Tag Archives: Italian Air Force

[Video] French EC-725 Caracal combat helicopters refuel from Italian KC-130J

EC725 KC130

A stunning video shows HAAR (Helicopter Air-to-Air Refueling) from several unusual points of view.

From Apr. 7 to Apr. 11, 2014, the Eurocopter EC-725 Super Cougar (“Caracal”) of the Escadron d’Hélicoptères 1/67 “Pyrénées” from Cazaux have been involved in an aerial refueling campaign with an Italian Air Force KC-130J from the 46^ Brigata Aerea based at Pisa.

And the following video, filmed by the French Air Force’s Sirpa Air shows the French helos plugging into the Super Hercules‘s basket.

 

This is not the first time the French Caracals train for HAAR with the Italian Air Force KC-130J: the type performed the qualification with the Italian Hercules back in September 2010.

 

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Italy to axe more F-35s and one aircraft carrier (which appears on eBay)

F-35A LF

Italy’s new Government is considering another cut of its order of 90 F-35s. But the Spending Review is targeting Rome’s older aircraft carrier. Which has already appeared on eBay.

Although nothing has been decided yet, it’s hard to believe the current plan to buy 90 F-35 to replace the aging fleet of Tornado IDS, AMX (Italian Air Force) and AV-8B+ (Italian Navy) will survive the cuts already announced by the new Renzi cabinet.

Italy plans to save 3 billion Euro (4.18 billion USD) in defense savings over the next three years, money that will come from the sale of some barracks and military buildings, from a reduction of the personnel, and from cuts to some top spending programs, first of all the F-35, on which the government has so far committed to spend some 12 billion Euro.

Dealing with the F-35, the order will be “revised,” meaning that cuts are certain, considering the amount of attention and criticism that surround the program. But, it is almost impossible to predict the extent of the revision.

Some media outlets have foreseen a drastic cut to 45 planes, half of the current plan, and about one third of the initial requirement, set to 131 Joint Strike Fighters.

The center-left PD (Democratic Party) defense committee has just published a paper about the current state of Italy’s weapons systems, highlighting the need for a significant reduction on F-35 procurement, because:

  • the program does not guarantee industrial gains for Italian industry
  • is characterized by too much variability (in terms of cost)
  • current costs do not include armament
  • Italy will not be allowed to access core sensitive technology, an embargo which “determines a factor of operational dependency on American political-industrial instances

The 10-page paper (in Italian, can be downloaded here) envisages an Air Force with two front line combat planes: the F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Noteworthy, the document highlights the multi-role capability demonstrated by the latter; it seems quite likely that, sooner or later, considered the cuts to the F-35s, the Italian Air Force (that so far has employed the Typhoon as an air superiority platform) will eventually commit its F-2000s to the air-to-surface role as done by the UK since Libya Air War.

Another issue raised by the document is the cost of the “operational redundancy” caused by the Italian Navy’s two aircraft carriers. The most obvious candidate to be scrapped is the Garibaldi, Italy’s first post-war aircraft carrier.

The Garibaldi, joined by the larger and more capable Cavour in 2008, could be sold to some emerging country looking for second-hand helicopter carrier capable to support Amphibious Assault operations.

In the meanwhile, you can place a bid to buy the Italian aircraft carrier on the auction someone has wryly put on eBay.

Garibaldi on eBay

 

Image credit: Lockheed Martin (top); eBay screenshot (above).

 

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First AgustaWestland HH-101A “Caesar” for the Italian Air Force makes first flight

AW101

The first AW101 for the Italian Air Force, designated the HH-101A “CAESAR”, made its maiden flight at AgustaWestland’s Yeovil facility in the UK

The new helicopter, in an interesting black color scheme, made its first flight at the presence of the Italian Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Pasquale Preziosa and other representatives and dignitaries from military services and public authorities.

The HH-101A will be the backbone of the Italian Air Force’s rotary wing fleet that was already modernized with the HH-139 for Search and Rescue.

The first two examples of the HH-101A will be delivered in Q4/2014 in Personnel Recovery and Special Forces missions configuration.

Italian Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Pasquale Preziosa said “The HH-101A will respond to the Italian Air Force’s needs for Personnel Recovery and Special Forces Operations. It will also support SAR, MEDEVAC and Slow Mover Intercept operations which are extremely important to provide effective support to the Italian community.”

