AMX A-1AAMX A-1 Ground Attack Aircraft by HobbyBoss

1/48 scale
Kit No. 81742
Cost: $39.99
Decals: Two versions – Italian Air Force, Brazilian Air Force
Comments: New mold, 2016 release, engraved panel lines; highly detailed cockpit including photo-etch details for pilot’s seat, two-part canopy, and gunsight; detailed landing gear and wheel wells with real rubber tires; separately molded airbrakes, ailerons, and leading edge wing slats; ordinance includes one pair each of the following: Mk. 82 500 lb. bombs; Mk. 84 500lb. “Snakeye” bombs; GBU-12 Paveway laser guided bombs; AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles; AIM-9P Sidewinder missiles; two drop tanks

History

The AMX A-1 fighter-bomber originated from an Italian Air Force requirement for single-seater and two-seater combat aircraft for surface attack missions. In 1982 Italy and Brazil signed an MOU for joint development, with production conducted by AMX Consortium, based in Rome, through the Italian companies Alenia Aerospazio, now Alenia Aeronautica, (46.5%) and Aermacchi (23.8%) and the Brazilian company Embraer (29.7%). By the late 1980’s, at the time of the A-1’s debut, the requirement had changed somewhat to encompass both a fighter trainer and light attack aircraft.

The result was a capable jet, especially in the light attack role, which entered service with Brazil in 1990 as the A-1. The goal was to build an aircraft that would compete with others internationally in the light attack/trainer role, but the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 largely wrecked those plans. In addition, fierce competition from entrenched competitors like the Czech L-39 Albatross, BAE’s Hawk, and the Franco-German Alpha Jet ensured that the AMX never took off in the shrunken export market. The main role of the AMX is ground attack in visual and marginal weather conditions, with primary roles in long range strike and air interdiction, close air support, reconnaissance and armed patrol. It is also highly effective in air defence missions and the fighter role.

The A-1 is now in service with the air forces of Brazil, Italy and Venezuela. The first AMX aircraft was delivered to the Italian Air Force in January 1989 and to the Brazilian Air Force in 1990. Production involved assembly lines in Italy and Brazil. Deliveries to Italy and Brazil concluded in 1998 and 1999 respectively.

Brazil’s FAB still uses the AMX as an important component of its air combat power, with about 43 A-1A fighters and 11 lead-in trainers in the fleet. Italy also deploys it, but Brazil’s dearth of operational front-line fighters, and larger land area, make the AMX much more important in Brazil. A total of 192 aircraft, 155 single-seater and 37 AMX-T two-seater, have been delivered to Italy (110 AMX, 26 AMX-T) and Brazil (79 AMX, 15 AMX-T). In December 2002, the Venezuelan Air Force signed a contract with Embraer for 12 AMX-T. However, the USA blocked the transfer of US-built components and the order was cancelled.

Subsequent Upgrades: Brazil

In August 2004, the Brazilian Air Force signed a contract with Embraer for a mid-life update of 53 single seat (designated A-1A) and two-seat (A-1B) aircraft. In August 2007, Embraer received the first of three prototype aircraft to be upgraded. Elbit of Israel was awarded a development contract for the avionics upgrade of two prototype aircraft in November 2008. The upgrade includes three new multifunction colour displays, head-up display, helmet-mounted display, a new radar, a radar warning receiver, forward looking infra-red system, laser target designator, datalink, night vision goggle compatibility and new communications and navigation suite. The upgrade program was set to be completed by 2014.

Embraer was contracted by the Brazilian Air Force in January 2011 to modernise the structural components, and supersede and renovate the outdated equipment of 43 AMX fighters. This is a follow-on contract to the upgrade contract signed in August 2004. Flight testing began in 2012 with first delivery by the end of 2012.

Subsequent Upgrades: Italy

In February 2005, the Italian Air Force selected Alenia Aeronautica to upgrade 55 AMX aircraft with new avionics, including INS/GPS navigation system, new communications systems and IFF (interrogation friend or foe), new displays and the addition of a capability to deploy smart munitions such as the Boeing joint direct attack munition (JDAM). First flight of the upgraded aircraft was in September 2005 and the first upgraded aircraft was delivered in March 2007.

International Manufacturing

In an arrangement reminescent of the Panavia Tornado, each member of the AMX consortium maunfactures part of the aircraft. Alenia manufactures the central section of the fuselage, the nose radome, the ailerons and spoilers and the tail surfaces. Aermacchi is responsible for the forward fuselage, the integration of the gun and avionics, the canopy, and the tailbone. Embraer is responsible for the air intakes, the wings, the leading edge slats and flaps. Embraer is also responsible for the wing pylons, the external fuel tanks and the reconnaissance pallets. Final assembly is carried out in both Italy and Brazil.

The AMX can carry external loads up to 3,800kg, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, free-fall bombs, retarded bombs, laser-guided bombs, cluster bombs, precision-guided munitions and rocket launchers. Italian Air Force AMX aircraft are equipped with GBU-12 bombs, fitted with the Opher imaging infrared terminal guidance kits supplied by Elbit of Israel. The wingtip launchrails can carry the AIM-9L infrared guided Sidewinder air-to-air missile, or the Orbita MAA-1 Piranha air-to-air missile. Italian AF AMXs are armed with Lizard laser-guided bombs from Elbit. The bombs have 500lb mk82 warheads. The US JDAM joint direct attack munition is also fitted on the Italian AMX.

