The Italian Air Force is set to become the launch customer of the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 jet trainer aircraft, with an order of 14, a government official here said May 28.Italy’s Ministry for Economic Development could use a law covering research-and-development investment to free funds to buy the aircraft, said Defense Undersecretary Lorenzo Forcieri.“The Defense Ministry has written to the Ministry for Economic Development to include the request for 14 aircraft” within its funding, he said, adding that the ministry had already funded the construction of prototypes of the M-346.The Air Force already flies Aermacchi’s MB-339 jet trainers, but Forcieri said that to enable the M-346 to find export customers, “it must first be adopted by the Italian Air Force.”Aermacchi Chief Executive Carmelo Cosentino said the deal would “give a strong impulse to the credibility of our product.”Aermacchi is now working on the first of 12 low-rate initial production aircraft, which will be lighter than the prototype aircraft. A prototype was delivered to the Italian Air Force in April to undergo technical evaluation.

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