Italian ambassador visits Tuskegee to support Leonardo T-100 project

Italian ambassador Armando Varricchio
Italian ambassador Armando Varricchio talks about Leonardo's T-100 trainer jet, depicted by the model in the foreground, during a visit to Alabama. The company plans to build the aircraft in Tuskegee if the U.S. Air Force decides to begin using it. [Photo Credit: Hal Yeager | Governor's Office]

Italian Ambassador Armando Varricchio and Leonardo DRS Chief Executive William Lynn III on Monday visited the historic home base of the Tuskegee Airmen, where the aerospace company wants to manufacture the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation trainer aircraft.

If Leonardo’s T-100 jet trainer is selected by the Air Force, the company plans to build a manufacturing facility at Moton Field, where the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen trained before being deployed to Italy in World War II. The project will create 750 jobs in Tuskegee.

Varricchio said he was impressed by the community’s eagerness to see the T-100 project become a reality.

“I can tell you that it is my first visit here, but it will not be my last,” he said during a lunch with community leaders. “I will spare no effort because we want Tuskegee to be not just a place of memory but a place of the future.

“Let’s move ahead,” he added. “Let’s work together.”

Job-creation engine

With an Air Force decision expected in the summer, Lynn said Leonardo DRS is prepared to launch the T-100 program quickly once the aircraft is selected. The Leonardo trainer is already being used by the air forces of Israel, Poland, Singapore and Italy, and it’s complemented by a sophisticated, integrated ground-based simulation system.

“It would create jobs all across the U.S.,” Lynn said. “The engines would be built in Arizona. The training simulators would be built in Florida. We have suppliers in almost every state, so it would be thousands of jobs.”

Last November, Leonardo officials told an Alabama delegation visiting the company’s Italian manufacturing plant that preparations for the Tuskegee facility were on track.

After their Tuskegee visit, Varricchio, Lynn and a Leonardo team traveled to Montgomery for talks with Gov. Kay Ivey and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, followed by a dinner.

Long-standing bonds

Varricchio said he sees the Leonardo project as a way to “connect the dots that are linking Italy and the United States.”

While in Tuskegee, the ambassador toured a museum dedicated to the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were based at an airfield in Ramitelli during their stay in Italy.

“I was very moved walking around in the beautiful museum that was retracing the memory of those heroes, those brave men who are not forgotten in Italy,” he said. “What they did when they came to Italy, during those difficult times, that was the moment that bonds were created – and those bonds are more present than ever.”

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

Republished with permission from the Alabama NewsCenter.