Category Archives: Italian Air Force

We have taken part in an aerial refueling mission during TJ15, NATO’s largest exercise in decades

We were onboard an Italian Air Force KC-767 tasked to refuel Eurofighter Typhoon and AMX jets involved in the largest NATO exercise in decades.

On Nov. 3, we were given the opportunity to take part in an aerial refueling mission in support of Ex. Trident Juncture 2015, the largest NATO exercise in more than 10 years.

AMX close up

Aboard an Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767 MM62228 belonging to 8° Gruppo (Squadron) of 14° Stormo (Wing) using callsign “Breus 15,” we launched from Pratica di Mare airbase and headed to the working area located near Ponza island, over the Tyrrhenian sea, to refuel Eurofighter Typhoons with 37° Stormo, based at Trapani airbase, in Sicily, and AMXs, with 51° Stormo, from Istrana airbase, but temporarily based at Trapani.

The images in this post show the aircraft being refueling using the hose-and-drogue system: the KC-767 is a NextGen Tanker equipped with both the hose and the flying boom and, unlike all the previous boom-equipped refuelers, uses an adveniristic remote boom operator’s station located behind the cockpit.

AMX wide port

Indeed, 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 (and future KC-46 that will replace the KC-135E in the U.S. Air Force), the boomers, move the boom or control the refueling operations of the probe-equipped planes using a joystick and through the video from a series of cameras mounted on the tanker’s fuselage.

Typhoon boomer closeup

Typhoon starboard side

The advanced camera system feeds a Remote Vision System (RVS) that can provide 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.

Typhoon boomer view

The KC-767 is one of the tanker types supporting TJ2015; other aerial refuelers include the Canadian CC-130, the Dutch KC-10 and the U.S. KC-135 deployed at several airbases across southern Europe.


KC-767 Tanker at dusk

All images by The Aviationist’s photographer Giovanni Maduli

First ever swing role course on the T-346 prepares Italian Air Force pilots to the Typhoon and Tornado

The Italian Air Force has recently begun training its first Eurofighter and Tornado pilots on the Alenia Aermacchi T-346A at Lecce airbase, in southeastern Italy.

At the beginning of September, the Italian Air Force has launched the very first training course on the T-346A (M-346 “Master”) at 61° Stormo (Wing) based at Lecce-Galatina.

The course, that started 6 months ahead of schedule, is a swing role class held by 212° Gruppo (Squadron) and attended by four Italian pilots who will convert to the Typhoon and Tornado combat fleets upon successful completion of the training, which aims to develop the information management and aircraft handling skills of future pilots before they are assigned to the OCUs (Operational Conversion Units).

M-346 air-to-air two

The four Italian pilots will be trained for 9 months in accordance with a new “experimental syllabus” designed by the squadron’s Instructor Pilots (IPs) in the last months and currently based on 170 training events, 50 percent of those carried out in flight and the remaining 50 percent in the simulator.

In fact, with the “Master,” the training syllabus can be split 50-50 between ground and air segment: half of the flight hours is flown in the simulator and the remaining half is flown on the actual plane with a significant cost reduction. Indeed, thanks to an integrated training system (ITS), student pilots can attend ground lessons and practice the training missions in extremely realistic simulators several times before their knowledge and skills are evaluated by an IP, both at the sim and in flight.

M-346 break

The T-346A is a LIFT (Lead-In Fighter Trainer) with impressive performance, cutting edge human-machine interface and a lot of interesting technologies such as a full digital cockpit, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, carefree handling, VCI (Vocal Control Inputs), a Helmet Mounted Display as well as the ability to simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and to replicate a wide array of sensors and weapons as if these were actually installed on the aircraft.

The plane itself is just the air segment of the ITS that includes ground-based facilities, academics, simulators, and mission planning and debriefing stations developed to fill the gap between the flight schools and the operational unit and to prepare the pilots to operate Gen. 4th and 5th multirole aircraft in high-threat/high performance environments.

M-346 Simulator

Indeed, while current pilots are being prepared for the Typhoon or Tornado aircraft, in the near future, courses will be aimed at training attendees destined to the F-35 Lightning II.

Besides the Italians, pilots from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, are going to undertake the LIFT course with the T-346A at Lecce, along with the Polish Air Force pilots whose first of 16 pilots will start training on the Master with the ItAF in November.

The Polish Air Force is expected to take delivery of the first of 8 M-346A, selected in 2014, by the second half of 2016.

M-346 air-to-air

The Italian Air Force has just unveiled two Eurofighter Typhoon jets with special colored tails

Two Italian Typhoon sport an interesting tail color scheme.

Among the several highlights of the Rivolto Spotter Day organized by the Italian Air Force on Sept. 4, ahead of the air show (Sept. 5 and 6) to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori display team, there is also the special colored tails sported by two Eurofighter Typhoon jets.

