Leonardo appears to have secured a new order for its M-346 advanced jet trainer on top of a likely commitment from Elbit Systems for the type.
Disclosing its first-quarter performance on 6 May, the Italian aerospace and defence group noted that new orders at its aircraft division had improved against the same period in 2020 “thanks to the finalisation of a major contract for the export of M-346 aircraft.”
Elbit in April was awarded a $1.65 billion, 20-year contract by Greece covering the establishment and operation of an international flight training centre for the Hellenic Air Force. The Israeli firm will provide 10 M-346 aircraft for the requirement.
However, Leonardo confirms the latest export deal is for Egypt, Poland and Turkmenistan and is related to the Elbit commitment.
New orders in the aircraft division during the first three months of the year stood at €595 million ($717 million), a 15% increase on the €515 million recorded a year earlier.
Divisional revenues also rose to €510 million, up from €431 million, due to “higher production volumes achieved… in particular on the line of M-346 trainers”.
Cirium fleets data lists a backlog of 10 M-346s: four from a total 16-aircraft commitment for the Polish air force, six for Turkmenistan and 24 M-346 aircraft for Egypt. According to the Aviationist, due to the sensitivity of Israeli components in Egyptian aircraft, Leonardo has been cautious about detailed news releases about the deal.
A pretty interesting M-346 “Master” sporting a camouflage paint scheme quite close to the one used by the combat aircraft of the Turkmen or the Azerbaijani Air Force was spotted at Venegono airport, in northwestern Italy, after its first flight, by photographer Oscar Bernardi, on May 28, 2021.
The aircraft was reportedly involved in the very first flight in the new livery.
Although the export customer for the Italian advanced jet trainer has not been officially confirmed yet, the sighting confirms the “Master” is being read for another operator. Which one is difficult to say, considered that both Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have been in talks with Leonardo about the jet and they use almost identical color schemes.
According to the color scheme, it should be the first aircraft for the Turkmen Air Force that, in May 2018, was showcased both the M-346 and the C-27J tactical airlifted.
The Turkmen Air Force is believed to have placed an order for six M-346 jets. As reported by Global Defense Corp, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs “reported to the Senate on details of the export of armaments in 2019. Turkmenistan featured prominently in the report, has become the second-largest export customer for the year, after Egypt. Ashgabat purchased €446.1 million of unspecified Italian military products in 2019.
The Italian MFA report did not break down the type of equipment Turkmenistan ordered, but it did indicate that unnamed customers had purchased six M-346 jet trainers and eight AW139 helicopters.
Noteworthy, in December 2020 we reported about a brand new C-27J Next Generation that flew for the first time from Turin Caselle airport, home of Leonardo’s facilities, sporting a color scheme with a dark and light brown camouflage quite close to be one used by the Turkmenistan Air Force.
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