Italy has inducted its new ATR P-72A maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) into service at a ceremony in Sigonella today.
The P-72A is an all-weather maritime patrol aircraft developed from the civilian ATR72-600 regional airliner. The aircraft is developed by ATR (Aerei da Trasporto Regionale or Avions de transport régional), a joint venture formed by French aerospace company Aérospatiale (now Airbus) and Italian aviation conglomerate Aeritalia (now Leonardo S.p.A.).
The aircraft is fitted with Leonardo’s Airborne Tactical Observation and Surveillance (ATOS) mission system, Selex Seaspray 7300 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and FLIR Star SAFIRE electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor.
The aircraft’s self-protection suite is based on Elettronica’s ELT800V2 electronic support measures (ESM) system derived from the one fitted on Alenia C-27J Spartan transport aircraft. This allows the P-72A to operate in denied environments. The system includes chaff & flare dispensers (CFD), missile approach warning system (MAWS), radar warning receivers (RWR) and laser countermeasures.
The aircraft is also equipped with bubble spotter windows, openable rear door, a defensive aids suite, and four stations – two on either side of the fuselage – to eventually allow the addition of hardpoints for the carriage of torpedoes.
The fuselage length was increased by about 1.5m (5ft) due to the addition of the defensive aids suite to the tail. The aircraft is able to fly missions lasting six and a half hours at ranges up to 200 nautical miles from its starting location.
The aircraft is designed for several missions including maritime patrol for the search and identification of surface vessels, SAR (search and rescue) missions, the prevention of narcotics trafficking, piracy and smuggling, territorial water security and monitoring and intervention in the event of environmental catastrophes.
Leonardo-Finmeccanica delivered the first two of a total four ATR 72MPs to the Italian Air Force in December last year. The four P-72As are to be the interim replacement for the Atlantics, with a full replacement likely to be procured sometime after 2020.
The aircraft replaces the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic MPA operated by the country. Like the Atlantic, P-72A will be operated by the Air Force but commanded by the Navy (Marina Militare; MM). The aircraft will have mixed flight crews from both the Air Force and the Navy Aviation (Aviazione Navale).