ROME – Qatar has purchased six Leonardo M-346 jet trainers, the Italian company has said.

A spokesman for the firm confirmed the long-rumored acquisition after three of the jets were photographed at a military parade in Qatar.

Leonardo last year announced a deal to sell jets to an “undisclosed” customer – a reference to the Qatar deal.

The company told Defense News the purchase is part of a wider jet-training deal between Italy and Qatar launched in November 2020 which has brought Qatari Phase 4 training pilots to Italy to train at the flight school run by Leonardo and the Italian Air Force.

It is thought that Qatar may now station some or all of its newly acquired M-346 jets at the school.

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

Phase 4 pilots from Japan and Germany have also joined Italian pilots at the school.

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 after the move to Decimomannu thanks to expanded airspace in Sardinia.

The school now uses the 18 M-346 jets ordered by Italy as well as four belonging to Leonardo.

Leonardo has previously sold 12 jets to Singapore, 16 to Poland and 30 to Israel. The Qatar deal takes the number sold to 82. Greece is also set to purchase ten jets as part of a deal with Israel to set up its own flight school.

Leonardo has also sold six light fighter versions of the jet to an undisclosed customer, thought to be Turkmenistan.

Nigeria has also expressed an interest in the fighter variant, while Leonardo sees Poland and Columbia as potential customers.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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