Tag Archives: Alenia Aermacchi

Interesting images show a Tornado IDS carrying eight GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs during test flight

The Tornado fighter bomber is one of the platforms already integrated with the GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs).

The GBU-39 SDB is a 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating bomb with a blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets.

These bombs are equipped with deployable wings for extended standoff range that open upon release allowing the GPS-guided bomb to glide for several miles before hitting the target with accuracy.

GBU-39s are quite small: they are usually carried in two pairs underneath the fuselage (on tactical jets) or on the underwing pylons (on the AC-130W that is the largest aircraft to use this kind of bomb).

Among the Lessons Learned of the Air War in Libya, there was the need to employ SDBs to improve accuracy from distance and reduce collateral damage; a GBU-39 launched at high-speed from high altitude can travel for as much as 50 miles, allowing the attack plane to remain outside the range of most SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) batteries.

The SDB is currently integrated on the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-22, that with software increment 3.1 is able to carry 8 GBU-39s, and the AC-130W whereas all the remaining U.S. bombers (including the F-35) will get the slender bombs in the future. The Israeli and Italian air forces have procured this kind of weapon as well, with the latter planning to integrate the SDBs on the Tornado aircraft upgraded to the enhanced RET 7 and 8 standards.

Separation tests from the Italian Tornado were announced in 2003 and planned from late 2015; the images in this post, taken near Decimomannu airbase, in Sardinia, Italy, by photographer Giampaolo Mallei, show a Panavia Tornado MLU (Mid-Life Update) carrying four SDBs during the testing campaign conducted by Alenia Aeronautica.

Tornado with SDBs side

Image credit: Giampaolo Mallei


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

Europe’s new stealth combat drone has successfully completed 12 highly sensitive test sorties in Italy

The nEUROn has conducted 12 highly sensitive sorties to verify the characteristics of radar-cross section and infrared signature in Italy.

The first example of the nEUROn UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) has successfully completed its flight test campaign in the Perdasdefogu range, Sardinia, Italy.

The nEUROn is a full-scale technological demonstrator for a UCAV developed by an industrial team led by Dassault Aviation with the collaboration of Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi, Saab, Airbus Defence and Space, RUAG and HAI representing France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and Greece that rolled out on Jan. 20, 2012, after five years of design, development, and static testing.

The shape of the nEUROn reminds that of the American X-47B (even though, from a certain angle it also shows a certain resemblance to the F-117 Nighthawk...).

During the deployment at Italian Air Force’s Decimomannu airbase, the stealth killer drone demonstrator flew 12 highly sensitive sorties to assess its low radar-cross section and low infrared signature, during missions flown at different altitudes and flight profiles and against both ground-based and air radar “threats”, using in this latter case, a Eurofighter Typhoon.

The next testing phase will see the European UCAV deploy to Vidsel Air Base, in Sweden, for more low observability tests and some live firing activity needed to validate the capability of the nEUROn to use weapons carried in the internal weapons bay.


The Italian Air Force has unveiled a new indigenous trainer: the T-344 V.E.S.P.A.

The Italian Air Force is developing a new indigenous jet trainer.

The Italian Air Force has identified the new trainer that will replace the SF-260EA in the role of initial flight screener of its student pilots.

The mock-up of the new indigenous project, dubbed T-344 V.E.S.P.A. (Very Efficient Smart Power Aircraft) was unveiled during a press open day organised at Cameri airbase as a side event of the EURAC (European Air Chiefs’ Conference) on May 7.

The T-344 is based on the Caproni C-22J, a light jet-powered aircraft developed in the 1980s: it features a side-by-side digital cockpit, two 170-kg thrust engines, retractable tricycle undercarriage, maximum speed of Mach 0.48 and service ceiling of 25,000 feet.

T-344 1

The cockpit is not pressurized, meaning that the pilots will have to use the flight helmet and oxygen mask.

T-344 5

The V.E.S.P.A. is being developed through Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Italian Air Force Test Wing based at Praitca di Mare) by the ItAF itself, that will assign production to an aerospace company at a later stage.

