The world has just gained another airworthy Lockheed Starfighter following the successful first post-restoration flight of an F-104S ASA-M belonging to Starfighters Aerospace on April 28th, 2023. This Aeritalia-built example served in the Italian Air Force as MM6734, and had not flown since July, 2005. Starfighters Aerospace’s Chief Pilot, PierCarlo Ciacchi, had the honors of making the first flight, taking off from the runway which NASA’s Space Shuttle once used at the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida.

Chief Pilot PierCarlo Ciacchi celebrating the first successful flight in almost 20 years. Photo via Starfighter Aerospace

“What an epic day! This task was no walk in the park, but the team worked amazingly during the last year…and these last weeks of intense Ground Functional Checks. Congrats to all!”  said PierCarlo.

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“We achieved a major milestone, it was a long and expensive task to get the ASA-M back in the air but we finally achieved our goal thus expanding the company’s capabilities. I am very proud of our team which worked really hard to achieve this goal” said Starfighters Aerospace President & CEO Rick Svetkoff.

MM6734 is now the third active F-104 in Starfighter Aerospace’s fleet. Based at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and operating under authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, these aircraft are available to government and commercial customers for a variety of missions. 

Starfighter Aerospace has recently ramped up its training and flight operations at Kennedy Space Center. The company told us that a series of upcoming missions and cooperation agreements with other organizations have spurred this activity. A press release in early December last year revealed that they are now working with the Italian National Research Council, more properly known as the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), which is Italy’s largest public research institution. Starfighters Aerospace is set to perform an intriguing series of flight tests to evaluate a new, air-launched rocket delivery system which CNR currently has under development in collaboration with Italy’s Air Force and Ministry of Defense. This small rocket will eventually have the capacity to place a micro-satellite into near-earth orbit.

Starfighters Aerospace’s TF-104G-M N991SA with CNR’s prototype rocket mounted on a pylon under the left wing. This test evaluated the test article’s mechanical and aeronautical properties to ensure that it is suitable for launch from the F-104 platform. (image via Starfighters Aerospace)

MM6734 last flew on July 18th, 2005, marked as “RS-6” with the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Italian Air Force Test Squadron), although it also served with 5th Wing, 9th Wing, 36th Wing during its service career. It was the last Starfighter which Alenia Aerospace delivered to the Italian Air Force (on October 10th, 2002). Many thanks to Daniele Mattiuzzo for these details.

July 2002, MM6734 parked at Pratica di Mare Airbase. Photo by Ivan Turniano via Daniele Mattiuzzo.

The F-104S ASA-M was the final version of the Starfighter, carrying a new avionics and radio communications suite. The well-regarded website, The Aviationist, features an excellent article detailing the differences between the numerous F-104 variants which served with the Italian Air Force over the five decades which they fielded the type.

MM6734 when in force with the 9th Wing (codes 9-30). Photo by Luigino Caliaro.

As we have mentioned previously, in addition to their commercial research capabilities with the F-104, Starfighters Aerospace also offers licensed pilots, with both the means and the urge to fulfill a test pilot’s dream, the opportunity to undergo flight training in the magnificent Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. This follows Starfighters Aerospace’s 2018 authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration which opens the skies above NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for pilot training in the legendary supersonic aircraft. An FAA Letter of Deviation Authority, or LODA, allows licensed pilots to receive type-specific training in the same ‘right-stuff’ jets that NASA has used for decades to prepare their astronauts for spaceflight and to conduct aeronautical research. For more information about the company, visit

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With a veritable squadron of supersonic Lockheed F-104s in their hangar, Starfighters Aerospace is a serious business which offers its unique aircraft as a platform for a variety of aerospace flight testing services ranging from basic research to systems evaluation and beyond. The company serves both the public and private sectors and has generated enough success with its efforts to justify expanding its fleet of Starfighters to include nine airframes. For corporate relationships and business contacts, please visit

Photo by Matt Haskell via Starfighters Aerospace