|An Italian Air Force SF.260|
|First flight||15 July 1964|
|Introduction||April 1966 (FAA certification)|
|Primary users|| Italian Air Force|
Turkish Air Force
Mexican Air Force
Philippine Air Force
The SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 (now Leonardo SF-260) is an Italian light aircraft marketed as an aerobatics and military trainer. It was designed by Stelio Frati, originally for Aviamilano, which flew the first prototype of it (then designated F.260) on July 15, 1964. Actual production was undertaken when SIAI Marchetti purchased the design soon thereafter and continued with this firm until the company was bought by Aermacchi in 1997. The military versions are popular with smaller air forces, which can also arm it for use in the close-support role.
Design and development
The design employs a low-mounted cantilever wing and retractable tricycle undercarriage, and is often praised for its sleek lines and sporty appearance. The pilot and up to two passengers (or pilot and one student in trainer versions) are accommodated under a broad, extensively glazed canopy. The structure is approved for acrobatics.
The SF.260 holds the airspeed records for aircraft in its class over the 100 km (62 mi) and 1,000 km (620 mi) closed circuits.
The aircraft was marketed in the United States in the late 1960s as the Waco Meteor, although it was in no way connected with the Waco aircraft company. Thirty SF.260EA – the most recent version – were delivered to the Italian Air Force in 2005 for a total price of €33 million ($40 million).
This small air force operated six Warriors with marks BF-8421 (c/n 049), BF-8424 (c/n 254), BF-8431 (c/n 116), BF-8451 (c/n 206), BF-8477 (c/n 134) and BF-8479 (c/n 136); these Warriors were sold from Philippines via Belgium in 1986, and were complemented by other four new Warriors coming directly from Italy, and employed during the Agacher Strip War with Mali in 1986. These aircraft were in service with Eskadrille de Chasse (EdC - Fighting Squadron) in Force Aérienne de Burkina Faso (FABF - Burkina Faso Air Force).
Chad informed the United Nations that, during the conflict with Libya, it had destroyed eight Libyan Air Force SF.260WL's and captured nine others, besides destroying and capturing other equipment. As many as six former Libyan SF.260WLs may have been pressed into service with Chad's Air Force. By 1988 four SF.260W's were identified as being in service, two of them were overhauled one year later in France.
In November 2006 Libya supplied Chad with four SF.260W aircraft, including crew, due to tensions between Chad and Sudan over the Dafur area. One newly supplied SF.260W was shot down on 28 November - its first mission in Chad - by rebel forces, killing the crew.
Libya was a major customer of the SIAI Marchetti SF.260 with an order of 240 Warriors, partially to be assembled in a new plant near Tripoli. How many SF.260W's were actually delivered is unknown. Deliveries started in 1977 or 1978, but problems arose from a US embargo on avionics. Reportedly, the US-made avionics were replaced by French-made, which caused delays in delivery. In the late 1970s large numbers of SF.260's were parked on Vergiate awaiting delivery. The SF.260WL was intended for use by the Air Force Academy for pilot training, but was also used for ground support of army troops during the border war with Chad. Little is known about the service life of the aircraft. The Libyan government supported friendly countries with arms, and several SF.260Ws were handed over to air forces such as Burkina Faso, Burundi, Nicaragua, Uganda and possibly others. In 1987 Chad reported to the United Nations the destruction of eight F.260s and the capture of nine others during its border war with Libya; some of these secondhand Libyan aircraft may even have found their way onto the US market.
Alenia Aermacchi refurbished twelve SF.260 primary trainers for the Libyan Air Force; the work was performed jointly by Alenia Aermacchi and Tripoli-based Libyan-Italian Advanced Technology. The work included overhaul of the airframes and systems, including propellers and engines. Work began in late 2007 and ran through 2008.
During the civil war, on May 7, 2011, this aircraft (along with a formation of pro-Gaddaffi planes) was probably involved in a successful air raid over the rebel-held fuel depots at Misrata, setting them on fire. NATO failed to intercept the flight, despite the introduction of a no-fly zone over Libya in March. At the beginning of the uprising, one aircraft was crushed under a tank during a rebel attack on Misrata air base.
As of 2013, at least six airframes are still in service with the new Libyan Air Force and are involved in patrols and possibly airstrikes against smugglers in the porous and remote borders.
Between four and six SF.260W's were received by the Fuerza Aérea Sandinista as support from Libya. They may have been used in the COIN role against the Contras and in the pilot training role. No further details are known. Three SF.260s surfaced in the USA on the secondhand market, a fourth is slowly being rebuilt in Guatemala. No longer in service.
In the early 1970s an order was placed for 48 SF.260s (32 SF.260M; 16 SF.260W). The first six were delivered in May 1973, replacing the Beech T-34A Mentor with 100th Training Wing at Fernando Air Base.
The 15th Strike Wing on airbase Sangley Point received the SF.260W Warrior as an addition to the North American T-28 Trojans. They were possibly used in combat against rebel forces in the south of the Philippines. But little is known about its service life. In the early 1980s, the surviving Warriors were disarmed and transferred to the training role with 100th Training Wing.
The Philippines Air Force signed with Agusta a contract for the delivery of 18 SF.260TP turboprops on 31 December 1991, replacing the SF.260M/W in the training role. The first SF.260TP was noted in country on 1 July 1993.
Under "Project Layang" the Philippines Air Force plans to upgrade 18 SF.260M/W aircraft to the SF.260TP standard, by replacing the Lycoming piston engine with the Allison 250-B17D turbopropengine and newer avionics. The first upgraded SF.260 was delivered in 1996, no further details are available.
