the Captor E-scan AESA radar, which has been fully developed but has not yet been ordered by the four Eurofighter nations. Deliveries are due to begin in early 2020.

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