At a special ceremony in Italy, the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the IAF officially received the first “Lavi” (M-346). The advanced training jet, which bears the namesake of an Israeli jet from the past, will replace the old “Skyhawk A-4” training planes and will bring the IAF the most advanced training capabilities
There was great excitement in Varese, Italy, as the first “Lavi” (M-346) jet was delivered to the Ministry of Defense and the IAF. The celebratory event marked the end of a process in which the advanced training jet was purchased for the IAF Flight School in Hatzerim. “The ‘Lavi’ jet represents a quantum leap in the quality of training for future pilots”, said Brigadier General (res.) Shmuel Zucker , the Head of Procurement at the Ministry of Defense, after the ceremony.
Meet The Trainer
Anyone who ventures into the aircraft will discover that despite the Italian accent, the dazzling colors and the beautiful pictures of the Alps, the plane is Russian at heart: it was born in Russia in the early 90s, when the “Yakovlev” company began developing the first training jet of its kind for the Russian Air Force. At the same time, the company Aermacchi planned to develop a replacement for the MB-339 planes and the Russians, for their part, did not object.
What made the Western company cooperate with Russia shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union? According to Dr. Van Der Linden, the answer is simpler than most people think.
“‘Yakovlev’ had worked in Russia since the WWII. Italians knew very well what kind of knowledge the Russians had acquired over the years and cooperation was a good way for them to share it. We shouldn’t forget the low cost of production in Russia during the 90s or the fact that the price of the jet would have been especially cheap”, he said in a special interview with IAF Magazine.
The Russians also had good reasons to sign the agreements and develop cooperation.
“They tried to direct the sales of their planes to a global market. Over the years, they sold only to the Eastern Bloc countries and this was a golden opportunity for them”.After several years of working together, the 130-Yak/AEM planes arrived in Italy in 1996, where they were offered to the local air force. But the potential customers in Italy were not interested in the model and the cooperation was officially discontinued in 2000.
Italian, Russian, German, American and Israeli
In the years that followed, Russia continued developing the 130-Yak and marketing it to Eastern and Middle-Eastern countries, while the Italian company “Aermacchi” produced a new plane: The M-346.
Unlike its Russian predecessor, the Italian plane is based on an “international team” of Western components: an American motor, British ejection seats, German landing gears, while most of the other components are the fruits of the labor of the Italian company. Surprisingly (or not) some of the computer systems and the display system are Israeli-made, from “Elbit Systems”.
“After parting ways with the Russians, we adjusted ourselves to NATO and American international standards and we tried to adjust the plane to the Western market”, explains Giuseppe Giordo, CEO of “Alenia-Aermacchi” in an interview with IAF Magazine.
The Simulator is ready
The IAF has been looking forward to this moment and the first two planes will arrive in Israel this year. If all goes well, by 2016, 28 additional planes will have been brought to Israel. “There’s no doubt that the cadets that will train on the new plane will easily adapt to the advanced planes the IAF operates. The M-346 provides a work environment that is similar to that of the F-16I and F-15 planes”, said Giordo. “The work environment will allow the pilots to adapt easily to the fifth generation fighter planes. In fact, all the forces that will use our planes have already decided that the F-35 will be their next fighter jet and I believe that it won’t be a problem for any of the pilots to transition with ease from our platform to that of the F-35”.
In addition to the preparations in Italy, the IAF has also started revving its engines: The first simulator instructors began their training for the changes in instruction when the “Lavi” lands in Israel. The flight simulator of the plane is considered one of the most advanced flight simulators in the world and cadets and aircrews will train on it during their operational training.