The Italian air force is planning significant improvements to its precision-guided munitions capabilities (PGM) as well as undertaking the replenishment of stocks of existing weapons in the wake of the NATO operations in Kosovo last year.
New versions of the Paveway II and Paveway III laser-guided bombs enhanced with global positioning system/intertial navigation guidance systems will be acquired to give all-weather performance.
The air force already operates standard versions of the two laser-guided bombs on the AMX International AMX and Panavia Tornado strike aircraft, and is in the process of acquiring more laser-guidance kits from Alenia Difesa-Otobreda, which is producing the units under license from Raytheon.
However, the limitations of the weapons when employed above cloud in Kosovo has led to a decision to upgrade to the Enhanced Paveways.
Italy is also going to acquire the Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) guidance kit, which is to be mated with the entire range of 230/450/900kg (500/1,000/2,000lb) bombs used by the air force.
In the first instance, JDAM will be integrated on the AMX. But in a second phase, these weapons are going to be fitted to the Tornado and, possibly, Eurofighter.
In addition, the air force is to acquire further batches of the Israeli-made Opher imaging-infrared guidance kit, used with the 230kg Mk.82 bomb carried by the AMX.
The air force is also starting to study the possible acquisition of additional air-to-ground weapons to replace its cluster bombs, and increase capability against armoured vehicles and soft targets. The air force is refining its operational requirements and working on an acquisition strategy, but two US- developed weapons - the LOCAAS (Low Cost Autonomous Attack System) and the SFW (Sensor Fuzed Weapon) - are likely to figure strongly when Rome comes to make a decision.
In a related move, the air force is to introduce advanced versions of the Raytheon AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile on its IDS and new Electronic Combat and Reconnaissance (ECR) versions of the Tornado.
Various block upgrades are planned, culminating in the introduction of the AGM-88D Block VI with improved guidance systems and a new warhead, in 2003.
The same year will see the introduction of the Matra BAe Dynamics Storm Shadow stand-off missile on the Tornado IDS.
Source: Flight International