The Italian Air Force carried out the first special biocontainment flight, to repatriate an Italian doctor who contracted Ebola virus working in Sierra Leone.
An Italian doctor, who developed a fever and was positive at the virus after working at a clinic located few miles west of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, was repatriated with a special bio-containment flight on Nov. 24.
The doctor was isolated and transported on a Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A, a dual role aircraft that can perform both the tanker and the strategic transport mission, operated by the 14° Stormo, that landed at Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, early in the morning on Nov. 25.
According to the Italian Air Force, in Europe, the ability to carry out transport of highly infectious patients through the use of special isolated stretchers is a peculiarity held exclusively by the Aeronautica Militare and UK’s Royal Air Force.
The Italian Air Force has developed the ability to perform aeromedical evacuation in bio-containment since 2005, establishing proper procedures and working closely with both the Ministry of Health and the Department of Civil Protection.
This capability is based on the use of special ATI (Aircraft Transport Isolator) stretchers, used to board the patient, and the smaller TSI (Stretcher Transit Isolator) terrestrial system, required to transfer the patient from the aircraft to the ambulance upon arrival.
Along with the KC-767s, already supporting the coalition forces with an aerial refueling capability, Rome has committed four Tornado IDS and two Predator drones to the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The Italian Air Force is about to move four Tornado IDS attack planes, belong to the 6° Stormo, from Ghedi airbase, to Kuwait, to join the US-led coalition that is fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. According to DefenseNews, the aircraft are going to be based at Ahmed Al Jaber air base in Kuwait, the same country where Rome has deployed one of its brand new KC-767 tankers.
For this kind of mission, the aircraft usually carry a Rafael Reccelite reconnaissance pod: the Reccelite is a Day/Night electro-optical pod able to provide real-time imagery collection. It is made of a stabilized turret, solid-state on board recorder that provides image collections in all directions, from high, medium and low altitudes.
The Reccelite reconnaissance pod is used to broadcast live video imagery via datalink to ground stations and to ROVER (Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver) tactical receivers in a range of about 100 miles.
The pod can also be carried by the AMX ACOL, the light tactical jet that has performed close air support/air interdiction and ISR missions in support of ISAF from 2009 until the summer of 2014.
The Italian Air Force operates a mixed force of 6 MQ-9 Reaper and 6 MQ-1C Predator both assigned to the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing).
The Italian UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) have already operated in Iraq between January 2005 and 2006 when the first RQ-1 Predator A was deployed to Tallil airbase, in Iraq. Later, two Predator A+ (designated MQ-1C A+ a standard to which all the former RQ-1 were upgraded) were deployed to Herat, in Afghanistan, to perform a wide array of missions: mainly MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), support to TIC (Troops In Contact), IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring and Convoy Escort.
The Italian unarmed drones will probably be involved in High Value Target surveillance and Reconnaissance (and, maybe special ops support).
Although it was not disclosed, most probably Predators will be employed in Iraq as they were employed in Afghanistan: in accordance with the so-called Remote Split Operations (RSO). During RSO, aircraft is launched from a local, in theater airbase, under direct line-of-sight control of the local MGCS (Mobile Ground Control Station).
Then, by means of satellite data link, it is taken on charge and guided from Amendola. When the assigned mission is completed, it is once again handed over to a pilot in Afghanistan, who lands it back to Herat airbase. The 1-second delay introduced by the satellite link is not compatible with the most delicate phases of flight; hence, aircraft are launched and recovered in line-of-sight by the deployed MCGS (US drones use the same kind of remote control).
Here are some images of Steadfast Noon 2014, a NATO Nuclear exercise.
With news, AIP supplements, comments all over the Internet, and photographs published on aviation websites and spotters forums across Europe, it’s not a secret that, at the end of October, Ghedi airbase, in northern Italy, hosted Steadfast Noon 2014, a yearly exercise whose aim was to train NATO units employing “special weapons” (i.e. nuclear bombs).
Needless to say, such exercises are routinely conducted without the aircraft carrying any bomb, since their purpose is to train the crews to load and unload nukes and to assess the participating units’ ability to safely deal with this kind of ordnance.
In other words, Steadfast Noon exercises and Strikeval (Strike Evaluation) inspections and certifications are extremely important to ensure nuclear weapons can be properly managed should the need arise.
Anyway, in this post you can find some interesting photographs depicting the Steadfast Noon participants, from Poland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and United States, taken by photographer Fabrizio Berni.
The video is particularly interesting as it shows the aircraft perform the ground test of the Thales AREOS Reco NG pod, the reconnaissance pod carried by Rafale F3.
The pod can take pictures both at low and high altitude at very high-speed from stand-off distance. Optical sensors rotate 180 degrees and operate in two spectral bands (visible and infrared) to capture images of day and night view.
Developed within a German-led multinational program as a short-range air-to-air missile to replace the ageing AIM-9 Sidewinder the IRIS-T has a range of 25 km and can engage targets flying behind the launching platform thanks to an extreme close-in agility which allows turns of 60 g at a rate of 60°/s.
Interestingly, as the top image (taken by The Aviationist’s contributor Giovanni Maduli) shows, the dummy IRIS-T missile was carried on an underwing pylon while previous tests with the AIM-9L Sidewinder were carried out with the air-to-air missiles mounted on the wing tip launchers.