Andrea Spinelli/GENOA

Italian and Spanish navies are voicing increasing concern over the weapons for their Boeing AV-8B Harrier II Plus aircraft.

Friction with the US Marine Corps is starting to rise as differing priorities between the programme partners are becoming increasingly apparent.

Overtures from the Europeans to the USMC to fund jointly the integration of the Boeing AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile have been rebuffed within the past few months. There is now concern within Italian industry and military circles that the navy's aspirations to integrate the Hughes AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) on its aircraft could suffer the same fate.

The Italian and Spanish navies proposed to the USMC that all three jointly fund the integration of the Harpoon on the AV-8B Plus. The USMC, however, is understood to have proved lukewarm to equipping its Harriers with these missiles.

The USMC uses the Hughes AGM-65F as the Harrier's anti-shipping weapon. This is intended to enable the aircraft to attack small surface vessels, primarily in the coastal combat role. The USMC's Harrier's primary role is providing close air support (CAS) during amphibious operations.

With the Italian navy role also encompassing fleet defence, it is looking to acquire the Hughes AIM-120B for its 16 single-seat aircraft, to complement its AIM-9L Sidewinders.

The AMRAAM integration programme was originally intended as a tri-national project, although there is growing concern over the priority which the USMC now attaches to such a project.

The Italian navy is due to take the last of its 18 AV-8B Plus aircraft by the end of 1997. Plans for a follow-on batch of an additional eight aircraft are unlikely to materialise, given budget constraints.

Source: Flight International