The Italian air force has concluded a long-awaited deal with Piaggio for P180 Avanti VIP/communications aircraft and is discussing a purchase of MB339CD advanced jet trainers with Aermacchi.

Piaggio has received a contract for nine P180s worth around L100 billion ($43.4 million) including logistic and maintenance support.

The first three aircraft will be delivered next year, with the remainder following at the rate of two a year over 2002-4. The aircraft will be operated by the air force on behalf of all three services, and join a further six P180s in service for VIP and liaison duties.

The Italian air force is also discussing with Aermacchi a contract for a second batch of around 15 MB339CDs, worth around L300 billion, including initial spares and logistic support.

The air force ordered 15 MB339CDs in 1995. These aircraft have been delivered and are mainly used for advanced training. More MB339CDs will allow the air force to shift some of its older MB339As to less demanding liaison duties, using the newer aircraft for training.

The air force will also start taking delivery early next year of MB339As that have received a mid-life upgrade. In the course of the five year, L110 billion programme, the MB339As will receive structural upgrades to extend their operational life by a minimum of five years, as well as be fitted with a more modern avionics suite, a 1553 digital databus and improved systems.

Source: Flight International