The final of the next generation of Italian Air Force maritime patrol aircraft landed at the Sigonella air base on February 11.
The fourth P-72A, as the new maritime patrol aircraft replacing the venerable Breguet Atlantic are referred to by the air force, arrived a little over five years after the first airframe was delivered by Leonardo.
Unlike the previous three, the latest P-72A was delivered in the so-called “final plus” configuration. This configuration incorporates upgraded sensors, mission systems and communication capabilities. The delivery of the fourth unit also marked the start of the upgrade of the previous three units to the latest standard, the air force said.
Leonardo-Finmeccanica delivered the first two airframes to the Italian Air Force in November 2016, and the service started operations with the aircraft in November 2017.
Based the ATR 72-600 commercial turboprop, the Italian Air Force P-72As perform intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR), SAR (search and rescue) missions, in addition to supporting operations to counter narcotics and weapons smuggling and piracy.
The aircraft are operated by joint Italian Navy and Air Force crews who form the 41º Stormo Antisom (41st ASW Wing).