A special ceremony was held last night (Tuesday) in a production line of the Italian Leonardo Company in the town of Varese, Italy, in which the 30th and last LAVI trainer aircraft was delivered to the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD). The ceremony was attended by the deputy Director General and Head of the Procurement and Production Directorate in IMOD, Brig. Gen. (res.) Shmuel Zucker, as well as the Israeli ambassador to Italy, Naor Gilon and representatives of the Italian Defense Ministry and the manufacturer of the planes – the Leonardo Company (formerly Aermacchi).
The Defense Ministry's Procurement and Production Directorate acquired 30 M346-type trainer jets for the Israeli Air Force. The planes were delivered in record time of two years from the date of delivery of the first aircraft, while meeting the timetables set, according to a production rate of 1.5 aircraft per month. The first aircraft landed in Israel in the summer of 2014 and were considered great success, which significantly upgrade the Air Force's ability to train the future pilots of the IAF.
Deputy Director General and Head of the Procurement and Production Directorate in IMOD, Brig. Gen. (res.) Shmuel Zucker, said, "It was very important to us to come here and personally thank each and every one of the dozens of the production line workers, engineers and the entire project team, who worked around the clock for four years to provide the Air Force with the most advanced trainer planes in the world. The considerable contribution of the Lavi to the IAF and the Israeli defense establishment is already seen. It received excellent reviews by all the pilots who flew it."
The purchase of training aircraft is part of a gigantic compensation deal, signed in July 2012 between the governments of Israel and Italy. In the agreement’s framework, the Italian government signed reciprocal procurement deals with Israeli defense industries, totaling more than $4 billion. Both the compensation deal and the aircraft maintenance contract for 25 years – through Tor Company (a partnership between Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries) – has already brought billions of NIS to the Israeli defense industries, which will enable the development of advanced technologies and will guarantee many jobs.