Leonardo and Italian Air Force launch the ‘International Flight Training School’ initiative

By Luca Peruzzi

The ambitions of Italy to play a leading role in the training domain at worldwide level have become a reality with the ‘International Flight Training School’ (IFTS) agreement signed on 17th July at Farnborough air show between Leonardo and Italian air force.

The new collaboration agreement signed at the presence of Italian Minister of Defence, Elisabetta Trenta by Italian Air Force’s chief Lt. Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli and Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo, will strengthen the training services already offered by the Air Force’s 61st Wing  Training School on Lecce-Galatina Air Base in south-eastern Italy and will establish a new International Flight Training School (IFTS) to support national and international pilot training. Under a public-private partnership-style funding model, the IFTS will ensure the further growth and internationalisation of the Italian Air Force’s training school while at the same time increasing its capabilities and the range of pilot training solutions offered to the customers.


Leveraging on the expertise developed by Italian Air Force in the pilot training domain with a new generation syllabus for personnel to fly on fixed- and rotary-wing together with unmanned platforms at 61th Wing Training School, and the integrated training system (ITS) developed by  Leonardo and including both M346 advanced and lead-in fighter trainer already in service on the same base and the new M345 basic trainer to enter into operations soon, together with an integrated ground based training (GBTS) package, the new IFTS will be able to deliver courses for both Italian and international air forces. Fulfilling the increasing training demands for military pilots at worldwide level, the IFTS will initially provide advanced and pre-operational training courses to national and international pilots on the M346 and later-on, with the availability of the new M345, the scope of the public-private initiative will be enlarged to include the full training syllabus.

The  IFTS aim, when fully operational around d 2021, is to double the current capabilities of the so-called 4th phase of the training syllabus from around 35-40 to 70-80 pilots per year with the support of 45 instructors including both 25 national and 20 international instructors. Leonardo will provide the IFTS four M346 in 2019 in addition to the 18 aircraft already delivered to the Italian Air Force. Leonardo will be teamed with CAE and Babcock to provide the services within the IFTS.

With the expected increasing number of pilots attending the school, the Italian Air Force has plans to add an additional training site, without disclosing it but alternatives are under scrutiny. Currently the 61st Wing hosts pilots coming from various nations, namely Argentina, Austria, France, Greece, Kuwait, The Netherlands, Spain and USA. The training school has also been training instructors from Spain, USA, France and Austria since September 2017. “With the IFTS, we expect to extend the courses to other nations coming from the Middle East, Europe and potentially in the longer-term Africa”, Italian Air Force chief said.

“The IFTS initiative is the result of our desire to join two national champions to generate synergies for the benefit of the Nation. The ongoing training programmes will benefit from new resources, including new trainers provided by Leonardo at no additional cost to the Air Force. This will maximize the quality of our military training pilots, who will fly 4th and 5th generation fighters. It will also meet the growing demand for training services from international partners”.” He  added.

“As recently announced in our industrial plan, and thanks to the agreement with the Italian Air Force, we’re officially entering the fighter pilot training service business”, said Alessandro Profumo, Leonardo’s CEO, said. “The IFTS is based on a solid collaboration programme between Leonardo and the Italian air force and the resulting operational synergies will allow us to seize new market opportunities and develop international collaborations. We plan to extend this business model to cover training across fixed-wing, rotary-wing and remotely-piloted platforms”, he added.

Operational training, carried out by the Italian Air Force at the 61st Wing Flight Training School with the M346 or T-346A as it is designated by the Italian air force, prepares pilots to transition to the latest-generation combat aircraft including the Eurofighter and the F-35. The Galatina Air Force Base is also equipped with live-virtual-constructive (LVC) training technologies, including advanced CAE-built M-346 full-mission simulators. Leonardo’s LVC enables trainees on the ground to interact with pilots in the air, flying real aircraft, during the same training missions.