One of the few light aircraft today designed this way from the start, the Italian-Brazilian AMX fighter is completing 30 years of service in the Italian Air Force in October.
The milestone was celebrated by Aeronautica Militare on September 13 at Istrana air base in northeastern Italy and was attended by the Brazilian Air Force, the other jet operator, which in Italy is called “Ghibli” (a wind that blows in northern Libya).
Four aircraft belonging to the 132nd Gruppo (squadron) received paintings depicting the anniversary and participated in the event that also featured the Frecce Tricolori squadron.
The AMX emerged in the early 1970s as an attack and reconnaissance aircraft capable of replacing the Italian Air Force’s Fiat G.91Y and F-104 jets. The aim was to stimulate the country’s aviation industry to reduce its dependence on imports.
The good acceptance of the G.91Y, which was exported to Germany and Portugal, motivated Aeritalia and Aermacchi, then partners in the project, to accept the participation of Brazilian Embraer, who had assembled the MB.326 training jet under license and wanted to provide a similar aircraft for the Brazilian Air Force.
The AMX has become an orthodox design aircraft, with a Rolls Royce Spey turbofan engine, subsonic speed and good weaponry, but specific for attack missions and secondary reconnaissance, unlike other more versatile and supersonic aircraft.
One of the main features of the aircraft was its simplicity of maintenance and strength and the goal of exporting it to other countries was an important part of the program. However, the jet was only ordered by Italy (136 units, 26 of them twin-seat) and Brazil, which ordered 79 jets but reduced the order to 56 aircraft.
Currently, the Italian Air Force has 35 AMX single seat and 5 two-seat, which were modernized in 2012 by Leonardo with the installation of a GPS navigation system as well as armament guided by this system and new multifunction displays. Ghibli’s career in Italy has included missions in Serbia, Afghanistan and Libya, but the jet is due to be retired in the coming years, replaced by the F-35.
In Brazil, the AMX fighter, designated as A-1, has been operating in two squadrons based in the south of the country since 2016. According to the census of Flight Global magazine, there are 47 active units out of 56 received. A two-seat unit, A-1B, was lost in an accident in April this year.
Like the Italians, the FAB also began a process of modernization of the aircraft to the A-1M standard contracted with Embraer. The aircraft’s main technological changes were the new red-infrared search sensors and the multi-mode radar, which can act for aircraft or map the terrain where it flies. These devices allow the A-1M to “see” up to 80 km ahead and fire its weapons accurately.
However, only three aircraft were upgraded to this standard, the first delivered in 2013. Three years later, due to investment cuts, the air force suspended the program. Nevertheless, the A-1 should remain operational longer in Brazil, proving its strength and good service record.