The Philippines has finalized a deal with Alenia Aermacchi for 18 new-build SF.260F primary/basic trainers. All 18 were delivered by Aermacchi Italy which was locally assembled by Aerotech Industries Philippines by April 2011.
Despite an arms embargo, two batches of SF.260 aircraft were delivered in 1977. Because of the embargo several buying teams were travelling the world looking for suitable equipment. Through various routes 17 SF.260C and 14 SF.260W aircraft arrived. The former to be used in the training role, while the warriors were being used for light attack duties and escort of convoys. In 1984-85 reportedly eight SF.260Ws were converted to SF.260TP standard by replacing the piston engine with a turboprop engine.
Six SF.260TPs were delivered to the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) in 1985, to be used in the pilot training role, although they were later brought into the government's effort to subdue the Tamil Tigers. Two former factory demonstration aircraft were delivered in 1986 to replace lost aircraft, added by three new built aircraft in 1988. All SF.260 aircraft are based with No. 1 Flying Training Wing on the airbase SLAF Anuradhapura. The SF.260TP fleet was expanded in 1990-91 with the delivery of twelve former Myanmar SF.260Ws. The SF.260W fleet was withdrawn from use in 2001, being replaced by Chinese Nanchang PT-6 aircraft. The SF.260TP fleet was also retired a few years later.
2 aircraft were lost in combat:
- 13 September 1990: A SLAF SF.260TP was shot down near Palay. The pilot was killed.
- 14 July 1992: A SLAF SF.260TP was shot down by Tamil Tigers; the pilot was killed.
It was announced at the 1997 Paris Salon that the Air Force of Zimbabwe had ordered six F.260F aircraft, thus becoming the first operator of this new model. In June 1998 three F.260Fs were seen test flying at the Aermacchi homebase of Venegono. All six should have been delivered in 1998. Little is known yet about their serials and construction numbers. One of the F.260F fighter models crash landed on 4 September 2014, at a compound near Charles Prince Airport just outside Harare, killing two officers of the Airforce. The plane was on rehearsal for the 7 September Big African Airshow.
- F.250 – first prototype powered by 187 kW (250 hp) Lycoming O-540-AID. The prototypr, regn. I-ZUAR, was destroyed in a crash at Sestri Ponente, Genoa on 7 November 1965.
- F.260 – two prototypes powered by 194 kW (260 hp) Lycoming O-540-E4A5
- SF.260 – Production version of the F.260
- SF.260A – Initial production version. Built in small numbers.
- SF.260M – Militarised version with strengthened airframe and improved aerodynamics
- SF.260AM – Italian Air Force version, 33 built.
- SF.260ML – Export version for Libya, 240 built.
- SF.260W Warrior – Military version with weapons hardpoints
- SF.260SW Sea Warrior – Coast patrol, fishery protection aircraft. One built.
- SF.260B – Civilian version incorporating improvements of the SF.260M. Introduced 1974
- SF.260C – Improved version of the SF.260B; introduced in 1977.
- SF.260TP – Allison 250-B17D turboprop version of the SF.260C; first flown in 1980.
- SF.260D – SF.260C with uprated engine and other refinements. Introduced in 1985
- SF.260E – Uprated SF.260D to compete for a USAF contract but later marketed to other military buyers
- SF.260F – As above, with fuel-injected engine
- SF.260EA – Most recent variant for Italian Air Force, 30 built.
- SF-260 - current production model
- Italian Air Force operated 45 SIAI-Marchetti SF.260AM from 1976 until 2005 replaced by 30 SIAI-Marchetti SF.260EA.
Former Military Operators
- Bolivian Air Force - Retired
- Burma Air Force – Retired
- Haitian Air Force – Retired
- Irish Air Corps – SF-260D & SF-260WE Retired. Sold to private concern in USA.
- Fuerza Aérea Sandinista – Retired
- Republic of Singapore Air Force – 14 SF.260Ms delivered in 1971 plus 12 SF.260Ws delivered in 1979 and 1981. The remaining 19 airworthy airframes were phased out in 2002 and transferred to the Indonesian Air Force.
- Somali Aeronautical Corps – Retired
- Sri Lanka Air Force – Retired
- Zaire Air Force – Retired
Out of about 860 SF-260s produced, around 180 have been sold to civil users. Most of these are in private hands, although at least three airlines, Alitalia, Sabena and British Midland Airways purchased the aircraft as a trainer for airliner pilots. Air Combat USA operates 9 SF-260s.
- Crew: One
- Capacity: Two passengers
- Length: 7.1 m (23 ft 0 in)
- Wingspan: 8.35 m (26 ft 11.75 in)
- Height: 2.41 m (8 ft 6 in)
- Wing area: 10.1 m² (109 ft²)
- Empty weight: 765 kg (1,488 lb)
- Loaded weight: 1,100 kg (2,425 lb)
- Max. takeoff weight: 1,200 kg (utility) 1,100 kg (aerobatic) (2,866 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming O-540-E4A5, 195 kW (260 hp)
- Maximum speed: 441 km/h (236 knots, 276 mph)
- Cruise speed: 330 km/h (178 knots, 205 mph)
- Range: 2,050 km (1,107 NM, 1,274 mi)
- Service ceiling: 5,790 m (19,000 ft)
- Rate of climb: 9.1 m/s (1,791 ft/min)
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
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