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First M-346 Trainers Delivered To Greece

M-346 Greece
The first Greek M-346s about to take off from Italy (All images: Oscar Bernardi)

The first two advanced jet trainers arrived at Kalamata Air Base, where they will gradually replace the obsolete T-2 Buckeye.

The first two Leonardo M-346B Master Advanced Jet Trainers of the Hellenic Air Force have been delivered to Kalamata Air Base on May 11, 2023. The two aircraft, with the tail numbers 250 and 251, departed in the morning from Leonardo’s facilities in Venegono and, after a fuel stop at Lecce-Galatina Air Base, landed at their new home in the early afternoon, escorted by two T-2 Buckeye trainers.

According to local media, the training aircraft were accompanied by 20 HAF technicians that were trained in Italy by Leonardo during the last months. The reports also mention the return to Kalamata of six instructors trained in Israel on the IAF M-346 “Lavi”. From the video, it appears that the M-346 were delivered by mixed Leonardo-HAF crews, so it not known if some instructors have been trained by Leonardo too.

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The two “Masters” taxiing before take off.

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The two “Masters” taxiing before take off.

As we reported in 2021, Greece is creating a joint international school with Israel at Kalamata Air Base, home of the 120th Air Training Wing. Elbit Systems has been selected for the creation of the school and will be in charge of the supply and operation of ten M-346 trainers, as well as the maintenance of the HAF T-6 Texan II fleet.

The HAF has been working for a total renovation of the training as new advanced aircraft like the F-16 Block 70/72, the Rafale and the F-35 join the fighter fleet, and thus replacing the obsolete T-2E Buckeye (of which 40 were bought and less than 10 are still operational) and restoring the T-6A Texan II (45 bought but with limited availability because the lack of support).

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Tali number 250.

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Tali number 250.

The T-6 fleet was in a very precarious state, but the situation appears to be improving, with a new logistics center and support for the aircraft already operational. The T-2 Buckeye, on the other hand, is now obsolete and not even close to satisfy the requirements of modern pilot training. Also, the support for the T-2E is set to end this year, with the M-346 gradually replacing the Buckeye.

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Tail number 251.

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Tail number 251.

Greek medias reported that the T-2 will be replaced through the leasing of new aircraft, so it is possible that the new Masters will be owned and operated by Elbit instead of the HAF, although they will wear the national insignia.

About Stefano D’Urso
Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he’s also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.

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