ROME – Fledgling fighter pilots from Japan are signing up for training in Italy as the Mediterranean country’s pilot school expands operations.

In a deal signed between the air force chiefs of Italy and Japan, Japanese pilots will undertake Phase 4 advanced training courses in Italy, while Japanese instructors may arrive at a later date to work with Italian colleagues.

Currently based at Galatina air base in southern heel of Italy, phase 4 students will transfer next year to a new dedicated facility at Decimomannu air base on the Italian island of Sardinia.

The Japanese pilots will join German pilots who are due to arrive following a deal struck with the German air force in September, while Qatari pilots are already undertaking Phase 4 training in Italy.

Italian air force chief General Alberto Rosso said Italian and Japanese pilots had much in common since both their air forces operated the F-35 and KC-767 tanker.

Italian air force officials have said they aim to double the number of pilots graduating from Phase 4 training from 40 to 80 a year following the the move to Decimomannu thanks to expanded airspace in Sardinia.

As the Phase 4 pilots move out of Galatina, Phase 2, 3 and 4 pilots will stay on to take advantage of the freed up space as they switch over to new, M345 aircraft built by Leonardo from the MB339.

In Sardinia, students will fly 22 Leonardo T346A jet trainers, but also use CAE full mission simulators and Part Task Trainers.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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