The Italian Air Force Bids Farewell To The AMX ‘Ghibli’


The AMX in special color livery for the phase out ceremony at Istrana AB (All images, credit: Italian Air Force, unless otherwise stated)

The AMX light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft is retired after 35 years of service.

On Apr. 5, 2024, the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) officially bid farewell to its AMX “Ghibli” fleet with a ceremony organized at Istrana AB in northeastern Italy, home of the 51° Stormo (Wing), whose child unit, the 132° Gruppo (Squadron) is the last one to operate the light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft.

The AMX phase-out was also an opportunity for the Italian Air Force to arrange a Spotter Day (that we will cover in an upcoming report) and present the type’s last Special Colored A-11B (as the AMX ACOL is officially designated in accordance with the Mission Design Series of the Italian MOD).

The last AMX special color of the Italian Air Force.

The Special Color

The aircraft, is the single seater MM7162/51-34 sporting a special livery with a pilot who salutes wrapped in the tricolour of the Italian flags and the Latin phrase “Volatus ad astra, memoria in aeternum”, that translates in English “Flew to the stars, remembered forever”.

The tail of the special color.

Behind the cockpit, on the fuselage, a compass and a stylized world are depicted to represent the contribution to missions inside and outside national borders.

The upper fuselage and wings.
Front view
Close up on the nose
Fuel tank

The AMX in Italian Air Force service

Six prototypes of the AM-X (commonly known as AMX and later officially nicknamed “Ghibli” by the Italian Air Force) were manufactured (one was lost in an accident), 136 examples (110 single and 26 twin-seat, these last called the AMX-T) were ordered by the Italian Air Force and 56 were ordered by Brazil.

The first AMX was officially delivered to the Aeronautica Militare on Apr. 19, 1989. The aircraft was the AMX serialled MM7091 that was taken on charge by the Evaluation Unit of the ItAF, the Reparto Sperimentale di Volo (RSV), based in Pratica di Mare airport, near Rome. The 311th Gruppo of the RSV took the first six examples on charge and began an intensive test campaign made of 1,500 flight hours to explore the whole aircraft flight envelope. The unit tested the aircraft in all its aspects using also all the armament it could carry operating in the Sardinian ranges out of Decimomannu, where the first prototypes were also stationed for a certain period for various tests. In October 1989 the first production examples were delivered to the unit of the Italian Air Force that had been destined to the conversion on the AMX: the 103° Gruppo of the 51° Stormo at Istrana.

An AMX Ghibli jet in 2004 (Image credit: Author)

The Italian AMXs, that emerged as some of the most cost-effective assets during the Air War in Libya and, much earlier, during the Allied Force in Serbia and Kosovo, operated over Afghanistan and supported Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria using the Reccelite reconnaissance pod.

An AMX over Afghanistan as seen from a Reccelite pod.


In 2012, Alenia Aermacchi (a subsidiary of Leonardo) completed the upgrade of the fleet to the ACOL standard (Upgrade of Operational and Logistic Capabilities – Adeguamento delle Capacità Operative e Logistiche) re-delivering 52 upgraded aircraft (42 single and 10 twin-seat) to the Italian Air Force.

Two AMX ACOL carrying a centerline Reccelite pod (Image credit: The Aviationist / Giovanni Maduli)

The updated planes feature an inertial/GPS navigation system (EGI- Embedded GPS/Inertial) and the integration of a GPS-guided precision armament along with avionics improvements on 42 single-seat aircraft, which include New Generation Identification Friend or Foe, Night Vision Goggle (NVG) capability, a modern multi-function colour display and a more powerful  computer symbol generator (CSG).

Throughout the years the AMX has equipped the following units:

  • 13° Gruppo belonging to the 32° Stormo at Amendola
  • 101° Gruppo OCU / 32° Stormo at Amendola
  • 14° Gruppo / 2° Stormo at Rivolto
  • 28° Gruppo / 3° Stormo at Verona Villafranca
  • 103° Gruppo / 51° Stormo at Istrana
  • 132° Gruppo / 51° Stormo at Istrana. This is the last active unit.

David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


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