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US State Department Approves Sale of AIM-9X Sidewinder Missiles and Related Equipment to Italy

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US State Department Approves Sale of AIM-9X Sidewinder Missiles and Related Equipment to Italy

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AIM-9X Block II Short-range air-to-air missile
AIM-9X Block II Short-range air-to-air missile

The U.S. State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to the Government of Italy of AIM-9X Sidewinder Missiles and related equipment for an estimated cost of $90.6 million. The Government of Italy has requested to buy 28 AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II+ Tactical Missiles; 4 AIM-9X Block II+ Tactical Guidance Units; 8 AIM-9X Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM); and 2 AIM-9X CATM Guidance Units that will be added to previously implemented cases whose values were under the congressional notification threshold. The original FMS cases, valued at $34.1 million ($24.1 million in MDE) and $17.6 million ($9.7 million in MDE), respectively, included a total of 38 AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II+ Tactical Missiles; 3 AIM-9X Block II+ Tactical Guidance Units; 16 AIM-9X CATM; and 2 AIM-9X CATM Guidance Units. This notification is for a combined total of 66 AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II+ Tactical Missiles; 7 AIM-9X Block II+ Tactical Guidance Units; 24 AIM-9X CATM; and 4 AIM-9X CATM Guidance Units.

Also included are active optical target detectors; containers; personnel training and training equipment; classified and unclassified publications and technical documents; warranties; U.S. Government engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics and program support. This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a NATO Ally that is a force for political stability and economic progress in Europe. The proposed sale will improve Italy’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing training missiles and guidance units for Italy’s F-35 fleet in support of NATO’s defense mission. Italy will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces. The principal contractor will be RTX Corporation, located in Arlington, VA.

Italian Air Force F-35A (MP15-1031 AL-1 ) Lightning II stealth fighter first flight.  (Photo by Todd R. McQueen/Lockheed Martin)
Italian Air Force F-35A (MP15-1031 AL-1 ) Lightning II stealth fighter first flight. (Photo by Todd R. McQueen/Lockheed Martin)

The AIM-9 Sidewinder (“AIM” for “Air Intercept Missile”) is a short-range air-to-air missile. Entering service with the U.S. Navy in 1956 and the Air Force in 1964, the AIM-9 is one of the oldest, cheapest, and most successful air-to-air missiles. Its latest variants remain standard equipment in most Western-aligned air forces. The Sidewinder is the most widely used air-to-air missile in the West, with more than 110,000 missiles produced for the U.S. and 27 other nations, of which perhaps one percent have been used in combat. The AIM-9 has an estimated 270 aircraft kills. The AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II+ adds lock-on after launch capability with a datalink, so the missile can be launched first and then directed to its target afterwards by an aircraft with the proper equipment for 360-degree engagements, such as the F-35 or the F-22.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an American family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft that is intended to perform both air superiority and strike missions. It is also able to provide electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. Italy joined the program during the Concept Demonstration Phase (CDP), with Italy being Tier 2 partners and the rest Tier 3. Consequently, the aircraft was developed in cooperation with international partners and available for export.
Italy’s F-35As were declared to have reached initial operational capability (IOC) on 30 November 2018. At the time Italy had taken delivery of 10 F-35As and one F-35B, with 2 F-35As and the one F-35B being stationed in the U.S. for training, the remaining 8 F-35As were stationed in Amendola.

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