US Approves GBU-53 And AIM-120C-8 Foreign Military Sale To Italy

AIM-120C-8 Italy


AIM-120C-8 Italy
F-35A Lightning II take a look at plane assigned to the thirty first Check Analysis Squadron from Edwards Air Power Base, California, launched AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9X missiles at QF-16 targets throughout a live-fire take a look at over an Air Power vary within the Gulf of Mexico on June 12, 2018. (U.S. Air Power Picture by Grasp Sgt. Michael Jackson)

The weapons will equip the Italian F-35 fleet, with the AIM-120C-8 probably being a short lived answer till the Meteor BVRAAM is built-in on the fifth gen plane.

After the U.S. Division of Protection revealed in December 2023 the contract for a brand new manufacturing lot of the GBU-53/B StormBreaker destined to Foreign Military Sales to Norway, Germany, Italy and Finland, the State Division has now permitted the FMS to Italy of the GBU-53 and in addition the AIM-120C-8 AMRAAM. Paperwork from the Italian Parliament explicitly point out the GBU-53/B and the AIM-120C-8, in addition to the AIM-9X, among the many modernization and renovation applications, with the primary funds allotted within the 2019 finances legislation.

The GBU-53/B (also referred to as Small Diameter Bomb Increment II) Manufacturing Lot 10 contract didn’t present particulars concerning the variety of weapons concerned, which may now be discovered within the Protection Safety Cooperation Company FMS notice. Curiously, the discover mentions Italy already requested the FMS previously, and thus the notification is for the mixed complete portions.

As for the GBU-53/B, Italy will get a complete of 173 GBU-53/B SDB-II All-Up Rounds and 14 GBU-53/B SDB-II Captive Carry Reliability Checks articles for a price of USD 150 million. The contract additionally contains Weapon Load Crew Trainers and Sensible Explosive Ordnance Disposal Trainers, gear, assist, spare elements, documentation.

One other very attention-grabbing element is that the FMS notification mentions “Italy already has the SDB-II in its stock”, though up to now solely the GBU-39/B SDB-I used to be disclosed among the many weapons of the Italian F-35 fleet. We are able to’t exclude the opportunity of an error within the notification on the web site, as a result of the GBU-53/B is slated to be built-in on TR-3-configured aircraft with the Block 4 upgrade, which is being delayed.

The SDB II was scheduled to finish the mixing on all F-35 variants by 2023. The most recent report from the Director Operational Check and Analysis didn’t present particulars concerning the F-35A, nevertheless mentions plans for early fielding of the weapon with restricted functionality on the F-35B/C in FY24, adopted by the Preliminary Operational Functionality in FY25. The mixing seems to have been delayed by points with encryption keys and plane, weapon, and mission planning software program.

GBU-53 mockups and an AIM-120 throughout a match test in an F-35’s weapon bay. (Picture: Raytheon)

Transferring on, Italy will get a total of 24 AIM-120C-8 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, along with gear, assist, spare elements, documentation for a price of USD 69.3 million. It’s price to say that the variety of missiles could be very small in comparison with comparable contracts involving the sale of the AIM-120C-8 to different F-35 operators. The explanation of this might be the intention to make use of the newer AMRAAM (Italian F-35s currently use the AIM-120C-5) as a short lived answer till the Meteor BVRAAM is built-in on the fifth gen plane.

The MDBA Meteor Past Visible Vary Air to Air Missile, which efficiently handed the primary section of the Operational Testing and Evaluation campaign on the Italian Eurofighter Storm final 12 months, is predicted to develop into operational on the F-35 by the top of the last decade. Work is already underway, with the Italian and British governments funding it, and will probably be unbiased from the delayed Block 4, as it’s being labored on along with the integration of the SPEAR 3.

For the sake of completeness, since we talked about it, the Italian F-35s will also receive the AIM-9X Block II. The choice was first disclosed in 2022, with the information on the time saying that Italy will obtain “a modest amount” of AIM-9X Block II/II+ missiles a part of the Lot 23 Manufacturing Contract awarded in 2023, with the supply of the missiles scheduled for 2026. In that case the choice was as a result of AIM-2000 IRIS-T not being built-in on the F-35.

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based mostly in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally learning to attain a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT methods utilized to the world of army operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.


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