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Francesco Norante, Head of Leonardo Canada, shares insight into the Aermacchi m-345 Tutor II

April 29, 2021  By Wings Staff

The M-345 Tutor II is a candidate to replace the ageing CT-114 Tutors currently in service with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds demonstration team, 431 Squadron based out of 15 Wing, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Photo: Leonardo

Leonardo describes the new M-345 Tutor II trainer as a cornerstones of its offer for the Canadian Future Aircrew Training (FAcT) program, a primary part of the country’s ongoing generational Strong, Secure, Engaged defence investment policy. Francesco Norante, head of Leonardo Canada, describes how the M-345 and Leonardo’s 70-year training heritage would fit Canada’s entire FAcT syllabus.

Why is the M-345 the best option for FACT?
The new M-345 HET [High Efficiency Trainer] has been developed by exploiting all the consolidated experience gained by Leonardo in the designing and manufacturing of a large family of training aircraft, including the SF-260, MB.326, MB.339, M-346.

The aircraft has been designed for simplicity and effectiveness, and for performance. It is fitted with simple, essential systems for maximum safety and reliability with minimum maintenance needs. As a result, the M-345 is a turbofan-powered, high-efficiency trainer with lifecycle costs comparable to those of heavy turboprop trainers, but with enhanced performance.

What advantages does the M-345 hold relative to competing trainers?
The M-345 offers a value for money solution, which benefits from jet performance and from the resultant expanded flight envelope, both in terms of speed and altitude, which, in, turn, ensures more training effectiveness per flight hour.  With a better and early stream, and a greater ability to download training from the Advanced Lead-In Fighter Training phase, it will provide important cost savings in producing jet pilots faster. That is why we think the performance of a jet should not be an option, but an absolute need.


It is indisputable that the gap with a heavy turboprop trainer is wide, in particular with speed in all conditions, rate of climb and altitude, while offering safe and friendly flight performances at a low speed. Moreover, the M-345 can be networked to flight simulators, thanks to Leonardo’s innovative Live-Virtual-Constructive [LVC] technology, providing additional training cost-effectiveness to M-345 operators.

What one advance oF the M-345 excites you most?
The ETTS [Embedded Tactical Training Simulation] system enables the M-345 to generate the whole spectrum of simulated training functions while in flight; and provides both the student and instructor with the capability to simulate various scenarios. This can include a tactical scenario comprised of a digital map with threats and targets; the presence of realistic Computer Generated Forces – friend and foes; on-board sensors such as multimode Fire Control Radar, targeting pod and active/passive electronic countermeasures; and weapons, including specific symbology and delivery parameters. 

The LVC-enabled ETTS functions of the aircraft can support standalone flying in a single-ship mission or for multi-ship networked operations. Aircraft and simulators are able to be networked via a dedicated training datalink which enables them to exchange tactical scenario data with other participants. The capability delivered through the ETTS is very important for students from the initial phases of training to the challenges of systems management of complex platforms for both combat jets and/or multi-engine aircraft.  

It allows us to download flying hours from the next – and more costly – training phases. We have great experience in LVC.  An example is based at Lecce-Galatina AFB in Italy, and is operated by the Italian Air Force for its M-346 jet trainers. The M-345 LVC network will also be able to network with the M-346 LVC, along with 5th Generation aircraft data links.

What M-345 advance will student pilots enjoy most?
The Mission Planning and Debriefing Station, MPDS, allows trainees to plan and analyze the missions they have just flown. Designed to ensure excellent safety, comfort and ideal field of view, the cockpit has the latest generation avionics and human machine interface in line with modern frontline fighters.

How would Leonardo implement the training program?
We are more than confident that our training system is the perfect response to FAcT requirements. Leonardo is able to set up the most responsive support model, open to any level of synergy with local partners, as desired by the Canadian customer. From the outset, with a complete simulation-based syllabus and optimal degree of “virtualization through technologies” this assures cost-effectiveness in training.

Looking to the future, our technology provides a clear, reliable path for potential implementation in several areas, which could result in valuable perspectives regarding system growth. LVC capability, provided by Leonardo’s training system, is currently one of the only fully developed such technologies, in comparison with similar initiatives in developmental phase. 

That provides us with solid positioning and a de-risking base where we are moving forward in several directions: We are continuously improving the capability of our system. Then we are moving ahead in developments, which are already in line with requirements implied by future generation combat systems – characteristics of the “system of systems” domain compared to today’s “defence aircraft” domain, with the aircraft interfacing unmanned elements and benefitting from Artificial Intelligence.

What other key aspects are part of Leonardo’s FAcT bid?
Leonardo is a champion in training fixed-wing, rotary-wing pilots and ACSO/AES ops. In relation to the FAcT program, Leonardo can offer a modern and comprehensive solution. Drawing on more than 70 years of aircrew training experience from around the world, Leonardo is a leading provider of civil and military fixed-wing, rotary-wing and mission training services ready to offer an innovative and comprehensive turnkey solution to meet all of the Royal Canadian Air Force training requirements.

Leonardo is setting the standard for future aircrew training. Our Integrated Training Systems deliver solutions that can guarantee the highest quality standard at every training stage for pilots, ground crews, operators and maintainers. In other sectors, such as cyber security, radar systems, defence electronics, rotary- and fixed-wing unmanned air systems and remote sensing services Leonardo is keen to bring to Canada its leading high technology solutions.

How is Leonardo’s existing position in Canada an advantage?
Leonardo is among the top ten world players in Aerospace, Defence and Security. Leonardo has a significant industrial presence in Italy, the UK, Poland and the USA. A trusted Canadian partner for over 50 years, Leonardo is a leading provider of capabilities through innovative technologies and integrated services. Leonardo’s Canadian subsidiary is based in Ottawa. Purpose built to serve the Canadian market, Leonardo’s Canadian team leverages and draws upon the full strength and depth of the global company.

Leonardo coordinates all commercial activities in Canada through the Ottawa-based team, including those activities related to Defence and Defence Systems, Aeronautics programmes for Air Traffic Control, Cyber Security and Automation with focus on solutions for airports, postal operators and couriers.

Within the country, there are 50 civil, military and parapublic helicopters flying alongside 40 ATR aircraft. The company has five authorized helicopter service centres. With 400 people working across five sites in Canada. Leonardo is investing in innovation, technology transfer, intellectual property, research and development, and long-term relationships and partnerships with the Canadian Government, Canadian industry, including small to medium enterprises.

Visit for the complete Norante Q&A, discussing DRS Technologies, Leonardo Canada, ITB requirements, and how the M-345 fits with the future of the Snowbirds.


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