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Italian Air Force Modernization (Aeronautica Militare)

The Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 placed severe restrictions on the Italian armed forces, but becoming a member of NATO in 1949 opened the way for modernization of the AMI. With American military aid, through the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, the AMI saw the arrival of P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt piston-engined fighters. Later in 1952, the best aircraft of the period - F-84G, F-86E and F-84F fighters and C-119 transports - came to Italy. Not so happy to see foreign-designed aircraft serving the AMI, the reborn Italian aviation industry began to develop and produce aircraft of its own like the Fiat G-91, Aermacchi MB-326, Piaggio P-166 and the line of Augusta-Bell helicopters. The 1970s witnessed the acquisition of the Aeritalia G-222 and Lockheed C-130, which renewed the transport fleet, and the Lockheed-Aeritalia F-104, a fighter-variant of the Starfighter developed specifically to meet the requirements of the Italian defense system.

In March 2001, Italy signed a letter of agreement for lease and support of 34 F-16A/B Air Defense Fighter aircraft from U.S. Air Force inventory. Italy is the 21st F-16 customer, the sixth country to purchase used F-16s, and the second country to lease used F-16s. Four additional aircraft were acquired for spares generation.

The ItAF leased 34 F-16s from the USAF for a period of five years, followed by an additional five years under the program “Peace Caesar”. The aircraft was effectively used to fill a gap during the transition from the F-104 and the Eurofighter. Under the “Peace Ceasar” foreign military salesprogram, F-16A and B-model fighters were leased by Italy to provide an interim air defense capability between the retirement of their Tornados and F-104 “Starfighters” until the Italian Air Force Service could fully achieve operations of the Eurofighter Typhoon. By 2007 the AMI had leased 30 F-16A Block 15 Air Defense Fighters, and four F-16 Block 10 Fighting Falcons, with an option to lease some more as a stopgap and as replacement for leased Tornado Air Defense Variant interceptors. Six F-16s, brought out of retirement in 2003 to support a lease agreement with the Italian Ministry of Defense, were returned to 309 AMARG on 24 June 2010.

The following years also saw the introduction of 121 Euro-Fighter 2000 Typhoons, replacing the leased F-16 Fighting Falcons, and the Joint Strike Fighter. Furthermore, updates were foreseen on the Tornado IDS/IDT and the AMX-fleet. The operational requirements for Eurofighter Typhoon were agreed by the Chiefs of Air Staff of Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom in the form of a European Staff Requirement which was re-affirmed in January 1994. Eurofighter GmbH, was set up to manage the development and production of the complete weapon system. It is owned by the four Eurofighter Partner Companies (EPC), with agreed development work shares including Alenia Aeronautica (ALN - Italy) 21 %. The final aircraft requirement figures, agreed in January 1996, were 121 aircraft for Italy - and a 19,5% work share. Eurofighter Typhoon entered service with all four nations in Spring 2004.

In May 2012 Eurofighter Typhoons of the Italian Air Force (ItAF) replaced the last of the air forces’ F-16 jets to leave the Typhoon solely responsible for the defence of Italian airspace. Entering into service in 2004 and now operational with four Typhoon Squadrons (Gruppi) across both northern and southern Italy - two at Grosseto air base and two at Gioia del Colle - Eurofighter is, from May onwards, the only air defence asset in the Italian Air Force. As of mid-2012 a total of 62 Typhoon aircraft had been delivered to the Italian Air Force. During operations in Libya in 2011, the Italian Air Force fleet completed over 200 missions and flew 1294 flying hours from their Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Trapani, Sicily.

Initially Italy had a requirement for 16 A400Ms, but in August 2001 Italy's new defence minister, Antonio Martino, questioned the country's planned acquisition of the Airbus Military Company A400M transport. Martino told Rome's Senate defence committee that he doubts the "need and relevance" of the purchase. Martino did not attend the signing ceremony for the transport aircraft program during the Paris air show in June 2001 at which Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey and the UK signed a memorandum of understanding. Martino ostensibly stayed away because he had only been in the post a few days. The Italian Air Force had no urgent need of the A400M, as it already had orders for 22 Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules, with options for two more, and was committed to procuring 12 Alenia/Lockheed Martin C-27J Spartans. It also ordered four Boeing 767 tanker/transports. Italy had planned to take A400Ms in 2015, seven years after the first aircraft were projected to be handed over. In October 2001, Italy backed out of the program. Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino, talking to the public television network RAI said, "This aircraft will not be of use to military aviation."

