AMX Ghibli

Last modified: 16 Oct. 2010

Project origin

Program sharing
Firm Responsability
  • radome
  • cockpit
  • center fuselage
  • aileron
  • spoiler
  • tail planes
  • forward fuselage
  • canopy
  • aft fuselage
  • air intakes
  • wings
  • flaps/slats
  • pylons

The AMX "Ghibli" (a hot wind that blows in North African deserts) is a single seat lightweight fighter-bomber developed by an Italo-Brasilian consortium at the beginning of '80s and entered service with the Italian Air Force (AMI) and the Força Aerea Brasileira (FAB) at the beginning of '90s. The new aircraft replaced in the AMI the old and venerable FIAT G-91R and G-91Y and is considered as the ideal complement for the much more expensive PANAVIA Tornado.

The AMX development began in April 1978 when Aeritalia (now Alenia Aerospace) and AerMacchi joined their efforts to design a new lightweight attack/recce aircraft requested by the AMI, and received new emphasis when the Brazilian EMBRAER joined in to satisfy a similar requirement from FAB.

The common aircraft specifications from AMI and FAB, including short takeoff distance, high-subsonic operative speed and advanced nav/attack systems, led in July 1981 to a joint procurement of 266 aircraft in two slightly different versions. Orders were placed for 79 production AMXs for Brazil, 187 (then cut to 136) for Italy and six prototypes from Aeritalia, AerMacchi ed EMBRAER production lines and relative program shares established as follows:

  • Aeritalia (Alenia) : 46.5%
  • Aermacchi : 23.8%
  • EMBRAER : 29.7%


Technical description

From a technical point of view the Gibleh has a relatively conventional design: the airframe is made up of aluminium alloys, with small parts made of steel and composite materials. Extensive use of FRP was made for access hatches all around the aircraft.

The wing, derived from Tornado's design in airfoil and structure, is shoulder-mounted and swept-back at 27.5°, has large Fowler-type flaps and slats on the leading edge, two hardpoints and the Sidewinder launcher on the wing tip; external tanks (two size: 580 lt or 1100 lt) can be fitted on both outboard and inboard hardpoint.

The air intakes have a subsonic, fixed geometry design and are mounted high from the ground to reduce FOD (Foreign Object Damage) hazard, and supply the Rolls-Royce RB168 Spey twin-shaft turbofan, rated at 49kN of thrust and licence-built by FIAT Aviazione.

The aircraft features a 4-channels Fly-by-Wire Flight Control System with a conventional hydraulically driven backup system, a Martin-Baker Mk10L ejection seat (also in use on Tornado and MB339), a fixed AAR probe by the right side of the cockpit and a Fiat-Avio FA-150 Argo APU, mounted behind the right main gear well, which allows independent operations from external starting devices.



The Rolls Royce Spey turbofan is a highly successful in both civilian and military roles, in world wide use, and it has accumulated almost eight million hours in the military role. More than 1400 Spey-powered military aircraft entered service and engine production exceeds 2600 units. The Spey powered world famous aircraft like the LTV A-7 Corsair II, the BAe Nimrod and, with A/B versions, the BAe Buccaneer and the MDD F-4K/M Phantom II. From April 1991 an extra AMX development (A11) flew with a Spey Mk807A up rated to 13500 lbs (60kN) for take off, while Rolls-Royce has offered the new RB168-821 Spey with a demonstrated 30% bench-test thrust increase over the Mk807.

