Andrea Spinelli/GENOA

The Italian air force is to procure at least two airborne early-warning (AEW) aircraft by 2007, according to the defence ministry's so-called White Book which spells out projected defence procurement and expenditure over the next decade.

The paper, Il Modello di difesa, was prepared recently by the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and outlines plans for a 15-year investment programme, including an ambitious recommendation that the defence ministry spend some L7,000 billion ($4.4 billion) a year on procurement. It is a figure considerably above the current budget allocation of L4,200 billion.

AEW manufacturers have already briefed the defence ministry, which included Northrop Grumman offering the E-2C Hawkeye and Saab offering an AEW derivative of the Saab 340 regional turboprop.

The Eurofighter 2000 is the single most expensive project. Under the force structure outlined in the paper, six squadrons of the fighter would be fielded.

The paper also includes a requirement for a unit of Alenia/ Aermacchi/Embraer AMX-E electronic-warfare aircraft in addition to a squadron of Panavia Tornado electronic combat and reconnaissance aircraft.

Under the restructuring plans, air-force strength will drop from 71,000 to 60,000 personnel, with a new central command to supplant the present regional command structure. There will also be a single logistics command.

Projected cuts will result in the loss of two fighter squadrons, one training unit, an interdiction squadron and a maritime-patrol aircraft.

This will leave the air force with a front-line strength of 350 combat aircraft: 110-130 fighters and 220-240 fighter- bombers.

Source: Flight International