The ICH-47F is a customised version of the legendary, legacy Chinook which incorporates a secure communications system, self-protection system and advanced datalink system.
According to AgustaWestland, the new variant has a Maximum All Up Weight (MAUW) of 23 tons, is equipped with two Honeywell T55-GA-714A engines which gives it excellent “hot and high” capability and is suitable for all-weather operations. Even though it can perform a wide variety of missions, its primary one has obviously remained the same: tactical transportation of troops and equipment, both internally and externally, by means of the aircraft’s cargo hook system.
The ICH-47 is produced by a Joint Industrial Agreement between Boeing and AgustaWestland, that is prime contractor for with responsibility for systems integration, final assembly and aircraft delivery to the Italian Army. Boeing builds the fuselage in the U.S, then final assembly is carried out at Vergiate plant in Northern Italy.
The missile used in the test was modified so it could not hit its target; however, the QF-16 has a scoring system which tells the ground station how close the missile came and its trajectory.
According to Boeing, “The ground control station sets the coordinates for the missile. Then, using its on board system, the QF-16 validates that the missile hit those coordinates, and detects the distance and speed of the missile. If all the data matches up, the mission is considered a kill.”
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.
This behemoth simulator, built in 1953 was one of eleven ever made. Prior to the 116th using it, it was training pilots at Randolph AFB, Texas and also spent time at another air base in Florida. Weighing in at nine tons and costing $850,000, the simulator took three techs to maintain and program the analog computers for each training session. The KC-97 simulator had 604 tubes, 117 motor-driven resistors, and 200 resistance cards to feed data into four computer racks. The press release states that the “power equipment around the device generates enough heat each hour to warm two small homes”.
These simulators were able to replicate normal flight and emergency situations like engine fires/failures, loss of altitude, and wind buffering. Before receiving the simulator, the 128th had to send their pilots out of state for training. Having one on base would save time and money for the Air Guard unit.
The 128th ARW flew KC-97s up until around 1977 when they were converted to KC-135As. In the early 90s their fleet of 135A’s were upgraded to the current airframe, KC-135Rs. The 128th still has a dedicated training simulator located on base, though now it is an all digital, full motion KC-135R simulator made by Boeing.
Although it has not been released yet, the outcome of the annual report on major weapons, by Michael Gilmore, chief of the Pentagon testing office, has already made the news.
Even if the report does not use the word “flop”, it depicts the new Boeing P-8A Poseidon as just not yet effective in two of its main missions: anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and wide area reconnaissance.
Flaws in the multi-million program (actually, a 35 billion USD endeavour) are almost everywhere: radar, sensor integration, data transfer.
According to Bloomberg News, Gilmore said the new aircraft shows “all of the major deficiencies identified in earlier exercises when subjected to more stressful realistic combat testing from September 2012 to March 2013.”
For this reason the P-8A “is not effective for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission and is not effective for wide area anti-submarine search.”
Obviously, at least “some” of the issues will soon be fixed, but the reports highlights that the B737-800 packed with sensors aren’t ready to be deployed and used in combat simply because they would fail in tracking Chinese subsmarines.
So far Navy’s comments on the plane have always been positive and this is also the official stance of Boeing, that has also said it they will closely work with the service to solve any issues that come up.
Although the test office found that, currently, the P-8A provide the same small-area search capabilities of the older P-3C Orion it is slightly replacing, the Poseidon is a quite young weapons system, hence it is provides the U.S. Navy a higher reliability, maintainability and availability with an increased range, payload and speed.
The problem is not with the airframe, but with the costly sensors that should be the real added-value of the new aircraft: radar and ESM (Electronic Support Measures) that make both ASW and ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions possible.
These will be fixed in the next months.
The U.S. Navy plans to operate a fleet of 113 P-8A Poseidon next generation maritime patrol aircraft.