The HH-101A will be able to host a combination of up to five crew members plus twenty fully equipped troops or six crew members plus 8 troops for special operations ensuring maximum flexibility. The helicopters will also feature three M134 7.62 mm pintle mounted Gatling-type machine guns installed on right and left sides and on the rear ramp, armoured cockpit seats, ballistic protection for machine gun operators as well as for critical systems and an Integrated Electronic Warfare System providing self-protection against radar, laser and infrared threats. The HH-101A will also feature an air-to-air refuelling kit for extended range operations.

HH-101A

Image credit: AgustaWestland

 

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The forgotten father of the Eurofighter Typhoon: the F-104 CCV

F-104 CCV

Even if the last F-104 fighter jets in active service were retired by the Italian Air Force on Oct. 31, 2004, the Starfighter legacy survived in a modern combat plane: the Eurofighter Typhoon.

As already extensively explained by Andreas Zeitler in an extensive piece for the now disappeared “Classic Aircraft”, the most advanced Starfighter ever realized anywhere in the world was a very particular German F-104 testbed.

Indeed, whereas the various G, S, ASA and ASA-M variants never featured it, there was an F-104 example fitted with fly-by-wire controls which flew about thirty years before the Italian Zippers were grounded forever.

During the 1970s, Germany understood that future fighters would need to achieve high agility as well as the ability to fly at high angles of attack. These capabilities required an unstable aircraft configuration.

In 1974, in order to address the need to test how a highly unstable supersonic jet fighter equipped with a proper redundant flight control system would fly, the German Ministry of Defense authorized MBB to proceed with the so-called Control Configured Vehicle (CCV) program.

The outcome of the CCV would be a fly-by-wire testbed: the aircraft selected for testing campaign was the F-104G, which, as Zeitler discovered, was preferred over the F-4F since the Phantom was too big and too heavy, even if its size would have offered more space for test equipment than the Starfighter.

The first phase of the trials was aimed at defining the parameters for the control algorithms of the CCV and its sensors: it lasted from Sept. 27 to Nov. 4, 1976 andwas accomplished with thirteen flights.

The second phase saw the aircraft flying in two different versions, the B (for Basic) and E (with E for Ente which means “duck”, because of the canard configuration).

Flight after flight, from a stable aircraft the F-104 became an unstable platform, a goal reached shifting the neutral point and centre of gravity of the Starfighter.

The first complete mission in CCV mode was flown on Oct. 2, 1979 by the B1 model fitted with the Control Configured Vehicle software. Another variant followed the B1: the B2 with 600 kg aft and 130 kg forward ballasts.

But the first real unstable flight took place on Nov. 20, 1980 when, along with a 240 kg nose ballast, an additional F-104 elevator was mounted behind the cockpit; a version known as E1. With this variant, the neutral point was moved forward, while the E2 configuration, adding 400 kg aft ballast, shifted  back the centre of gravity.

At that point the F-104 was really unstable and 26 sorties were conducted between July and September 1981. All the flights were safely conducted and the nose trim weight was replaced with another 200 kg ballast, realizing the E3 configuration.

With this additional ballast the Starfighter could perform flights at 20 percent negative longitudinal stability.

The testing phase lasted about four years during those the F-104 CCV demonstrator was pivotal to the design and development of a delta-canard control system later adopted by the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Dario Leone for The Aviationist

Image credit: GAF via Key Publishing forum

 

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Italian MB.339CD aircraft with new unit markings

MB339CD 32° Stormo markings

MB.339CD deployed at Decimomannu airbase sports 32° Stormo code and tail badge.

Spotted recently at Decimomannu airbase where it deployed along with several other aircraft of the same type for the annual firing campaign, the MB.339CD MM55088/32-161 is the only known one of the few to carry the codes and badges of the 32° Stormo (Wing), a unit based at Amendola and equipped with the AMX fighter bomber.

Most probably, the aircraft got the markings during a temporary assignment with the 632° Squadriglia Collegamenti (Liaison Flight), depending from the 32° Stormo at Amendola (hence the 32-xx code).

The unique MB.339CD has now returned to the 212° Gruppo (Squadron) with the 61° Stormo from Lecce Galatina airport, and it is taking part to the deployment alongside that Wing’s contingent.

The 339CD is the advanced, digitalised version of the MB.339A trainer. It is used for pre-operative training, as well as for Slow Movers Interception tasks and it is theoretically capable to perform the light attack role.

MB339CD 32 markings right side

Image credit: Gian Luca Onnis

 

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