Tag Archives: Italian Air Force

Russian Tu-22 bomber scares NATO air defenses flying at supersonic speed over the Baltic Sea for the first time

The latest close encounter between NATO and Russian planes over the Baltic Sea was  different.

Early morning on Mar. 24, NATO and Swedish QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) interceptors were scrambled  to identify and shadow a formation of two Russian Air Force Tu-22M Backfire bombers escorted by two Su-27 Flanker aircraft.

As usual, the aircraft were flying with no FPL, no transponder, in international airspace. But, unlike all the previous events the leading Tu-22M bomber was flying at supersonic speed!

As a consequence of the high-speed of the Russian planes, the Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets, providing BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) duties from Siauliau airbase, Lithuania, had to perform a supersonic run to intercept and escort the Tu-22s and accompanying Su-27s.

According to our sources, this was the very first time a Russian Air Force plane flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad Oblast was flying abeam Latvia, within the Riga FIR (Flight Information Region), heading towards Denmark and the Scandinavian peninsula at supersonic speed.

The Backfire decelerated to subsonic speed and rejoined with the rest of the formation that was picked up by a flight of two Su-27s from Kaliningrad that relieved the other two Flankers.

Although the Russians did not violate any rule, their flying without transponder, without establishing radio contact with any ATC agency, may pose dangers to civilian aviation. Even more so, if the bombers or their escort jets fly at supersonic speed or aggressively react to aircraft that are launched to intercept them.

Some analysts believe the purpose of the flight was provocative: Moscow has recently warned Denmark that if it joins Nato’s missile defense shield, its navy will be a legitimate target for a Russian nuclear attack.

As a side note, on the afternoon on Mar. 24, the Italian Typhoons were scrambled again to perform another supersonic interception of two Su-27 Flanker returning to mainland Russia from Kaliningrad: the pair that had been relieved by the second flight of Flankers earlier on the same day.

H/T to Erik Arnberg for providing additional details.

Image credit: Alex Beltyukov – RuSpotters Team /Wikipedia

 

Italian Typhoon jets have started Operational Testing and Evaluation in the air-to-ground role

The Italian Eurofighter Typhoons are involved in the OT&E in the air-to-ground mission.

In the last weeks, the Italian Air Force Typhoons currently deployed to Decimomannu airbase in Sardinia have flown with Litening targeting pods and inert GBU LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs), the first sign of their involvement in the OT&E (Operational Testing and Evaluation).

Indeed, the Italian F-2000s (as the aircraft are designated within the Italian Air Force) are conducting tests aimed at assessing their potentiality in the air-to-ground role: not only is a multi-role Typhoon capable to carry Paveways and JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), already used by the ageing Tornado and AMX (that will be replaced by the F-35 in the future), useful for the Aeronautica Militare as it is for the Royal Air Force, but it could also be more appealing for potential foreign buyers.

Although the air superiority role remains priority, considered their ability to use the ordnance in inventory for other aircraft (including the Storm Shadow air launched staff off missile), the Eurofighter will possibly be used in the swing role or as “back up” attack platforms within the Italian Air Force for several years to come.

Typhoon with GBUs

Image credit: Giampaolo Mallei

 

First ever F-35 assembled internationally destined to Italy rolled out of Cameri facility

First Italian F-35A rolled out of Cameri facility.

On Mar. 12, the first F-35A Lightning II destined to the Italian Air Force rolled out of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.

The aircraft, designated AL-1, is the first F-35A assembled internationally, the first of eight aircraft currently being assembled at Cameri, that will perform its first flight later this year.

The Italian FACO, a 101-acre facility including 22 buildings and more than one million square feet of covered work space, housing 11 assembly stations, and five maintenance, repair, overhaul, and upgrade bays, is owned by the Italian Ministry of Defense and is operated by Alenia Aermacchi in conjunction with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. According to Lockheed, the current workforce consist of more than 750 skilled personnel engaged in F-35 aircraft and wing production.

The FACO will assemble the first 8 Italian F-35As and the remaining F-35A and F-35B (for a total of 90 aircraft planned that should be procured by the Italian Air Force and Navy), will build F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and it was selected in December 2014 as the European F-35 airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade center for the entire European region.

