Staff Writer (Updated: 7/18/2016):
The AMX program progressed into a first flight on May 15th, 1984 - this prototype serving the Italians with the Brazilian prototype unveiled a year later. The major difference between the two aircraft designs lay in their avionics package which showed the customizability afforded to the AMX airframe as a whole - a promising side-effect becoming an export-friendly product on the world stage. The initial order was for 272 aircraft but this was later reduced to 136 due to budgetary constraints for both involved nations. Nevertheless, development continued with little in the way of technical setbacks. Official production-quality aircraft entered service in 1989 with frontline strength reached in 1990. Production of the AMX series broke down as Alenia (Aeritalia) handling up to 46.7% whilst Embraer took its 29.7% share and Aermacchi handled a 23.6% portion. Final assembly was managed locally in the respective countries.
Externally the AMX is given high-mounted monoplane wings, twin air intakes, and a single engine installation. Crew accommodations varied depending on the model in question and could either be a single pilot or pilot with systems operator seated in tandem. The latter served well the purpose of light strike or advanced jet training. Standard armament varied little between the Italian and the Brazilian types with the Italian version receiving a single 20mm General Electric internal, six-barrled, Gatling-style cannon and the Brazilian version being equipped with twin 30mm DEFA cannons. Four underwing hardpoints, a centerline hardpoint, and wingtip hardpoints all added to the inherent versatility of this relatively compact aircraft. Wingtip mounts were reserved for short-range air-to-air missiles but the other hardpoints were designed to carry variable ordnance loads from guided missiles, bombs, rocket pods, jettisonable fuel tanks for improved range, and reconnaissance pods or target laser designators.
The AMX with the Italians went on to see considerable operational service since its introduction - fighting as part of the U.N.-led "Allied Force" air campaign against Serbia and accounting for over 250 sorties for its part in the operation. The aircraft was fielded with advanced Israeli-made Elbit "Opher" imaging InfraRed (IR) guided drop bombs that proved to be as accurate as advertised. Among other ordnance fielded by the Italian AMX during the war were Mk 82, Mk 83, and Mk 84 conventional drop bombs to go along with "Paveway II" series Laser-Guided Bombs (LGBs).
Despite it not reaching a more impressive export total, the AMX proved itself a viable weapons delivery platform - considering its design by a consortium of different aircraft firms located on different continents. Export orders were to have been increased by way of a 1999 Venezuelan order for eight aircraft but the United States blocked its sale on the grounds that the aircraft contained some U.S. technology aboard - the American and Venezuelan governments at odds for many decades.
In its modern form, the AMX is powered by a single Rolls-Royce Spey 807 series (non-afterburning) turbofan engine of 11,030lbf. Maximum speed is 570 miles per hour with combat ranges out to 555 miles and ferry ranges out to 2,075 miles. Its service ceiling is in the 42,650 foot range with a rate-of-climb approaching 10,250 feet per minute.
205 AMXs have been produced with the final airframe arriving during 2002. Several marks make up the line:
The AMX-T is a two-seat advanced trainer and the AMT-ATA is a two-seat "Advanced Trainer Attack" model. The AMX-R (RA-1) is a reconnaissance-minded platform. The A-1M is a Brazilian upgraded variant while the A-11A and TA-11A are upgraded Italian marks. The A-11B designation is for Italian aircraft as is TA-11B.
The AMX-T two-seat advanced trainer achieved first flight in 1990. The A-11B makes up the stock of upgraded Italian AMXs from seen from 2006 onwards. In 2013, the Brazilian Air Force began receiving upgraded AMXs through a 43-batch initiative as the A-1M. These aircraft are equipped with Mectron SCP-01 series radar, FLIR, BR2 data links, Israeli Elbit navigation, and "all-glass" digital cockpits.
The A-1 in Italian service is slated for retirement along with the AV-8 Harrier and PANAVIA Tornado strike fighters as the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II arrives in ever-larger numbers. The Lighting II will be fielded with the Eurofighter Typhoon as Italy's proposed frontline "one-two punch".