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AMX - Alenia Aermacchi

The AMX, a joint program undertaken by Alenia, Aermacchi and Embraer as part of a Joint Program between Brazil and Italy, is a surface attack aircraft for battlefield interdiction, close air support and reconnaissance missions. Single-engine light attack and reconnaissance aircraft, also available as two-seat advanced trainer. Alenia Aermacchi holds 70.3% of the program, while Embraer has 29.7%. The aircraft was originally developed by Aeritalia (later Alenia Aeronautica) and Aermacchi with different program roles and two assembly lines.

The AMX is capable of operating at high subsonic speed and low altitude, by day or night, and if necessary, from bases with poorly equipped or damaged runways. It features low IR signature, reduced radar equivalent cross section and low vulnerability of structure and systems guarantee a high probability of mission sucess. The integrated ECM, air-to-air missiles and nose-mounted guns provide self-defense capabilities.

The wings of the AMX are mounted high, swept-back, and tapered with square tips. AAMs are usually mounted on the wings. The engine is one turofan inside the body. There are two air intakes forward of the wing roots. There is a single exhaust. The fuselage has a pointed nose and bubble canopy. The body widens at the air intakes and tapers to the rear. The tail flats are mid-mounted on the fuselage, swept back and tapered with blunt tips. The tail is swept back and has a tapered fin with a blunt tip.

The AM-X was developed by an Italian-Brazilian joint effort to provide both air forces with an aircraft capable to deliver a medium load out of short or semi-prepared airfield, at a moderate distance and high subsonic speed. Design studies began in 1977. Development of the AMX 2-seat trainer version was begun in 1986 by the three companies [Aeritalia, Aermacchi, Embraer]. Its object was to derive from the AMX a version that could be used for advanced training and also converted operationally for use on special missions. The plane would also be an ideal substitute for the 60th Air Wing's G.9lT which, by the end of the 1980's, would begin reaching the end of its operational life. Hence, the Italian Air Force's interest in this plane, and its order for 51 units, the first of which flew during the second half of 1989. The Brazilian Air Force ordered 14 of the planes. The first three AMX 2-seaters (two Italian and one Brazilian) were made part of the first production lot.

By late 1987 the first aircraft in the series was taking shape on the Turin assembly line. The central fuselage section, made by Aeritalia, had already been connected to the front section made by Aermacchi and would soon be provided with the wings manufactured by Embraer, and the engine manufactured by Fiat and the Brazilian company Celma under license from Rolls-Royce.

The flight activities of the prototypes progressed as planned: the AMX A02 was the first to have made more than 200 flights and the total number of flights completed by the 6 prototypes is in excess of 600 by late 1987, with more than 800 hours of flight time. The 4 aircraft flying in Italy were completing tests on the avionics and weaponry systems including tracking tests and bomb dropping tests for various types of bombs, launching of AIM-9L missiles and in-flight firing of the Vulcan gun.

The test program in Brazil progressed as planned and the 30-mm DEFA guns selected for the development phase of the Brazilian version successfully completed testing in 1987. The roll-out of the first AMX of the production series took place in Cselle at the end of 1987, with the first delivery to the Air Force planned for the middle of 1988, in keeping with the schedule drawn up 4 years earlier. The first AMX for the Brazilian Air Force was planned for delivery in 1988. In fact, the Italian Air Force took delivery of its first AM-X in October 1989.

The AM-X mission system is a typical first generation 1553-bus (Mil-bus) design, built around a digital mission computer. The Man-Machine Interface (MMI) of the mission system is designed around two main displays: a "Multifunctional Head Down Display" (HDD), with configurable function keys, and a "Head Up Display" (HUD). Although the AM-X mission system can be classified as a traditional one, it presents some elements of complexity. With regards to the the wide diffusion of similar systems, the stored data and to the functions offered to the pilot, it can in fact be defined as a distributed system. In other words, many of the functions in the mission system are performed via a cooperation of two or more subsystems.

It is widely accepted that the key point in keeping up-to-date modern combat aircraft is no longer the airframe but the mission systems. The airframes have a life that easily exceeds twenty years, while the mission systems rapidly become obsolete with respect to the ever-advancing state-of-the-art of the electronics and computers. The "mid-life update" is an already well-established term indicating a set of upgrades ranging from structural life extension to new radar, communication systems, navigation sensors, cockpit instruments, weapons. The key role played by the software in modern airborne systems offers new opportunities to execute upgrades of the combat aircraft without having large industrial facilities like those requested to modify or upgrade the airframes.

In order to improve its capabilities, IAF considered various retrofits to the mission system, and, specifically, the integration of a laser designation pod, to provide the aircraft with a laser guided bomb self designation capability. The laser designation pod selected for the AM-X is the Thomson Convertible Laser Designation Pod (CLDP), already operative on the IAF TORNADO IDS, on the French Air Force JAGUAR and MIRAGE 2000. But this was the first example within the IAF of use of the CLDP on a single-seater aircraft. The need for precision attacks from high altitude dramatically emerged in the current scenarios of peace keeping/enforcing operations, where "surgical" attacks are needed. IAF also needed to enhance the effectiveness of each single aircraft, in a context of a shrinking budget. The CLDP was a viable answer to these problems.

