The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana) leased 34 F-16A/B (mostly block 15 ADF
variants) as a stop-gap solution untill delivery of the Eurofighter Typhoon. When the 121 EF2000 Typhoons enter service, they will replace the F-16s.
Since the early nineties, the Italian Air Force has eagerly been seeking a replacement for its vintage Aeritalia F-104S Starfighters. Its intended replacement is the Eurofighter Typhoon. Since this program has been running behind schedule for a few years, the Italian air force needed a stop-gap solution. Because the AMI possesses a vast number of Tornado IDS planes, they decided to lease 24 Tornado ADV fighters from the RAF for a 10-year period. This lease ended in 2003 so a replacement was sought. At first the AMI opted to extend the lease period with another 10 years. This proved to be too expensive, so the Italian government turned to the US. The requirement was for a fighter that could perform the air defense mission for 5 to 10 years, until the arrival of the Typhoon.
AMI F-16B, #MM7269
, banking over a spectacular Italian coastline [Photo by Troupe Azzurra]
On March 15th, 2001 the Italian government signed an LoA for a 5-year lease (with an option on another 5 years) of 34 F-16s and four spare airframes, in a deal worth up to $777 million over a 10-year period. The aircraft were delivered between July 2003 and November 2004. In total, 30 F-16A ADFs as well as 1 F-16B ADF and 3 F-16B block 5 & 10's will be delivered. Four more planes will be provided for use as spare parts.
Before delivery to Italy, the aircraft are brought out of storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. and transfered to the Ogden ALC at Hill AFB, Utah, where they undergo 220 days of refurbishment and upgrades.
The Falcons are given a complete refurbishment, which complied with all technical compliance-technical orders that have changed since the aircraft was placed in stasis in Arizona. The depot teams at Hill AFB did structural modifications including Falcon-Up, which replaces particular bulkheads and the structural life improvement program, which strengthens holes around the fuel cell panels and wheel wells by compressing the molecules with 30,000 pounds of pressure. The wings were removed and the bulkhead furthest aft that holds the vertical wing was replaced. The landing gear was refurbished and its bulkhead was also replaced.
The flight controls actuators are replaced with new actuators. In addition the computers and instruments that provide the Falcon its technological edge are removed, sent to the appropriate facilities to be tested then repaired if necessary. All equipment that is a time change item and that has less than a full year's worth of service left is changed.
Approximately 100 Italian Air Force maintenance officers, instructors and technicians are receiving F-16 maintenance training at Lockheed Martin facilities in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Italian AF accepted the first F-16A (#MM7238
) at the Ogden ALC on May 16th, 2003. This particular aircraft wears 37 Stormo markings. [USAF photo by Todd Cromar]
End of service
On May 23rd, 2012 a disbanding ceremony was held at Trapani-Birgi AFB to mark the disbandment of the resident 18 Gruppo, which was the sole surviving F-16 squadron within the AMI. This marked to end of the service life of the F-16 within the Italian Air Force. This means the AMI is the first air force to fly with the F-16 that phases out the type.
||MM7266, MM7267, MM7269
||79389, 80474, 80515
Modifications & Armament
Modifications & Armament
The planes provided to Italy have a standard ADF configuration. All aircraft receive the uprated Pratt & Whitney F100-220E engine and undergo the Falcon-Up structural enhancement program. It is confirmed that a number of weapon systems will be released to the AMI to be used in conjunction with the F-16s, including the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile.
Please refer to the F-16 Units
section for an overview of units.