Qatar has received its first Leonardo M-346 Master advanced jet trainer aircraft from Italy, the manufacturer confirmed on 26 January.
The M-346s were ordered as part of an agreement for Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) training at Italy’s International Flight Training School (IFTS), with the first aircraft appearing in Qatar during a student pilot graduation ceremony at Al Udeid Air Base on 26 January.
“The QEAF has ordered six aircraft as part of an agreement for the Qatari pilot training at the International Flight Training School,” Leonardo told Global Defense Corp, adding, “The first three aircraft […] are now in Qatar”.
The Italian government announced in November 2020 that QEAF pilots would be trained at the IFTS, which is operated as a joint venture by Leonardo and the Italian Air Force at Lecce-Galatina and Decimomannu Air Base in Sardinia.
Photos that appeared on social media today show an M-346 in Qatar, with Qatari national markings on the tailfin. The jet is part of a line-up alongside QEAF Rafale and F-15QA fighters, ahead of what looks like a military parade, likely in Doha, the Qatari capital. Doha hosts a National Day Parade in December, suggesting these photos might date from the end of last year. Another F-15QA, an NH90 helicopter, as well as Pilatus PC-21 turboprop and Super Mushshak piston-engine trainers are also present at the event, while one of the photos also shows a pair of M-346s in flight.
Currently based at Galatina air base in the southern heel of Italy, phase 4 students will transfer this year to a new dedicated facility at Decimomannu air base on the Italian island of Sardinia.
Phase 4 pilots from Japan and Germany have also joined Italian pilots at the school.
Italian Air Force officials have said they aim to double the number of pilots graduating from Phase 4 training from 40 to 80 a year after the move to Decimomannu thanks to expanded airspace in Sardinia.
The school now uses the 18 M-346 jets ordered by Italy as well as four belonging to Leonardo.
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