RR Spey Mk807 data
Manufacturer: Rolls Royce - FiatAvio
Name: RB168 Mk807 Spey
Type: Twin-shaft turbofan
Thrust: 49.1 kN
By-pass ratio: 0.78:1
Pressure ratio: 16.8:1
Compressor stages: 4 BP, 12HP
Combustion system: tubo-annular
Turbine stages: 2HP, 2BP
Basic engine weight: 1096 Kg



All avionic equipments consists of easy to replace modules (or LRU, Line Replaceable Unit), integrated in a network through a data bus MIL-STD 1553B: this means that several avionics can transmit their data to the aircraft Main Computer through a single wiring on a time-share basis. A Bus Controller within the Main Computer hardware determines which one comes first and for how long it must transmit. This system avoids lots of heavy and complex wirings, thus increasing the payload and easing the cross-servicing. The avionic package includes:

  • two Main Computers for navigation and weapon aiming computation;
  • two FCC managing the fly-by-wire system;
  • a Litton Italia Inertial Navigation Unit;
  • a Stand-by Attitude & Heading Reference Unit;
  • an Air Data Computer;
  • an ELTA/Fiar range-only radar set;
  • a radar altimeter;
  • a HUD;
  • a MFD with integrated procecessing capabilities;
  • two secure voice V/UHF radio set;
  • TACAN;
  • VOR/ILS (only on few modified aircraft);
  • a Stores Management System
  • a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR)
  • an Active Electronic Counter Measure System (AECM)
  • a chaff & flare dispensing system (three dispenser on the aft port-side of the fuselage and one on the starboard side);

The AMX is designed with redundant electric, hydraulic and avionic systems: they are duplicated and critical components physically separated, thus allowing the aircraft to complete its mission in case any of those systems suffer a failure or is damaged in combat.


First flight

The first Italian prototype (A-01 MMX594) flew the first time in May 1984 at Aeritalia's Turin-Caselle factory flight test center, while the prototype assembled in Brazil flew at São dos Campos in October 1985. Unfortunately during the fifth flight the Italian prototype suffered a turbine surge during approach for landing and the aircraft crashed killing the Aeritalia's test pilot Manlio Quarantelli. In spite of this difficulty and once the problem was fixed (Rolls-Royce changed to 60% flight idling RPM to be used on approach; previous setting was 52%) development phase ended after assembling four more prototypes in Italy and Brazil.


From mid-1989 program totals had increased to 317 aircraft, with the addition of 51 two-seat AMX-T. The two-seat AMX-T retains the same dimension and full combat capabilities as the single-seat AMX and to accommodate the second Martin-Baker Mk10L ejection seat some ECS equipments mounted behind the original cockpit were moved to the photografic compartment and a fuel bay was eliminated (thus slightly reducing range performance).

The first AMX-T prototype made its maiden flight on 14 March 1990. Upon this new airframe, Alenia Aerospace began a viability study for an electronic combat version, known as AMX-E, able to accompany and protect Tornados and AMXs in attack missions and in December 1997 a contract was signed for completing its configuration, which will include avionics revision, color LCD displays with mobile maps for the Electronic Sys. Operator in the rear seat. The AMX-E was to lose its M61A1 cannon to make room for the necessary electronic equipments and was to be armed with HARM anti-radiation missiles; due to budget cuts, this project was eventually cancelled.[top]

Project developments

In order to push new orders from other interested Air Forces (notably Thailand and Venezuela) and to upgrade the existing aircraft, the AMX Consortium set up an ambitious MLU program, aiming at replacing the current engine with a new version of the EJ200 without afterburner and enhancing its avionic package installing a modern radar set such as the SCP-01 Scipio (for Brazil) or the FIAR Grifo-F (for Italy).

The update program proposed by the AMX Consortium was considered too expensive either by the FAB or the AMI which opted for separate and less demanding upgrade programs.

ACOL Upgrade (Italy)

In 2002 the AMI, selected the configuration for its update program, which kept into consideration the probable acquisition of the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to replace both AMX and Tornado around 2015.

As a result, the modification package turned out to be relatively small and could be applied to the airframes in a relatively short time with reduced risks. This update, called "ACOL" (Operative and Logistic Capabilities Enhancement) was intended to be applied to 43 single-seater and 12 two-seater of the third production batch and consisted of the following modifications:

  • cockpit and external lights compatible with NVG;
  • new IN/GPS from Littal Italia;
  • new LCD Multi Function Display;
  • new Symbol Generator for the MFD with Digital Map capability (raster and vector maps);
  • integration of GBU-32 (JDAM);
  • adoption of a crash recorder;
  • update of part of the existing equipments;

The first single-seat ACOL prototype (IX101, M.M.7189) flew on September 30th 2005 followed by the two-seater prototype (IT009, M.M.55043) on June 6th 2006.

