Along with the KC-767s, already supporting the coalition forces with an aerial refueling capability, Rome has committed four Tornado IDS and two Predator drones to the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The Italian Air Force is about to move four Tornado IDS attack planes, belong to the 6° Stormo, from Ghedi airbase, to Kuwait, to join the US-led coalition that is fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. According to DefenseNews, the aircraft are going to be based at Ahmed Al Jaber air base in Kuwait, the same country where Rome has deployed one of its brand new KC-767 tankers.
For this kind of mission, the aircraft usually carry a Rafael Reccelite reconnaissance pod: the Reccelite is a Day/Night electro-optical pod able to provide real-time imagery collection. It is made of a stabilized turret, solid-state on board recorder that provides image collections in all directions, from high, medium and low altitudes.
The Reccelite reconnaissance pod is used to broadcast live video imagery via datalink to ground stations and to ROVER (Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver) tactical receivers in a range of about 100 miles.
The pod can also be carried by the AMX ACOL, the light tactical jet that has performed close air support/air interdiction and ISR missions in support of ISAF from 2009 until the summer of 2014.
The Italian Air Force operates a mixed force of 6 MQ-9 Reaper and 6 MQ-1C Predator both assigned to the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing).
The Italian UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) have already operated in Iraq between January 2005 and 2006 when the first RQ-1 Predator A was deployed to Tallil airbase, in Iraq. Later, two Predator A+ (designated MQ-1C A+ a standard to which all the former RQ-1 were upgraded) were deployed to Herat, in Afghanistan, to perform a wide array of missions: mainly MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), support to TIC (Troops In Contact), IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring and Convoy Escort.
The Italian unarmed drones will probably be involved in High Value Target surveillance and Reconnaissance (and, maybe special ops support).
Although it was not disclosed, most probably Predators will be employed in Iraq as they were employed in Afghanistan: in accordance with the so-called Remote Split Operations (RSO). During RSO, aircraft is launched from a local, in theater airbase, under direct line-of-sight control of the local MGCS (Mobile Ground Control Station).
Then, by means of satellite data link, it is taken on charge and guided from Amendola. When the assigned mission is completed, it is once again handed over to a pilot in Afghanistan, who lands it back to Herat airbase. The 1-second delay introduced by the satellite link is not compatible with the most delicate phases of flight; hence, aircraft are launched and recovered in line-of-sight by the deployed MCGS (US drones use the same kind of remote control).
Two Italian Air Force Tornado jets have crashed after colliding midair in central east Italy. While search of the four missing pilots continues, here are two images taken moments after the aircraft collided.
On Aug. 19, two Tornado aircraft, belonging to the 6° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), crashed after colliding midair near Ascoli Piceno, in central east Italy. The fate of the four crew members (each aircraft is flown by a pilot and a navigator) is still unknown.
Two rescue helicopters of the Italian Air Force (an HH-3F and an HH-139) and reconnaissance planes are involved in the rescue efforts.
Very few details about the incident have been disclosed other than the two aircraft, had departed from Ghedi airbase for a pre-planned, low level training mission.
According to the Italian Air Force spokeperson, the four pilots ejected (since the locator beacon signals for both ejection seats have been received) but none has been found and rescued yet.
The Italian State TV RAI aired a couple of images obtained by a witness who took some shots of the fireball generated by the collision of the two fighter bombers. No parachute can be spotted in the low quality sequence (most probably taken with a smartphone’s camera).
More than 40 Typhoons belonging to three European Air Forces have deployed to Decimomannu airbase in the last few weeks to take advantage of the local ACMI (Air Combat Maneuvering Installation) ranges.
Since mid June, more than 40 Eurofighter Typhoons belonging to the German, Italian and Austrian Air Force have deployed to Decimomannu airbase, in Italy, to undertake training activities in the large training ranges surrounding Sardinia island.
