MILAN — Sweden will be the first Nordic nation to send over 100 of its military pilots to train in Italy starting next year, marking a new milestone in the two European countries’ defense cooperation.
The announcement followed the Dec. 4 signature of a ten-year agreement between Gen. Luca Goretti, the chief of staff of the Italian air force, and his Swedish counterpart, Maj, Gen. Jonas Wikman.
The document stipulates that for the next decade, the flight training of more than 100 Swedish pilots and a dozen of instructors will be handed over to the Italian air service, with the first batch arriving in the country next month.
Their training process will be stretched across two different sites, with the first stage taking place at the Galatina air base in Lecce and the following ones at the International Flight Training School (IFTS) in Sardinia.
“This is a further significant step for the safety of European skies, finding agreements and synergies between countries that share spaces and orientations is always productive,” Goretti said. “Working with Swedish colleagues will represent a growth opportunity for both countries.”
The IFTS was born out of a collaboration between the Italian air force and Leonardo, assisted by Canadian simulator manufacturer CAE. It provides advanced fighter training based on the Italian air pilot syllabus and uses the T-346 Integrated Training System, based on a fleet of M-346 advanced jet trainers, to simulate flying a wide-range of aircraft such as the F-35, Eurofighter and the Gripen.
Sweden joins a list of countries that have opted to train their pilots at the IFTS, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Canada, Austria and the UK.
Sweden, which is still waiting for approval to join NATO, has had a circuitous history regarding the next-generation fighter aircraft it intends to buy or develop. In 2019, it first joined a UK-led program as an observer only to withdraw from it a few years later.
While Stockholm’s neighbors have chosen the F-35, a Swedish decision on the path toward a next-gen fighter is still years away, Aviation Week reported in July. The backbone of the country’s air force currently is composed of Saab’s Gripen E aircraft.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and Sweden signed a defense cooperation agreement to strengthen their military ties on Dec. 6.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.