With the new jet trainer the Italian Air Force will complete the renewal of its fleet of trainers that in the future will be based on three flight lines: T-344, T-345 (ItAF designation for the M-345 HET) and T-346 (already in service at 61° Stormo multinational training hub).

Interestingly, other innovative projects were showcased at Cameri.

HH101 Cameri

Among them, the AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar, the new CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) helicopter that the ItAF will use for Special Forces support, Personnel Recovery in hostile environments, MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) and SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) missions; the Alenia Aermacchi MC-27J Praetorian, a gunship version of the successful C-27J Spartan equipped with pallettized machine guns, targeting sensors and C3I-ISR (Command, control, communications and intelligence – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) systems; the AgustaWestland AW-149, that could find its way to the ItAF SAR fleet in the future; and the P.1HH HammerHead UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), that the ItAF has already procured (three UAS systems, consisting of six aircraft and three ground stations and complete with ISR configuration, that will be delivered early next year).

P1HH Cameri


Even a scale model of the MALE 2020 medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV project developed by Italy, France and Germany.

MALE 2020

Among the future project, even some very known ones, including the Eurofighter Typhoon, the T-346A (carrying dummy IRIS-T missiles), the mock-up of the M-345/T-345 in the Frecce Tricolori color scheme, and the HH-139 SAR helicopter.

M-345 mock up

Also one the two F-35s assembled in Italy and destined to the Aeronautica Militare could be seen at Cameri, along with the two types the Joint Strike Fighter is going to replace in the ItAF, the Tornado and the AMX, as shown by the much interesting image below:

F-35 AMX Tornado Cameri

Image above: Italian Air Force

All the images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s photographer Iolanda Frisina during the press day at Cameri airbase unless otherwise stated.

Here’s what it’s like to experience a 280 deg/s instantaneous roll rate in a modern jet trainer

Modern jets feature an impressive instantaneous roll rate

The roll rate, expressed in degrees per second, is the rate at which an aircraft can change its roll attitude. Modern jet fighters can achieve quite high maximum roll rates: the faster they can rotate around longitudinal axis the faster they can transit from one maneuver to another one.

However, the roll rate is just one of the parameters (not all equally important) that influence the aircraft’s maneuvering performance.

Although the roll rate depends on the configuration, weight, speed, altitude and the fact the rate is measured from stable flight (instantaneous roll rate) or after the rotation has been given some time to build up (i.e. the aircraft keeps on rolling long enough), the maximum roll rates for some of the most famous combat planes can be either found on vendors datasheets or online (hence, take them with a grain of salt): according to most reports a Rafale features a maximum roll rate of 270 deg/s, the Eurofighter Typhoon is able of around 250 deg/s, the F/A-18E Super Hornet has a maximum roll rate of 120 deg/s whereas the F-16 can roll at 240 deg/s.

Accurate or not (sometimes such performance data are PR-influenced…), the maximum roll rate may data gives a hint of the ability of the modern aircraft to rotate around the longitudinal axis.

As already reported, a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to take part in a mission aboard the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 of the Italian Air Force, one of the most advanced jet trainers currently available.

During the flight, the pilot (Maj. Alessandro Olivares, Commander of the 212° Gruppo) showed me the stunning roll performance of the new aircraft (believed to be able of a 280 deg/s roll rate): he performed an aileron roll, an aerobatic maneuver in which an aircraft does a full 360° revolution around its roll axis.

Here below you can see the video of the maneuver.

The aircraft was extremely responsive, immediately achieved a high angular acceleration and rolled so fast, my head almost hit the canopy.

The roll rate of the T-346A (the designation of the Master within the Italian Air Force) may have been 280 deg/s or not; for sure, it was impressive to me, and similar enough to that of the 4th and 5th generation fighter jets to the student pilots of the LIFT (Lead-In to Fighter Training) course on the M-346 destined to fly F-35 or Eurofighter Typhoon multi-role jets.