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Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare)

By the year 2010 the size of the Italian Air Force had been halved over the previous ten years in terms of personnel, materiel and equipment but it had lost none of its efficiency, Italy's top military commander said. "The fact that it is half the size it was ten years ago does not mean it has lost its effectiveness," according to Gen. Giuseppe Bernardis, armed forces chief of staff. Speaking in an address marking the Air Force's 87th anniversary, he said: "We have invested and continue to invest the resources we have been allocated in the quality of our materiel and, above all, the training of our personnel."

The Italian Air Force reportedly operated a total active fleet of 517 aircraft, which made it NATO's fifth largest only behind the U.S., the UK, Turkey and France. The IAF operates 217 fighter aircraft.

Many crises required the intervention of the Italian Air Force in Somalia, Mozambique, Eastern Africa, Timor East, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. The conflict in the former Yugoslavia, only a few minutes flying time from the Italian borders, saw a need to improve the future air defense.

As a stopgap and as replacement for leased Tornado Air Defense Variant interceptors, the AMI leased 30 F-16A Block 15 Air Defense Fighters, and four F-16 Block 10 Fighting Falcons, with an option to lease some more. The coming years also will see the introduction of 121 Euro-Fighter 2000 Typhoons, replacing the leased F-16 Fighting Falcons, and the Joint Strike Fighter. Furthermore, updates are foreseen on the Tornado IDS/IDT and the AMX-fleet.

The transport capacity had already been improved with the delivery of 18 C-130Js and an upgrade program for the C-130Hs. Also, a newly developed G-222, called C-27J Spartan, will enter into service, replacing the G-222.

Under the Defense white paper "Investing In Security - Transforming the Italian Military" published in early 2006, the development of an Air Component capable of ensuring the surveillance and defense of the air space above the National territory and the adjacent seas for the purpose of guaranteeing national sovereignty is at the center of the Long-Term Plan, along with the creation of a strategic projection capability able to participate in crisis management operations autonomously or as part of a broader multinational operation.

The developments in the sector of precision weapons, net-centric integration and individual capacities of the new platforms will further the progressive enhancing of the Air Forces’ capabilities, even in the face of scheduled downsizing. The future national “air power” will be achieved through a calibrated mix of multirole Eurofighter Typhoon and JSF aircraft, which will be able to provide the totality of defensive and offensive capabilities that today is achieved through a greater number of different aircraft.

The requirements inherent to air defense of the national territory and of the troops deployed abroad will be satisfied by improving the surveillance and Command and Control capabilities being developed in an integrated and joint perspective within the framework of the “Joint Surveillance and Command System”; these capabilities will allow a smaller number of aircraft to operate with greater efficacy and efficiency of employment. Furthermore, improved capabilities for guaranteeing integrated air defense of critical politico-strategic goals, even against thirddimension non-conventional and missile attacks, are being developed, also from a joint perspective.

Air power projection capabilities will be developed within the framework of an “Expeditionary Air Task Force” at a high level of operational readiness, capable of contributing to a major combat operation for a period of six months with the deployment of a total of approximately 45-50 aircraft. The updating of the Tornado and AMX Ghibli aircraft will provide a medium-term improvement in precision engagement capabilities, while the introduction of the air-surface cruise missile “Storm Shadow” will increase the possibility of obtaining in-depth operational effects. The suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) capabilities, in which the national air component already excels, and the capabilities for active and passive self-protection, will be maintained and adapted to the new scenarios. The Eurofighter Typhoon, equipped with a new generation of air-to-air missiles, will ensure a significant increase in the National Air Defense capability and a better security framework for the projected forces.

A consequence of the scheduled reduction in the number of combat vehicles will be a diminished requirement in the area of training aircraft which, on the other hand, will have to satisfy the greater requirements deriving from the introduction of new and more sophisticated platforms. In this sector, the Air Force will seek initiatives in the European framework for the synergetic development of combined training systems. In future scenarios the air component will be called upon to ensure a significant capacity for transporting men and materials, as well as to guarantee State transportation.

The current line of C-130J aircraft will satisfy a good part of the future air mobility requirements and will be joined by the new C-27J aircraft in more specifically tactical and between-theatre transportation operations. These assets will be joined by the four KC-767A aircraft in the air-tank/transport configuration which are currently under purchase, while studies are being conducted on the possibility of acquiring the capability to meet transportation requirements for “oversized” loads over long distances.

The helicopter component will in turn be optimized in order to better meet the new operational requirements by means of the introduction of a new helicopter for SAR Combat and support to the Special Forces, while the Search and Rescue component (SAR) will be rationalized and updated. The training capabilities in the helicopter sector will also be optimized and adapted on the qualitative level, with the goal of guaranteeing that the requirements of the Armed Forces and a large number of Government agencies will continue to be met.

The aerobatic precision team called the Frecce Tricolori (Three-colored Arrows) is the precision aerobatic demonstration team for the Italian Air Force. It flies the Aermacchi MB-339-A/PAN, a two-seat fighter-trainer capable of roughly 898-km/h at sea level. The Frecce Tricolori is the largest in the world, counting 10 planes in their team. Nine remain in formation while one other flies solo during most of the air show. The team is based in Rivolto in the northeastern Italian region called Fuiuli Venezia Giulia. The Frecce Tricolori are considered one of the best teams in the world in their specialty. In 2005, they won the award for best exhibition at the most important military airshow: the Royal International Air Tattoo, which is held in Fairford in the United Kingdom.




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