The Italian air force has selected Alenia Aeronautica to undertake a €300 million ($390 million) upgrade of 55 Alenia/Embraer AMX light-attack aircraft in a stopgap measure aimed at maintaining a credible ground-attack capability to support Italy's land forces. The aircraft will be re-delivered to the air force from next year, with the last to be handed over in 2009, writes Pino Modola.
The Italian air force is expected to eventually procure the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to replace the AMX and part of its Panavia Tornado strike force, although the US fighter is not expected to enter Italian service until 2015 at the earliest.
The AMX entered Italian service in 1989, and 110 single- seat AMXs and 26 twin-seat AMX-Ts were delivered, around half of which are in storage.
The update will include the fitting of new navigation, communications, identification friend-or-foe and display systems. The inertial navigation system will be replaced by more modern INS/GPS-based equipment. The modified aircraft will be able to deliver the Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munition.
Any further slippage in F-35 procurement plans will prompt the air force to consider launching a second AMX upgrade.