Decimomannu is the home of the AWTI (Air Weapons Training Installation) established 55 years ago by the NATO partnership of Italy, Germany, Great Britain and Canada. The AWTI exploits an ACMI (Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation) range where air-to-air missions and DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat Training) are remotely monitored and recorded, and an air-to-ground bombing range at Capo Frasca, where pilots can train dropping both dumb and smart weaponry.
Currently, the base is mainly used by the aircraft belonging to the Italian and German Air Force but it often hosts aircraft of other air forces involved in training campaigns and multinational exercises.
From Jun. 12 to 26 the Luftwaffe deployed 23 Typhoons (including four two-seaters) from Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 73 “Steinhoff” from Laage. Some 8 Typhoons are still operating from “Deci.”
Along with the GAF Typhoons, BAE and GFD deployed two A-4 Skyhawks (N431FS white and N262WL camo) and two Learjets (Learjet 31A and Learjet 35A) to support the firing training of the Eurofighters.
Flying with the AACMI (Autonomous ACMI) pods, the Germans have conducted Combat Air Patrol, air interception and aerial combat training, operating also with the Italian Typhoons.
From Jun. 12 to Jul. 3, Italian Air Force has deployed 13 Typhoons belonging to the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (Wing) – the units of the Aeronautica Militare equipped with the European fighter jet – to undertake air-to-air combat training.
This was not the first time the Italian Air Force simultaneously deployed all its currently equipped squadrons to Deci: last year the 9° Gruppo (Squadron) and 20° OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) of the 4° Stormo at Grosseto, the 10° and 12° Gruppo of the 36° Stormo at Gioia del Colle and the 18° Gruppo of the 37° Stormo at Trapani took advantage of the ACMI range to improve their skills in the air defense field.
Five Austrian Typhoons are currently based at Deci. The aircraft, belonging to the Austrian Air Surveillance Wing from Zeltweg, have arrived on Jul. 9.
The Aviationist’s contributor Alessandro Caglieri has visited the airbase several times during the last few weeks, taking all the photographs you can find in this post.
An Italian Eurofighter Typhoon facing a nose landing gear problem solved by re-cycling it. Pretty routine.
What if the plane has trouble getting the landing gear to retract? The simplest thing to do is re-cycle it, that is to say, try to drop it back down before attempting to put it back up. It’s a pretty common procedure in aviation.
The tankers are assigned to the 14° Stormo (Wing) based at Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, whose 8° Gruppo (Squadron) flies the aircraft for AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling), strategic trasportation and MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) missions.
The first KC-767 was delivered to the Italian Air Force on Jan. 27, 2011 and had its “baptism of fire” few months later, during the Air War in Libya, when the new tanker conducted air-to-air refueling missions of Italian planes involved in Operation Unified Protector.
In the KC-46 variant, the next generation tanker is going to replace the U.S. fleet of KC-135E Stratotanker refuelers but, whilst in the KC-135 the “boomer” (as the operator is nicknamed) is prone and moves the flying boom in the receptacle watching the receiver through a rear observation window, in the KC-767 the operators move the boom using a joystick and watching the video from a series of cameras mounted on the tanker’s rear fuselage.
The advanced camera system feeds a Remote Vision System (RVS) that provides high-definition stereoscopic imagery to the vision goggles attached to a sort-of flight helmet worn by the boomer during the air-to-air refueling.
The aircrews of the 8° Gruppo are also capable of “buddy refueling operations”: a KC-767 can refuel another KC-767 mid-air using the flying boom and the aircraft’s receptacle, further extending the aircraft endurance.
With the help of the Italian Air Force Press Office and the 14° Stormo, we have had the opportunity to take part in one of the “buddy refueling” missions flown by the 8° Gruppo for training purposes.
All the images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s photographer Giovanni Maduli on board KC-767 “A600″ on Jul. 2, 2014.
The Author wishes to thank Capt. Stefano Testa of the ItAF Press Office and Lt. Col. Massimiliano Colasi of the 14° Stormo for the help provided before, during and after the flight.