The first production AMX ACOL (IX074, M.M.7162) with final version of avionics software updates, modified by Alenia Aeronautics, made its first flight on October 17th, 2007.

The first Unit to receive the updated aircraft was the 13º Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32º Stormo (Wing) on 2 August 2007, followed by the 103º, 132º and 101º Gruppo. The Italian Air Force completed the transition to the AMX ACOL by the end of 2009, receiving 43 single-seat aircraft and 12 two-seat aircraft. All remaining unmodified airframes (mostly of the 1st and 2nd batch production) have been set aside.

Between 2007 and 2009 the RSV (the AMI Flight Test Center, based at Pratica di Mare, near Rome) performed an extensive flight testing activity to iron out initial problems, improve the avionics software and integrate the new RecceLite reconnaissance pod; thanks to these efforts and the knowledge gained by aircrews during "Green Flag" and "Red Flag" exercises, the "new" aircraft could take part at the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. On 4 November 2009 4 AMX ACOL with RecceLite pod were sent to Herat Air Base and assigned to the Task Group "Black Cats" of the Joint Air Task Force (JATF).


A-1M Mid-Life Update (Brasil)

At the end of 2008 Embraer signed a $ 67 million deal with Elbit Systems to update the avonic system of the A-1 (single-seat) and TA-1 (two-seat); the modernization program consists of the following upgrades:

  • improved mission/navigation computer;
  • a new "glass cockpit" with 3 color MFD and digital map capabilities;
  • a new store management system;
  • a new self-protection sub-system provided by Elbit's EW subsidiary Elisra;

The new designation of the modified aircraft is A-1M; the first A-1M prototype started the test campaigns at the beginning of 2010 and the update program should be completed by 2014.

In service with the Italian Air Force

At the moment the Italian Squadrons flying the AMX "Ghibli" are the following:

  • 14º Gruppo - 2º Stormo (Rivolto - UD) (disbanded on December 2002)
  • 28º Gruppo - 3º Stormo (Villafranca - VR) (disbanded on September 1997)
  • 103º Gruppo - 51º Stormo (Istrana - TV)
  • 132º (Recce) Gruppo - 51º Stormo (Istrana - TV)
  • 13º Gruppo - 32º Stormo (Amendola - FG)
  • 101º GruppoOCU - 32º Stormo (Amendola - FG)

The 132º Gruppo is specialized in recce missions using the photografic/IR pod "Orpheus" (replaced by the RecceLite in 2009), while the 101º OCU trains the pilots assigned to AMX Squadrons, using mainly the two-seat AMX-Ts.


Technical Specification
Wingspan: 8.84 m - 29 ft 1.5 in
Length: 13.58 m - 44 ft 6.5 in
Height: 4.58 m - 15 ft 0.25 in
Wing area: 21.0 m2 - 226.05 sq ft
Wing sweep: 27.5°
Service ceiling: 42,650 ft; 13,000 m
Max speed: 565 Kts (651 Mph - 1,047 Km/h)
Ferry range
(with 2×1100 lt. external tanks):
1,800 nm (2,070 miles; 3,300 Km)
Combat radium
(hi-lo-hi, 2,000 lb payload):
480 nm (550 miles; 890 Km)
Internal fuel: 6,151 lb; 2,790 Kg
External tanks:
  • 153 US gallons / 580 lt. (on outboard pylons)
  • 290 US gallons / 1100 lt. (on inboard pylons)
Max takeoff weight: 28,660 lb; 13,000 Kg
Normal takeoff weight: 21,164 lb; 9,600 Kg
Empty weight: 14,770 lb; 6,700 Kg
Max weapons load: 8,375 lb; 3,800 Kg
Takeoff distance
(weight 23700 lb / 10750 Kg):
631 m
G limits: -4g / +8g