The AMX is a subsonic attack aircraft, powered by a single non-afterburning turbofan produced by the Italian-Brazilian consortium AMX International, with Aeritalia (todays Alenia Aerospazio)-Aermacchi-EMBRAER as the main participating companies.
The development of AMX has its roots in studies developed in 1973 by Aeritalia, the Italian state aeronautical company (formed in 1969 starting from FIAT Aviazone). Those studies sought an attack airplane capable to replace the FIAT G.91 (in the R and Y versions) then in service with the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI), as well as to complement the expensive and complex PANAVIA Tornado then in development. The studies initially proposed the G.291, a modification of the G.91 with a larger wing, allowing to carry a larger warload; however, given the limitations to the project in function of the small size of the G-91, other alternatives were investigated.
About the same time, Aermacchi was interested in the development of a light fighter aircraft. Obviously, the state-owned Aeritalia would be the principal contractor in the eventual production of such an aircraft; even so, Aermacchi had a good presence in the international market, having exported more than 760 MB.326 training jets to thirteen countries, three of which - South Africa, Australia and Brazil - built under license versions of the MB.326.
By the end of the Seventies, the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB) developed the A-X project, a series of studies that sought the construction - if possible through the Brazilian aeronautical industry - of a light attack aircraft, with emphasis on range, rather than supersonic capacity.
Given the strong liaisons aeronaveing Aermacchi to EMBRAER, the first proposed the MB.340 project, an aircraft with a shoulder-mounted wing (swept-back at 20°) and a "T" tail configuration, to be jointly developed with EMBRAER. The MB.340 was designed to carry a warload between 1,360 and 2,270Kg on a mission with "LO-LO" profile, range of 465Km, penetration speed of 860Km/h, and running speed of 0.8M (Mach), in clean configuration after the attack.
The running speed led to the choice of a high by-pass turbine Rolls-Royce MB.45H, which offered several advantages, among which we can mention the need of a smaller take off distance, better climb rate, longer range and a reduced infrared signature. It was expected to achieve a speed of 0.82M at sea level, and 0.675M when armed with five 454Kg type Mk. 83 bombs; in this configuration, range would be around 490Km on a "LO-LO" mission and of 815Km for a "LO-HI-LO" mission.
The MB.340 project was not carried on, since it had conflicting parameters with the AMI: an aircraft that would operate together with the Tornado, and that would be responsible for short distance attacks at high speed, carrying a large bombload. Besides, the need to operate in bombed, cratered runways, demanded a better short take-off and landing performance. As Brazil could not finance alone the development of the project, it was abandoned.
By April of 1978, Aeritalia and Aermacchi reached an agreement, following an AMI suggestion, to initiate the project of a light attack aircraft, in order to substitute the G.91R-3, G-91Y, Lockheed F-104G and F-104S then in AMI service. The project was designated AMX, whose first two letters of the acronym represented the two companies (Aeritalia and aerMacchi); X indicated its experimental character. In 1979 both companies were contracted for the project definition phase and, in 1981, EMBRAER joined in, to develop a variant that satisfied FAB requirements.
The Italian and Brazilian governments signed an agreement in March of 1981 to jointly set the aircraft requirements, and in July of 1981 the three companies signed a development agreement. It was originally foreseen the acquisition of 187 aircraft for AMI and 79 for FAB, resulting in the division of the development costs and production: Italy would participate with 70,3% (divided in the proportion of 7:3 among the Italian companies, leaving 46,7% to Aeritalia and 23,6% to Aermacchi) and Brazil with 29,7%, attributed to EMBRAER.
According to the work share, the aircraft was divided in sections, whose responsibility for the project and production was thus distributed:
Aeritalia: central fuselage, rudder and fin, radome, fibercarbon components for the wings and tail;
EMBRAER: wings and elevators, air intakes, pylons, landing gear, fuel tanks, reconnaissance pallet and installation of the Brazilian variant specific cannons;
Aermacchi: front and rear fuselage.