Ghibli is the nickname given by the Italian Air Force in the 1990's to the AMX, the single-engine, fighter bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. Ghibli is a hot dust-bearing wind of the North African desert. The Ghibli is able to execute close support missions, tactical air reconnaissance and cooperation with the surface forces (land and naval). The aircraft is equipped with an air-to-air refueling system. To enhance the potentialities of the fleet employment, in favor of the AMX flight line - represented by the flight squadrons of the 32nd Wing at Amendola (Foggia) and the 51st Wing in Istrana (Treviso) - specific training programs were developed to operate with the assistance of the night vision goggles and a modernization program ACOL (Aggiornamento Capacità Operative e Logistiche - updated logistics and operational capabilities) was completed with the aim, among other things, to equip Ghibli with modern, precise and advanced ammunition.

Alenia Aermacchi completed the AMX ACOL update program in 2012, re-delivering 52 upgraded aircraft (42 single and 10 twin-seat) to the Italian Air Force. The ACOL program envisaged the introduction of an inertial/GPS navigation system (EGI- Embedded GPS/Inertial) and the integration of a GPS-guided precision armament. Furthermore, on 42 single-seat aircraft, improvements in the communication and friend and foe identification systems (New Generation Identification Friend or Foe) were also introduced together with the Night Vision Google (NVG) capability. In order to properly support these new operating capabilities, a modern multi-function colour display and a more powerful computer symbol generator (CSG) were integrated in the cabin. Alenia Aermacchi and ItAF’s Reparto Sperimentale di Volo (Experimental Flight Department) collaborate daily with the equipment suppliers, with Selex ES participating as the main supplier of the avionics which distinguishes this AMX new version ACOL.

On January 17, 2011 Embraer and the Brazilian Air Force – FAB (Comando da Aeronáutica – COMAER) signed a contract to overhaul 43 AMX jet fighters. This deal complemented the previous contract to modernize AMX fighters signed in 2003. “We’re very proud to support the Brazilian Air Force in keeping this strategic aircraft fully operational,” explains Orlando José Ferreira Neto, Commercial Vice President, Embraer Defense and Security. “With this new contract, we will be able to more adequately get the aircraft prepared and ready for their subsequent modernization program, under an ongoing contract, so as to ensure a more efficient and steady flow for the fighters’ overall updating process and to expedite their return to operation.” The original modernization contract focuses on an upgrade of the electronic systems of the AMX jets, called the A-1 by the FAB. This new agreement delt with a structural overhaul and the repair and substitution of other outdated equipment. The maiden flight of the modernized single-seat prototype was planned for early 2012, when the flight testing of the systems began. The first delivery was expected by the end of 2012. The Brazilian Air Force began operations with the AMX 20 years earlier. This new contract will strengthen the long and productive relationship between Embraer and the FAB, by contributing to improving Brazil’s defense system.

On 10 April 2013 Alenia Aermacchi signed a three-year 58 million euro contract with the Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira) to provide logistics support services to the FAB’s AMX fleet, named A-1 in Brazil. The contract includes several elements: “on site” engineering support, (a permanent Alenia Aermacchi team will be based at Parque de Galeao in Rio de Janeiro) logistic support services; supply of components and spare parts and servicing and overhauling. Alenia Aermacchi was selected by the FAB because of its previous logistic experience on the AMX program and because of its proven results in providing spare parts and maintaining a high efficiently level of the AMX fleet currently in service in Italy.

This agreement is part of a larger FAB program designed to guarantee full operational capability of the AMX fleet for the next 20 years. It is integrated into the AMX upgrade program, known as A-1M, which is led by to Embraer and directly supported by Alenia Aermacchi. Related to the long-term support of the Brazilian AMX fleet, Alenia Aermacchi and Embraer recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding that establishes a joint venture between the two companies for the management of all logistic support activities related to AMX operations in Brazil throughout the lifecycle of the fleet.

On 30 May 2013 Alenia Aermacchi and the Italian Air Force celebrated the AMX 200,000 flight hours, a total of which includes both operational and test flight hours (2,200) since 1984, the date of the first flight of the prototype of the tactical support aircraft. Six prototypes where manufactured (one was lost in an accident), 136 examples (110 single and 26 twin-seat, these last called the AMX-T) were ordered by the Italian Air Force and 56 were ordered by Brazil. All aircraft were delivered starting from 1988. The AMX operated in Kosovo, Libya and they are still successfully operating in Afghanistan where, since November 2009, they have been flying over 7,000 hours thus proving their efficacy, low operational cost and perfect adaptability to very diverse scenarios from those they were intended for.

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Page last modified: 16-09-2013 19:35:40 ZULU