Israeli Air Force (IAF) has upgraded its M-346 Lavi advanced trainer aircraft with external fuel tanks, live ammunition, and an updated program block, the Air Force said in a statement.
The IAF is using the M-346 Lavi aircraft for fighter pilot and WSO (Weapon Systems Operator) training.
The aircraft has been upgraded to include the new features, upon the completion of a series of tests conducted by the IAF’s Flight Test Squadron, which is positioned in Tel-Nof AFB.
The Italian aircraft is utilized by IAF Flight Academy Fighter Division cadets and its graduates in their Operational and Advanced Operational Training Course with the “Flying Tiger” squadron in Hatzerim AFB.
These courses serve as an intermediate stage between the completion of their basic flight training and their integration in the IAF’s operational squadrons.
Program block updates:
The updated program block enables the aircraft to carry training munition and detachable fuel tanks.
External Fuel tanks:
The jet’s were upgraded to enable it to carry detachable fuel tanks to prolong its flight time from the 1 hour and 15-minute flight allowed by the original configuration.
The jets will also have the ability to carry BDU-33 training bombs. New training bombs are expected to raise the bar for the training of young pilots and WSOs.
The Lavi, like other operational aircraft of the IAF, has a networked function capability, which enables parallel management of weapon systems in a number of aircraft, such as missiles and bombs.
In terms of flight, it is reminiscent of the fighter jets used by the IAF. An addition of live munition will improve our operational training exponentially,” says Maj. Omer, Deputy Commander of the “Flying Tiger” Squadron.
Fighter Division Flight Academy cadets and young graduates all train in the “Lavi” simulator, which is composed of four separate training chambers, in which they undergo many training sessions and emergency simulations. The Flight Test Squadron will soon conduct a test to examine the simulator’s connectivity, which will enable the IAF to connect between the test chambers and bring with it the option for mutual training sessions for a number of aircrew members simultaneously.
The ability to simultaneously simulate the same mission is critical and inseparable from fighter pilot and WSO training, and as a result, an advanced, networked mission simulator is purchased along with the aircraft.
The simulator allows us to sit in a dome and see the action from a cockpit identical to a real one. It gives us the ability to fly in a formation of four on the ground, and train both pilots and WSOs. The FTS (Flight Test Squadron) will soon test the connected simulators, and enable the IAF to connect a number of simulator chambers for the purpose of mutual training.
Alenia Aermacchi/Leonardo M-346 Master is a military twin-engine transonic trainer aircraft. Originally co-developed with Yakovlevas the Yak/AEM-130, the partnership was dissolved in 2000 and Alenia Aermacchi proceeded to separately develop the M-346 Master, while Yakolev continued work on the Yakovlev Yak-130.
The first flight of the M-346 was performed in 2004. The type is currently operated by the air forces of Italy, Israel, Singapore, and Poland. Since 2016 manufacturer became Leonardo-Finmeccanica as Alenia Aermacchi merged into the new Finmeccanica (rebranded as Leonardo since 2017).
On 16 February 2012, the M-346 was selected by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in an exchange deal, in which Israel will build a reconnaissance satellite and AWACs systems for Italy in return for the planes.
It will operate as the IAF’s main training jet to replace the McDonnell Douglas A-4H/N Skyhawk, which has served the IAF for over 40 years. On 19 July 2012, a contract was signed between Alenia Aermacchi and the Israeli Ministry of Defence to supply 30 M-346 advanced jet trainers. The Israeli Air Force announced on 2 July 2013 that in Israeli service the M-346 would be named the Lavi, reusing the name given to the cancelled IAI Lavi.
The IAF’s first M-346 was rolled out in a ceremony at Alenia Aermacchi’s factory in Venegono Superiore on March 20, 2014.
Israel currently operates 30 M-346 Lavi trainers.