The nEUROn is a full-scale technological demonstrator for a UCAV developed by an industrial team led by Dassault Aviation with the collaboration of Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi, Saab, Airbus Defence and Space, RUAG and HAI representing France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and Greece that rolled out on Jan. 20, 2012, after five years of design, development, and static testing.
During the deployment at Italian Air Force’s Decimomannu airbase, the stealth killer drone demonstrator flew 12 highly sensitive sorties to assess its low radar-cross section and low infrared signature, during missions flown at different altitudes and flight profiles and against both ground-based and air radar “threats”, using in this latter case, a Eurofighter Typhoon.
The next testing phase will see the European UCAV deploy to Vidsel Air Base, in Sweden, for more low observability tests and some live firing activity needed to validate the capability of the nEUROn to use weapons carried in the internal weapons bay.
The Italian KC-767 is the first international aerial refueling tanker to be certified to refuel the F-35.
A KC-767A belonging to 8° Gruppo (Squadron) of 14° Stormo (Wing) from Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, became the first international tanker to successfully complete aerial refueling of a U.S. Air Force F-35A during a boom receiver certification refueling flight conducted over California’s High Desert region on Jul. 29.
The Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) KC-767A is the first tanker not operated by the U.S. Air Force to undergo refueling certification trials with a U.S. aircraft.
Italy operates a fleet of four KC-767A next generation tankers equipped with both the sixth generation flying boom (based on the one of the American KC-10) and used to refuel the F-35A, and three hose and drogue stations that give the KC-767 the ability to refuel aircraft equipped with onboard receptacle or those with a refueling probe (as the F-35B).
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.
The HH-139A also features a secure communications suite, integrated defensive aids suite, hoist, search light, wire cutters, nose mounted FLIR, cargo hook, loudspeaker system and emergency floatation gear and any other equipment required to perform “convetional” search and rescue, as well as Combat SAR missions.
The Aviationist’s contributor Alessandro Caglieri had the opportunity to take part in a training flight aboard an Italian Air Force HH-139A belonging to the 15° Stormo (Wing) temporarily deployed to Decimomannu airbase, Sardinia, along with another helicopter of the same type in order to perform SAR duties in place of the local-based AB.212 chopper, grounded by maintenance works.
In this post you can see the stunning pictures he took during the firefighting training mission that provide an interesting insight into the cockpit, instruments and equipment of the HH-139A.
During the deployment (from Apr. 28 to May 28, 2015), the HH-139As totaled about 50 flight hours during those four crews were qualified on the helicopter in the firefighting role.
Newsworthy, on May 14, the type was involved in its first ever firefighting mission, when a HH-139A involved in a training flight was diverted to fire a wild-fire in the town of Escalaplano, not far from Cagliari.
With the HH-139A and the recently delivered HH-101A Caesar, the Italian Air Force has renewed its rotary-wing fleet with modern choppers capable to perform a wide spectrum of missions, from the CSAR (Combat SAR) to the Special Operations support.
The Italian Air Force is about to take the first AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar on charge.
On Jun. 19, the Italian Air Force presented its first AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar helicopter (a military variant of the AW.101) to the press at Cervia airbase, home of 1st Brigata Aerea Operazioni Speciali (Special Operation Air Brigade).
Pierpaolo Maglio was there to report about the event for The Aviationist and take the interesting photographs you can find in this post.
As Maglio reports, the first Caesar, coded 15-03 (still carrying the experimental serial number CSX 81866, that will become M.M. 81866 as soon as the airframe is formally assigned to the Italian Air force) flew from the UK to Cervia with a mixed crew of 2 AgustaWestland pilots and 4 Italian Air Force crew members whose training is going to be over in the next few weeks.
The roomy cargo bay was almost void with just 5 seats installed for the journey.
The Italian Air Force has ordered 12 HH-101As with an option for 3 more examples. The aircraft will be assigned to 21° Gruppo (Squadron), currently flying the AB.212 at Grazzanise airbase. The “Tiger” squadron of the Italian Air Force will be assigned to 15° Stormo and based at Cervia, where new facilities to host the unit are being built.
Later on, a detachment will also be established at Trapani airbase in Sicily.
According to Maglio, the Commander of 15th Stormo, Col. Massimetti, said that CaeSAR is simply the perfect machine to fill the gap left in the heavy SAR role by the retirement of the old HH-3F on September 2014. Though a good and fast machine, the immediate replacement for the Pelican, the HH-139A, is in a much smaller category: in disaster relief operation the HH-101A offers a significant payload and could save as much as 25 people (or more) in each sortie.
Along with traditional SAR (Search And Rescue) duties, the HH-101A will also conduct Combat SAR, Personnel Recovery, Slow Mover Interceptor and Special Operation Air Support. For these tasks, it will be equipped with up to 3 guns (two from the sides and one six-barrel mini-gun in the rear ramp swinging down from the ceiling in order not to block the ramp while not in use), advanced self defensive systems and air refueling probe.
Col. Massimetti also praised the new machine for its maneuverability and perfect performance in brown-out and white-out conditions. Noteworthy, the tips of the blades of the main rotor of the new helicopter take advange of BERP design and have downward pointing winglets that help in keeping a clear area under the HH-101A upon landing in dust or snow conditions.
Pierpaolo Maglio talked to the aircrew of the very first HH-101A who said the CaeSAR is also very silent, much more than smaller helicopters, something that will help a lot in Special Ops missions along with its cool night paint.
The HH-101A, configured to host a combination of up to five crew members plus 22 fully equipped troops or 6 crew members plus 8 troops for special operations, can carry three M134 7.62 mm pintle mounted Gatling-type machine guns, aerial refueling kit, 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.
Thanks to its three Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322-01 the combat chopper can reach a maximum speed of 167 knots with an operative range of 517 miles.
The Italian Air Force plans to operate 15 such helicopters.
Recently, photographer Richard Cliff had the opportunity to visit Merryfield, a small airfield near Yeovilton Air Station which AgustaWestland and the Royal Navy use for helicopter training on a daily/nightly basis and took the stunning pictures of one of the HH101 destined to the Italian Air Force that you can find in this post.