Back to its development history: the programme foresaw the construction of six prototypes, two of the which mounted and tested in Brazil. The first prototype, A.01, received the Italian military registration MM X594 and took off for the first time on 15 May 1984, under the command of Aeritalia chief test pilot, Manlio Quarantelli. Just fifteen days later, during the fifth flight of the A.01, the turbine suffered a surgeduring the approach for landing. In spite of having ejected, Quarantelli came to die later due to the wounds suffered, given the high vertical speed of the falling aircraft. The failure happened due to the reduction of admission of air to the turbine, caused by the angle-of-attack (18º, the limit set to the aircraft during that phase of the development), combined with 52% flight idling RPM of the turbine during the approach. Rolls-Royce proceeded to a modification, changing to 60% flight idling RPM to be used on the approach, which corrected the malfunction; AMX has already been successfully flown at an 45º angle-of-attack.
Following the accident, Egidio Nappi substituted Manlio Quarantelli in Aeritalia; the other test pilots involved in the test programme were Napoleone Bragagnolo (Aeritalia), Franco Bonazzi (Aermacchi) and Luiz Cabral (EMBRAER). The test programme was restarted with the flight of the second prototype, A.02 MM X595, on 19 November 1984; the third prototype, A.03 MM X596 accomplished its first flight on 28 January 1985 and it was used for the avionics and armament development. To replace A.01, an additional prototype was built, A.11 MM X597, which flew on 24 May 1985.
The AMX received the A-1 designation in the FAB. The fourth and first Brazilian prototype, YA-1, registration FAB 4200, took to the skies at 15h47min on 16 October 1985. The fifth prototype, A.05 MM X599 flew on 26 July 1986 and the sixth and last prototype, Brazilian-built YA-1 FAB 4201, made its first flight on 16 December 1986.
In 1986, it was decided to produce a two-seat training variant (pilot and instructor sitting in staggered tandem seats) with the production of three specific prototypes, one of them manufactured in Brazil; those prototypes flew in 1989 and 1990. The training version is a fully-capable attack aircraft, the only difference being the smaller internal fuel capacity, caused by the installation of a second seat in the cockpit.
The production of AMX is distributed among the three participant companies; each one has its own assembly line, with the different components being transported from a company to the others, for the final assembly.
AMX is a aircraft with shoulder-mounted wings, swept-back at 27.5°, with the engine air intakes placed in the top half of the fuselage, behind the cockipt. The pilot sits down in high position, offering a good view around the airplane. The tail is of traditional design, with the single fin and mobile elevators being similar to those of the Tornado. An in-flight refuelling probe, equipped with a spotlight at the base of the probe, may be installed by the right side of the cockpit.
AMX is powered by a Rolls-Royce Spey RB.168 Mk.807 turbofan, of 11,030lb st, without afterburner. The Spey was originally designed in 1960 to equip the British carrier-based aircraft Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer (later on used by the Royal Air Force, having participated with distinction in the 1991 Gulf War). Other versions of Spey equipped the maritime patrol aircraft Hawker Siddeley Nimrod and the British FG.1 and FGR.2 versions of the McDonnell-Douglas Phantom II. More than 5,500 units were sold internationally; the version that equips AMX is tested and set up in Italy by FIAT/Piaggio and in Brazil by CELMA.
One of the main characteristics of the AMX is the existent redundancy in its electric, hydraulic and avionics systems. As all those systems are duplicated, with physical separation of certain elements as the cabling and actuators, it is expected that the aircraft is capable to complete the mission in case any of those systems suffer a failure. For example, in case the hydraulic system develops a fault, electric accumulators allow the operation of the landing gear, brakes and the front wheel, allowing for a smooth transition to the manual control of the elevators and ailerons.
AMX is also equipped with electronic counter measure devices, including flares and chaff dispensers, to disorient the action of infrared or active/semi-active guided missiles. For its self-defence, AMX is equipped with two air-air infrared guided missiles on wingtip rails as well as, in the Brazilian version, two DEFA 30mm cannons installed in the lower front fuselage (the Italian version carries a General Electric M61A1 Vulcan 20mm cannon, in the left lower front fuselage). Those cannons are also used in the ground-attack rôle, primary function of the aircraft.