The Italian Air Force's C-27J Spartans, in service at Pisa's 46th Air Wing, reached the milestone of 10,000 flight hours in July 2010. The C-27J tactical transport aircraft is the Italian Air Force's most recently acquired transport aircraft, capable of carrying both troops and equipment, for national and international operations. The 12 new aircraft, part of the Italian Air Force's fleet, were designed and manufactured by Alenia Aeronautica (a Finmeccanica company.) They were delivered to the 46th Air Wing between 2007 and 2009 and have shown a high operational efficiency, providing the Air Force the ability to carry out numerous missions.

The Italian air force helped launch the Boeing KC-767 tanker program in July 2001 with an order for four KC-767 tanker/transports and options for two more. In July 2003, the first tanker left the Boeing production line in Everett, Wash., for the Boeing-Wichita Development and Modification Center. Boeing teammates in Wichita transformed it into a military tanker. The Japan Air Self Defense Force also has ordered the KC-767 to meet its aerial refueling requirements. Boeing test pilots took the first Italian Air Force KC-767A advanced aerial refueling tanker on its maiden flight May 21, 2005. The new Italian tanker, which has an open architecture cockpit and advanced aerial refueling boom with a remote aerial refueling operator station, was unveiled publicly only two months earlier and would undergo a rigorous flight test and aerial refueling certification program. By December 2008 Boeing had two KC-767s in flight test for the Italian Air Force while building two additional tankers for the customer.

The Italian tankers feature an advanced aerial refueling boom with a remote aerial refueling operator (RARO) station, as well as wing pod and centerline hose-and-drogue systems. The Italian KC-767 will provide an unmatched multi-point air refueling capability. When using the Wing Aerial Refueling Pod (WARP), the tanker aircraft trails from either wing a hose with a drogue (basket) attached to the end. The receiver aircraft uses a probe to connect to the basket and take on valuable fuel, allowing its aircrew to complete their mission. When fully functional, each WARP can simultaneously refuel multiple aircraft and offload 400 gallons of fuel per minute.

The first of four Boeing KC 767-A tankers was delivered to the Italian Air Force on January 27, 2011. The tanker was supposed to be delivered six years ago, but the original schedule changed when Boeing encountered problems with wing vibrations and refueling instability. Boeing was scheduled to deliver the aircraft to the Italian Air Force in Spring 2006. This aircraft replaces the B-707T/T previously flown by the Italian Air Force.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Italian Air Force flew its new Predator fleet in support of combat operations. The Predator, an American-made, medium-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used for surveillance and reconnaissance, has a range of up to 400 nautical miles and can fly at altitudes up to 25,000 feet. Cruising at a speed of 70 knots, it can loiter for hours over targets.1 Even though Italian Predator operations generally have been considered successful, some issues still need solving in order to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. During that service's Predator operations in Iraq, most problems originated in the command and control (C2) structure, reflecting a lack of strategic doctrine, an incomplete application of basic doctrinal principles, and an inadequate level of operational command.

SICCAM NECIC (Sistema Comando e Controllo Aeronautica Militare in Italian) is referred to as Air Force Command and Control System and Network Enable Capable Information Centric. This Italian-English hybrid acronym and its definition contains a real revolutionary approach to Command and Control and net-centricity. It's a new approach to supporting Air Forces involved in modern complex military operations, from operational to strategic levels. SICCAM NECIS is an innovative approach to speed up the decision process through a strongly integrated system/framework. SICCAM NECIC has its foundations on multiple specific subsystems, with each one contributing to situational awareness for both Warfighters and Commanders.

Modern military operations need high flexibility and modularity either in weapons or in C4ISR systems. SICCAM NECIC provides all flexibility required by theater scenarios covering logistics, air operations management and planning, collaborative planning, work flow and task tracking, data mining, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and secure information sharing across multiple domains and systems. These interoperability features have been pushed over the edge using Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and its related versatile technologies (i.e. XML, Web Services). The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - Off-Board Mission Support Environment (OMSE) represents just one of a hundred possible examples of positive unconditional interoperability. SICCAM NECIC concentrates its power around the Information, providing no limits to the warfighter, just imagination.

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Page last modified: 26-02-2016 19:15:31 ZULU