Japan Sending Pilots To Italian Fighter Training Program

Leonardo M-346 trainer
Credit: Leonardo

SINGAPORE—The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) has opted to participate in the International Flight Training School (IFTS) in Italy and will be sending its pilots for advanced-level fighter training.

The JASDF and Italian Air Force have signed a technical agreement making Japan the third foreign air arm to join IFTS after Qatar and Germany. 

The agreement comes after a September 2020 visit by JASDF officials to the Lecce-Galatina Air Base in southern Italy, where the 61st Wing is based. 

Leonardo said the arrangement “enables a gradual increase in JASDF student-pilot intake” and could see Japanese instructors stationed at Lecce-Galatina with Italian counterparts. 

JASDF pilots will jump straight into advanced Phase IV training, revolving around the Leonardo M-346 jet, known by the Italian Air Force as the T-346A. 

The facility was developed by the Italian Air Force and Leonardo. The pilots will also have access to the base’s CAE simulators. 

“This is another important step in the collaboration between our air forces. We are already cooperating with great success in many areas, for example having common platforms such as the F-35 and the KC-767 tanker,” said Gen. Alberto Rosso, the Italian Air Force chief of staff, in a statement. 

For Japan, which is already a Lockheed Martin F-35A operator and a future F-35B customer, the move to train with F-35A/B user Italy likely will help Japan enhance its knowledge of F-35 operations, as well as align and benchmark itself to NATO standards. Japan is expected to receive F-35Bs as early as 2024.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.