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.
On Jan. 10, 1964, a B-52H flown by Boeing civilian test pilot Chuck Fisher and his three man crew lost its tail at about 14,000 ft over northern New Mexico’s Sangre de Christo Mountains.
The aircraft was involved in a test mission whose purpose was to shake, rattle and roll the Stratofortress bomber at high speed and low altitude to record sensor data on how such a profile could affected the plane’s airframe.
The crew did their job: the vertical stabilizer detached from the B-52.
Six hours later, with support from the ground, Fisher successfully performed the first and only Stratofortress‘s tailless landing!
The Rafale was discarded for its higher cost, causing an angry reaction by Dassault, that in a subsequent press conference said: “We regret the choice has gone in favor of Gripen, an aircraft provided with many items of equipment of 3rd party origin. [...] “This financial rationale fails to take into account either Rafale’s cost-effectiveness or the level of technology offered.”
Boeing Super Hornet was considered the favorite until the Snowden scandal brought to light that the NSA (National Security Agency) had been spying on Brazilian companies, agencies, officials and the president herself: in a direct attack on US electronic surveillance at the UN general assembly, Rousseff accused Washington of breaching international law.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries suddenly worsened and the chances Boeing could win the Brazil’s bid became paltry.