In ground-attack missions, AMX may be equipped with conventional bombs (a typical load consists of six low-drag Mk. 82 type bombs), unguided rockets, laser-guided intelligent bombs, air-ground and anti-radar missiles and laser target designators. In the anti-surface ship rôle, AMX may also carry missiles such as the German MBB Kormoran 1 (previously used by the German Marineflieger Tornado squadrons) and the Aérospatiale AM39 Exocet, responsible for the sinking the HMS Sheffield destroyer and the Atlantic Conveyor container carrying merchant ship during the Falklands/Malvinas War, carried out by the crews of the Comando de Aviación Naval Argentina.
The Brazilian version of AMX will be equipped with a look-down/shoot-down multimode radar which will substantially enhance is combat capability. The AMX can easily operate from places with little infrastructure, due to its built-in auxiliary power unit (APU) which allows the start-up of its turbine and other systems. Its reinforced landing gear as well as the Speys power all combine to ease the take-off and landing on unprepared runways (the distance for take-off weighing 10,500Kg is of approximately 760m).
Another characteristic that contributes to its ease of operation is the use of line replacement units (LRUs) on the flight line, whose eventual failures are detected through the built-in test equipment (BITE). The maintenance of the aircraft is still largely facilitated by the multiplicity of inspection panels, two thirds of the which are set not higher than 1.70m.
The AMX entered Italian service in 1989, with the delivery in April of that year of the first six production-series aircraft to the AMI test unit, "Riparto Sperimentale de Volo" based at Pratica di Mare. The first production-series aircraft, MM 7089, flew on 11 May 1989 and it was soon followed by the other five examples for extensive tests by the AMI.
The following Italian units operate the AMX: 13º Gruppo/32º Stormo, 14º Gruppo/2º Stormo, 28º Gruppo/3º Stormo, 101º Gruppo/32º Stormo, 103º Gruppo/51º Stormo and 132º Gruppo/3º Stormo. Italian AMXs were based in Turkey during the 1991 Gulf War but they didn't enter in action; during the Bosnian War they were used for the control of the air space in the area. Due to reduction of defence-expenditure costs in Brazil, the original order was cut from 79 to 56 aircraft. The FAB will operate 41 A-1s and A-1Bs (training version) and 15 RA-1s, the tactical reconnaissance dedicated version.
In the FAB, the A-1/A-1B equip two squadrons: the 1º/16º Aviation Group ("Adelfi" Squadron), which was specifically created to operate the aircraft, starting from 23 October 1990; and the 3º/10º Aviation Group ("Centauro" Squadron), which received its first two A-1s in 15 January 1999, which will replace the AT-26 Xavante now in use. A third Brazilian unit will be reequiped with the AMX: the 1º/10º Aviation Group ("Poker" Squadron) will replace its RT-26 Xavantes by the RA-1 in the tactical reconnaissance rôle. The A-1 has been demonstrating its capacity in several exercises, for its long range - even without in-flight refuelling; for its great accuracy in the ground-attack missions; and for its agility in aerial combat.
Completing ten years of service in 1999, the AMX continues in development. AMI requested the production of an electronic combat version, designated AMX-E and based on the biplace version, to accompany the Tornado and AMX in attack missions. Viability studies were already concluded by Alenia, Aermacchi, and Elettronica and in December of 1997 a contract was signed for completing its configuration, which will include a avionics revision, installation of GPS and of coloured LCD displays with mobile maps for the electronic systems operator in the rear-seat. The AMX-E will lose its M-61A1 cannon to accommodate the necessary electronic equipments; it will be equipped with HARM and MARM anti-radar missiles.
The AMX was never an export success, being sold only to the two participant countries of the programme, contrary to what was expected. Alenia is now offering to South Africa the Super AMX, equipped with new avionics and a new turbine - Eurojet EJ200, the same that will equip Eurofighter.