The aircraft, belonging to the 10° Gruppo (Squadron) of 36° Stormo (Wing), based at Gioia del Colle were given an unusual camouflaged tail with a tricolored rudder and a large black rearing horse on white cloud, symbol of Italy’s top WWI ace Francesco Baracca.

F-2000 Special

Both aircraft (MM7297 and 7308) took part in the air display at Rivolto performing a flyover along with a replica of the SPAD XIII, the French biplane fighter aircraft flown by Baracca that inspired the new special color scheme (the two jets did not fly in formation with the Spad but made a fast flyby at the end of the biplane’s display).



Italian Air Force KC-767 becomes first international tanker to refuel an F-35

The Italian KC-767 is the first international aerial refueling tanker to be certified to refuel the F-35.

A KC-767A belonging to 8° Gruppo (Squadron) of 14° Stormo (Wing) from Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, became the first international tanker to successfully complete aerial refueling of a U.S. Air Force F-35A during a boom receiver certification refueling flight conducted over California’s High Desert region on Jul. 29.

The Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) KC-767A is the first tanker not operated by the U.S. Air Force to undergo refueling certification trials with a U.S. aircraft.

During the flight (the first of a series being conducted to achieve the full certification, the latest conducted on Aug. 6 and shown on Flightradar24), the KC-767A completed 25 boom contacts with the F-35A and successfully offloaded 16,000 pounds of fuel.

Italy operates a fleet of four KC-767A next generation tankers equipped with both the sixth generation flying boom (based on the one of the American KC-10) and used to refuel the F-35A, and three hose and drogue stations that give the KC-767 the ability to refuel aircraft equipped with onboard receptacle or those with a refueling probe (as the F-35B).

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.

Since then, the fleet has been certified for refueling with several allies: it supported British Eurofighters to LIMA 13 airshow, conducted collective aerial refueling certification and testing with Gripen and Rafale fighter jets and escorted the Spanish EF-18 and Eurofighter Typhoons to Konya, in Turkey, for Anatolian Eagle 2014-2.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin


First black-colored HH-101A Caesar special ops helicopter presented by the Italian Air Force

The Italian Air Force is about to take the first AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar on charge.

On Jun. 19, the Italian Air Force presented its first AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar helicopter (a military variant of the AW.101) to the press at Cervia airbase, home of 1st Brigata Aerea Operazioni Speciali (Special Operation Air Brigade).

Pierpaolo Maglio was there to report about the event for The Aviationist and take the interesting photographs you can find in this post.

As Maglio reports, the first Caesar, coded 15-03 (still carrying the experimental serial number CSX 81866, that will become M.M. 81866 as soon as the airframe is formally assigned to the Italian Air force) flew from the UK to Cervia with a mixed crew of 2 AgustaWestland pilots and 4 Italian Air Force crew members whose training is going to be over in the next few weeks.

Caesar 2

The roomy cargo bay was almost void with just 5 seats installed for the journey.

The Italian Air Force has ordered 12 HH-101As with an option for 3 more examples. The aircraft will be assigned to 21° Gruppo (Squadron), currently flying the AB.212 at Grazzanise airbase. The “Tiger” squadron of the Italian Air Force will be assigned to 15° Stormo and based at Cervia, where new facilities to host the unit are being built.

Caesar 3

Later on, a detachment will also be established at Trapani airbase in Sicily.

According to Maglio, the Commander of 15th Stormo, Col. Massimetti, said that CaeSAR is simply the perfect machine to fill the gap left in the heavy SAR role by the retirement of the old HH-3F on September 2014. Though a good and fast machine, the immediate replacement for the Pelican, the HH-139A, is in a much smaller category: in disaster relief operation the HH-101A offers a significant payload and could save as much as 25 people (or more) in each sortie.

Caesar 4

Along with traditional SAR (Search And Rescue) duties, the HH-101A will also conduct Combat SAR, Personnel Recovery, Slow Mover Interceptor and Special Operation Air Support. For these tasks, it will be equipped with up to 3 guns (two from the sides and one six-barrel mini-gun in the rear ramp swinging down from the ceiling in order not to block the ramp while not in use), advanced self defensive systems and air refueling probe.

Col. Massimetti also praised the new machine for its maneuverability and perfect performance in brown-out and white-out conditions. Noteworthy, the tips of the blades of the main rotor of the new helicopter take advange of BERP design and have downward pointing winglets that help in keeping a clear area under the HH-101A upon landing in dust or snow conditions.

Caesar 5

Pierpaolo Maglio talked to the aircrew of the very first HH-101A who said the CaeSAR is also very silent, much more than smaller helicopters, something that will help a lot in Special Ops missions along with its cool night paint.

Caesar cockpit

Image credit: Pierpaolo Maglio