The Italian Air Force still has gotten no funds to finance its own signal intelligence gathering capability to replace the Alenia G.222 SIGINT aircraft it took out of service already in 2012. The stop gap solution with the leased Lockheed Martin Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory (AML)/Gulfstream III will continue to fly for at least another one to three years, sources in Rome confirm.
Although Italy does get valuable intel with the single aircraft it has rented from the American weapons manufacturer, it is not owned nor even piloted by Aeronautica Militare crew. Lockheed Martin provides the crew, maintenance personnel and the three ground intelligence processing systems. After three years of service, there is no sign yet that Rome is looking for a replacement of its own or even buying the aircraft.
Lockheed Martin’s AML can be adapted for many other business jets, although in the case of Italy it is cramped into a Gulfstream III. The AML is a collection of systems and sensors with wideband and narrowband data-links. The software, architecture and payload bay options allow for custom-made solutions with different equipment, sensors, processors and communications. It is called a laboratory, since the jet is actually still flown as a try-out Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) solution, even if it has seen several years of action.
But already today the single jet based at Pratica di Mare Air Base cannot provide what Italy needs. With a need to get proper intel in time, the US military has been flying leased Beechcraft King Air 350 ISRs out of southern Italy to keep an eye on things. Recent with terrorist activities just oversees in Tunisia, an increasing unstable Libya, streams of thousands of people trying to make it across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and an increasing active Russian military, sustaining a grown-up airborne intelligence fleet seems more essential than ever for the Italian Air Force.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The Lockheed Martin AML / Gulfstream III SIGINT solution (Image © Lockheed Martin)