It has been nearly two decades since the skies of Italy were beaten into submission by the howling roar of a Lockheed Starfighter’s General Electric J79-GE-19 turbojet…
With the withdrawal of the type from the nation’s air force in 2004 after more than 40 years in service, many thought that was it for the type dubbed 'Spillone' – Italian for ‘Big Needle’ – in Italian skies.
That all changed on March 6, 2023, when it was confirmed by the leading US-based warbird news outlet Vintage Aviation News (www.warbirdsnews.com) that Starfighters Aerospace is sending two of its four former Aeronautica Militare (AM, Italian Air Force) F-104s across the Atlantic to fly at the 100th anniversary of the Italian Air Force Airshow, which is to be held at Pratica di Mare Air Base, near Rome on June 16-18, 2023.
While it is not known which airframes the Cape Canaveral, Florida-based set-up is sending, it has been reported they have already been dismantled and already shipbound for Europe.
Operating a fleet of three ex-Royal Norwegian/Canadian Air Force (RNoAF/RCAF) Starfighters alongside its quartet of former AMI airframes from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Kennedy Space Center, the company offers a number of options to both government and commercial operations using its Mach 2-capable jets, including; captive carry of payloads and test articles; microgravity experiments; supersonic/hypersonic development, test, and evaluation; air launching microsatellites; spaceflight hardware testing/qualification; suborbital spaceflight simulation; human factors and flight physiology research; avionics testing/qualification; flight suit testing/qualification; adversary air training support and even pilot training on type. More on Starfighters Aerospace can be found here.
Starfighters Aerospace aircraft
Current registration Type In service serial(s)
N990SF TF-104G AM MM54251
N991SF TF-104G AM MM54258
N992SF TF-104G AM MM54261
N993SF F-104S ASA-M AM MM6734
N104RB CF-104D RNoAF 632, RCAF 104632
N104RD CF-104G RNoAF 850, RCAF 104850
N104RN CF-104G RNoAF 759, RCAF 104759
More on this electrifying chapter of European historic aviation when we have it. But given this could be the final time Italy witnesses the sheer power and ground-shaking roar of Lockheed’s ‘missile with a man in it’, you can guarantee we will be there!