The SIAI-Marchetti (now Leonardo) SF.260 is a basic trainer / light attack platform from Italy. The aircraft was designed in the early 1960s by one Stelio Frati with the purpose of producing a lightweight aerobatic platform. A first-flight was recorded on July 15th, 1964 and the type achieved certification in April of 1966. The product and its rights were subsequently purchased by SIAI-Marchetti and eventually made its way into the inventories of many air services of the world including the Italian Air Force. With production on-going since 1964, the series has reached totals in excess of 870 units.
The original prototypes were built under the Aviamilano brand label and encompassed the F.250 and F.260. The former carried a Lycoming O-540-AID engine of 250 horsepower and flew until lost in a crash in Genoa in November of 1965. The latter was powered by a Lycoming O-540-E4A5 engine.
Under SIAI-Marchetti ownership, the line became with the first production version, the SF.260, and this followed the form and function of the original F.260 prototype. Then arrived the SF-260A which saw limited production. The military flight trainer form became the SF.260M and featured reinforced structural components for the rigors of military service. The Italian Air Force adopted this model as the SF.260AM and acquired thirty-three of the type. The same version was exported to Libya as the SF.260ML and 240 were delivered.
The SF.260W "Warrior" became another military model, this one cleared for ordnance-carrying and given hardpoints for the light strike role.
The SF.260SW "Sea Warrior", as its name implies, was a single example developed as a civilian market maritime patroller mainly for service over coastal areas (fisheries industry).
Another civilian market form was the SF.260B appearing in 1974 and bringing with it the modifications placed on the SF.260M model. Its improved variant became the SF.260C of 1977. In 1980 arrived the SF.260TP which carried an Allison 250-B17D turboprop engine which enhanced performance and capabilities. This was based on the SF.260C framework.
In 1985, the SF.260D model was introduced and was essentially the C-model with an uprated engine and other improvements. This was followed by the uprated SF.260E which was a militarized form intended to secure military market orders in the training role. It competed, and failed, in a USAF program. The SF.260F introduced fuel-injection and the SF.260EA, numbered thirty aircraft, was adopted by the Italian Air Force as a modernized SF.260 trainer. The current production model is the SF-260 (note dash) and appeared under the Alenia Aermacchi brand label until the rebranding as Leonardo.
The SF.260 went on to find considerable success on a global scale with operators from Belgium and Burkina Faso to Zambia and Zimbabwe. A small portion of its production total has been used in the civilian sphere.
The makeup of the SF.260 is conventional as aerobatic trainers go. The single engine is fitted to the nose section with the cockpit directly aft. A large, lightly-framed canopy is used to offer optimal vision. The fuselage is sleek and tight around the underlying framework. it tapers at the tail to which a large single vertical fin is sat and low-mounted horizontal planes are fitted. The wing mainplanes are seated at midships and a retractable, wheeled tricycle undercarriage is used for ground-running. One passenger can be seated along with the pilot in the cockpit. Empty weight is 1,500lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 2,865lb. Dimensions include an overall length of 23 feet, a wingspan of 27 feet and a height of 8.5 feet.
Performance specifications include a 275 mile-per-hour maximum speed, a cruising speed of 205 mph and a range out to 1,275 miles. Its service ceiling is 19,000 feet and rate-of-climb is listed at 1,800 feet-per-minute.