In spite of internal criticism and threatened cuts, F-35s will replace the Italian Air Force ageing Tornado and AMX attack planes and the Italian Navy AV-8B aircraft.

Italy_FACO_photo_1

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

Stunning Photographs of the Polish Mig-29s and Italian Typhoons of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing

Amazing shots of the NATO interceptors over Lithuania

The photos in this post were taken over Lithuania, at the beginning of February, thanks to a cooperation between the Lithuanian Air Force, Polish Air Force and the Italian Aeronautica Militare.

Typhoon front view

Taken by photographers gathered around the Foto Poork portal, the images are really unique as they show the jets carrying live missiles (including the Italian Typhoons at their first NATO Baltic Air Policing rotation) right before the sunset, a mixture which has yielded spectacular results. Notably, one of the shots features the Polish Fulcrum flown by a very well-known Polish MiG-29 pilot Grzegorz “Iceman” Czubski, with the afterburners lit, which is simply stunning.

Mig-29 afterburners

In a conversation with The Aviationist, Filip Modrzejewski who is the editor-in-chief of the foto.poork website, said that the organization of an air-to-air photo-shoot is quite challenging. First of all, the track needs to be placed at a proper altitude, and it needs to be planned in detail, which would make it possible to achieve high level of safety. Second, the weather conditions need also to be taken into account – since photography is very much weather-dependent.

Typhoon formation

Pre-flight briefing is equally important – during such shoots there is no place for spontaneous maneuvers – both the photoship (Lithuanian C-27J Spartan in this case) and the fighters need to know exactly what flight-path will be used. Formation flying skills are equally important.

AP8R1094

Safety of the pilots is one thing – safety of the photographers should also be taken into equation. Each of the photographers uses a special safety harness, in order not to fall out of the photoship during the shoot. When it comes to the photo-taking process itself – it may be challenging due to the fact that people on board may be subjected to g-forces.

Mig-29 sunset turn

Camera batteries are also an issue here, due to the low temperatures. It is not recommended for the photographers to switch the lenses or memory cards during the flight, for safety reasons.

Mig-29 sunset

Here’s a backstage photo, depicting the tough work conditions on board of the Spartan.

Backstage

Fortunately, the mission was flawless and the results, amazing!

Image credit: Foto Poork

 

MQ-1C Predator footage of repatriation of Italian nationals from Libya

An Italian Air Force MQ-1C Predator A+ escorted the ships involved in the repatriation of Italian nationals from Libya.

On Feb. 15, Italy announced the closure of the Libya embassy and the orderly repatriation of nationals from the North African country as a consequence of the IS advance.

The 100 Italian citizens were ferried to the port of Augusta, in Sicily, by the Maltese ferryboat “San Gwann”, which was escorted by the Italian Navy “Carlo Bergamini” FREMM (European multipurpose frigate) and by a Predator A+ of the Italian Air Force.

Belonging to the 28th Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) based at Amendola, in southeastern Italy, the MQ-1C Predator A+ acted as “On Scene Eye” and filmed the entire operation, monitoring any suspect activity in the vicinity of the ships and near the convoy which brought the Italians to the Tripoli harbor.

Here’s the footage recorded by the Predator.

The Italian Air Force operates a mixed force of 6 MQ-9 Reaper and 6 MQ-1C Predator A+ both assigned to the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) at Amendola airbase.

The Italian drones have flown ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance missions) as well as MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), support to TIC (Troops In Contact), IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring and Convoy Escort in Iraq and Afghanistan; they have supported Operation Unified Protector in Libya, Mare Nostrum operation in the Mediterranean Sea near Lampedusa (where they have monitored the migratory flows and consequent tragic ship wreckage off the island) and they are also currently deployed in Kuwait (to support the US-led anti-ISIS operation in Syria and Iraq) and Djibouti, where they are used to monitor the seas off the coast of Somalia in anti-piracy missions.

Leveraging their persistence on the target area (up to 20 hours), the drones will now enable Police forces to monitor major events and support anti-crime and riot-control operations.

Top image and video credit: Italian Air Force