ROME — A signals intelligence-equipped Gulfstream jet leased by Lockheed Martin to the Italian Air Force for a year is now flying in Italy, a source familiar with the deal told Defense News.
The Gulfstream III, which is being flown by mixed Air Force and Lockheed crews in a leased flight hours deal, has been based with the Air Force’s 14th Wing at its Pratica di Mare base near here since the end of April, the source said.
Italy’s decision to lease the jet reflects its desire to maintain skill levels even as budget cuts preclude a SIGINT aircraft purchase. Pratica di Mare hosts an aging G222 SIGINT aircraft, which was used in last year’s Libya campaign but is due to be retired this year.
The leased aircraft is the Airborne Multi-INT Laboratory (AML), a flying ISR test bed that was flown by Lockheed to the Farnborough Airshow in 2010 to demonstrate ISR capabilities, and is normally based at the company’s Goodyear, Ariz., facility, the source said.
Apart from communications intelligence, electronic intelligence and four consoles, the jet also boasts an electro-optical sensor and ground data link.
“For customers faced with capability shortfalls or those looking to fill an immediate operational need, this robust, easily reconfigurable flying laboratory is available for lease,” Lockheed states on its website.
“The AML’s open architecture and configurable exterior physical structure allow C4ISR components (software and hardware) to be integrated and switched in a matter of hours rather than days,” a spokeswoman said. “The aircraft’s full suite of intelligence computing capabilities supports most commercial operating systems, and a ‘canoe’ on the underside of the aircraft can house many types of sensors.”
Personnel from various branches of the Italian armed forces have undergone sensor training with Lockheed’s staff in Italy, while Italian Air Force pilots were trained in the U.S. under the lease contract, which was signed in 2011.
Italy issued Lockheed and Israel’s Elta requests for information in 2007 for a SIGINT Gulfstream purchase. Since then, it has instead opted to purchase Early Warning Gulfstreams — another long-held Air Force ambition — from Israel in exchange for Israel’s purchase of M346 training jets from Italy’s Finmeccanica.