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Italy to launch SDB flight tests with Tornado

The Italian air force's Rome-based experimental flight centre is shortly to begin test sorties as part of a programme to integrate Boeing's GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) with the service's Panavia Tornado ground attack aircraft.

Announced in late February 2013 by the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency, the effort will enable Italy's Tornado aircraft operating to the enhanced RET 7 and 8 standards to field the SDB from late 2015.

Alenia Aermacchi is to provide two former flight-test prototypes for the initiative, with the air force supplying a third aircraft drawn from its active fleet. The latter example has been instrumented and fitted with the munition ahead of flight-test activities scheduled to commence in late October.

So-called pit drop tests - to check clean separation of the SDB - and electromagnetic interference trials have already taken place, with the latter evaluation carried out in Alenia's anechoic chamber at its Caselle, Turin site.

Test releases of the munition will be performed over a range in Sardinia next year.

A parallel effort is also under way to integrate ATK's AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) with the Tornado for the Italian air force.

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