ITALY — Italy retired its last Atlantique patrol aircraft on Sept. 21 after 45 years of service and over 250,000 flying hours.
The last of Italy’s operational Atlantiques took its bow at a ceremony at the Sigonella air base in Sicily, where it has been flying missions in support of an EU operation against people smugglers.
The aircraft is being replaced by newly delivered ATR 72 aircraft equipped by Italy’s Leonardo. Two have been operational since June, and two more are due to be delivered.
The four P-72As, as they have been dubbed by the Italian Air Force, were originally ordered in 2008.
The new aircraft can fly 6.5 hour missions up to 200 nautical miles from base and use Leonardo’s Airborne Tactical Observation and Surveillance mission system integrating the Leonardo Seaspray 7300 e-scan radar and a self-protection suite based on Elettronica’s ELT800V2 ESM.
The ATR 72s do not offer the anti-submarine capabilities provided by the Atlantiques. Italy was originally interested in acquiring the Boeing P-8, which does offer the capability, but budget restraints ruled out the purchase, and the ATR was bought instead.
If funds appear, the ATRs can adopt ASW capability in future because they are fit for four torpedo pylons.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.