The Italian aircraft are armed with the M61A1 multibarrel cannon with 350 rounds of 20mm ammunition installed in the port lower side of the fuselage. The Brazilian Air Force AMX is armed with two DEFA 554 30mm cannon, installed one on each side of the fuselage.

Countermeasures

The AMX is equipped with an active and passive electronic countermeasures system supplied by Elettronica. The radar warning receiver is mounted in the tail fin.

Cockpit systems

The pressurised, air-conditioned cockpit is fitted with a Martin Baker Mark 10L zero ejection seat. The cockpit’s environmental control system is supplied by Microtecnia. The single-piece wrap-around windscreen provides a forward-downward view of 18° over the nose. The cockpit is night vision goggle (NVG) compatible, and is equipped with an Opto Mechanik, Inc. and Alenia head-up display and an Alenia multifunction head-down digital data display.

Operational History

The first operational squadron of the Italian air force, the 103° Gruppo of 51° Stormo formed in November 1989. Both the Italian and Brazilian AMX fleets were grounded in February 1992, following the crash of an Italian AMX due to engine failure. Operations were allowed to restart in May that year, following modification of the engines. Italy assigned six AMXs from 103° Gruppo to operations over Bosnia in 1995 as part of Operation Deny Flight, which was followed by a similar deployment in support of the IFOR peacekeepers in Bosnia. This deployment was interrupted by another grounding, again due to engine failure, between January and March 1996.

Italian AMX aircraft were used in 1999 in the Kosovo War. Instead of using unguided or more traditional laser-guided bombs, the Italian Air Force used dozens of Mk 82 bombs fitted with Opher Israeli guidance kits, effectively converting the “dumb” bombs into an infrared-guided bomb.

Starting in November 2009, four Italian AMXs were deployed overseas for operations in Afghanistan, replacing the same number of Italian Tornado IDS in the reconnaissance role. Of particular note is the aircraft’s ability to share digital electro-optical and infrared sensor information with ground troops in real time, providing valuable reconnaissance information and helping to minimise threat exposure. By the end of 2010 over 700 combat missions had been flown in the Afghan theatre. On May 28, 2014, the AMX performed its last combat sortie in the Afghan theatre, and on June 20, 2014, all remaining AMXs were withdrawn from Afghanistan.

In 2011, Italian AMX aircraft were employed during the 2011 military intervention in Libya. Italian military aircraft deployed 710 guided bombs and missiles during sorties: Italian Air Force Tornados and AMX fighter bombers deployed 550 bombs and missiles, while Navy AV-8Bs deployed 160 guided bombs. The conflict saw the first use by AMX aircraft of Litening targeting pods paired with Paveway and JDAM guided bombs. In early 2016, due to the declining stability of Libya, Italy opted to station additional aircraft, including four AMX fighters, to Bassi Airbase, Trapani, Sicily.

The Kit

The HobbyBoss A-1A Ground Attack Aircraft is molded in light grey and consists of 200 plastic parts, 13 photo-etched parts, and three rubber wheels. The instruction sheet is well illustrated and clear and calls out Gunze Sangyo colors, but does not do so consistently. For example, there are painting instructions for most of the major cockpit components, but the sheet is silent on the colors for the control yoke and PE seat straps. The same is true of what color to paint the air intake interiors, and the modeler is left to assume they are to be painted to match the box art, either white or flat gull grey. If you follow the instructions literally, you would end up painting the exteriors of the dive brakes white, but that instruction is for the interior surfaces only, on the dive brakes and the area of the wings revealed when they are deployed.

Other than these relatively minor flaws, construction appears to be trouble-free. The cockpit seat will look well detailed once the PE seat straps are cemented on, and virtually every surface of the cockpit features ample raised detail, on the side and main instrument panels. The wheel well interiors also feature raised and structural details for hoses, electrical and hydraulic lines, etc. There is a separate hood for the main instrument panel, onto which a gunsight consisting of plastic and PE parts is to be cemented.

The intakes are one-piece affairs and will require seam hiding where they attach to the fuselage. Each wing consists of five major parts including the main component, a dive brake, a leading edge slat, and a two-piece aileron. There are various small bits to be cemented to the airframe in the final stages including sensors, blade antennas, a refueling probe, wingtip guide rails for the Sidewinder missiles, and an arrestor hook, indicating that it may double as a naval fighter. Each weapons pylon features engraved detail, and each piece ordnance consists of at least four parts.

Conclusion

This is a highly detailed kit of a versatile fighter-trainer that until the release of two Kinetic kits in 2015 and now this one, had gone relatively unnoticed for a full quarter century, in part because its exports never took off as anticipated due to the and of the Cold War within a year of its debut.

Highly recommended and sure to provide a fun build.

References

Brazilian A-1A lifts off from an airbase in Mendoza, Argentina, circa 2005.
PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Lofing – http://www.airliners.net/photo/Brazil—Air/AMX-International-A-1A/1206371/L/

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