The government of Italy signed a letter of agreement in March to lease thirty-four F-16s from the USAF inventory. The F-16s will replace the Tornado Air Defense Version aircraft and F-104s, both operated in the air defense role. The first F-16s will be delivered in mid-2003.
The Italian Air Force will receive thirty single-seat F-16 aircraft in the Block 15 Air Defense Fighter configuration and four two-seat F-16B Block 10 OCU ( Operational Capabilities Upgrade ) aircraft. Italy will be the twenty-first country to operate the F-16, and the sixth country to acquire Fighting Falcons from USAF inventory. The five-year lease is renewable for a second five-year period. The LOA and lease value is approximately $777 million over 10 years. The 34 refurbished F-16 fighters for lease by the Italian air force will be powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. The fighter engines will be upgraded from the current F100-PW-200 engines to the more powerful PW-220E.
The deal also includes the training of the pilots and ground engineers at the 162nd FW of Arizona ANG, logistical support, and a guaranteed minimum serviceability level permitting 12 sorties daily for each of the three Gruppi ( Squadrons ) to receive the Falcon. The Falcons will enable the Italian Air Force to begin withdrawing the F-104S-ASA-M and return the 24 leased Tornado ADVs to the UK.