Tag Archives: Italian Navy

Italian Navy Elite team conduct disabled submarine rescue training with support of EH-101 Merlin helicopter

Italian Navy EH-101 support SPAG (Submarine Parachute Assistance Group) activities of the e Gruppo Operativo Subacquei (G.O.S.) of COMSUBIN (Italian Navy Operational Divers Group).

Support of SPAG activities is among the tasks assigned to the 1° Gruppo Elicotteri, based at Luni, in northwestern Italy.


The unit is equipped with EH-101 Merlin helos. Among the variants in service with the squadron, there is also the EH-101 ASH (amphibious support helicopter) used to carry members of the SPAG team including the submarine escape specialists of the GOS (Gruppo Operativo Subacquei – Divers Operative Group) of COMSUBIN (Italian Navy Operational Diver and Raider Command Group), the elite commando frogman force of the Marina Militare.


Here are some images taken by The Aviationist’s photographer Giovanni Maduli during a SPAG training mission of the GOS in the sea near La Spezia.


The GOS is made of  various specialists engaged in underwater activities capable to perform rescue of personnel from disabled submarines  to a depth of 300 m; mine clearance operations and port facilities defense.


Image credit: The Aviationist’s Giovanni Maduli


The Italian Navy is testing a tiny Camcopter drone from its amphibious warfare ship

The Italian Navy is testing the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 Unmanned Aerial System from the San Giusto amphibious warfare ship

In April 2012, the tiny Camcopter S-100 became the first UAS ever to fly from an Italian ship, operating from the ITS Bersagliere frigate.

In February this year, the Italian Navy selected the S-100 as the UAS of choice for use from its fleet: it will be used for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) tasks from ships at sea, and to support military and civil activities such as SAR (Search And Rescue) or assistance in case of natural disasters.

Equipped with a Wescam MX-10 and a Shine Micro AIS (Automatic Identification System), the S-100 has the capability to collect time-critical data during 6-hour missions. By means of its electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors it extends the warship’s ability to see beyond the range of its own sensors and to collect and share critical information, in real-time.

The S-100 carries a 75 lbs/34 kg payload at an altitude of 18,000 feet.

In these days the Marina Militare is testing the tiny drone from the San Giusto amphibious warfare ship, to evaluate the interoperability of the Camcopter with the ship, its ability to takeoff and recover on the ship’s flight deck, its noise level, as well as other operational parameters.

The San Giusto is the first Italian Navy ship to employ the Camcopter S-100 during the week-long evaluation cruise which involves technical engineers from Schiebel, pilots from the 4° GrupElicot (Heli Group) from Maristaeli Grottaglie as well as personnel from Centro Sperimentazione Aeromarittimo (CSA – Air-Land Test Center) based at Luni.

S-100 ground control station

Image credit: Marina Militare / Italian Navy


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

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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Three aircraft carriers, belonging to three different navies, work together

Even if this naval formation was only arranged for photographic purposes (as three such warships would be much more effective if operating at significant distance each other), the sight of three aircraft carriers belonging to three different navies, sailing close each other is at least unusual.

The Italian Navy aircraft carrier Cavour, front, the American flattop USS Harry S. Truman and the French navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, are conducting maritime security operations in the Gulf Oman.

USS Truman Carrier Strike Group is currently operating with the Task Force 473 “to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability” within the 5th Fleet AOR (Area Of Responsibility).

Image credit: U.S. Navy


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Italian Navy AV-8B+ Harrier jump jets air-to-air training

On Jul. 8 the Italian Navy I GrupAer based at Grottaglie, started a new air-to-air training campaign at the AWTI (Air Weapons Training Installation) of Decimomannu airbase, Italy.

During their stay in Sardinia, The Aviationist’s contributor Alessandro Caglieri visited their detachment and took some interviews that helped him drawing the most detailed picture of the Italian Navy Harriers training conducted at “Deci”.

Harrier in Deci_02

Support and defense of the fleet are the primary role of the AV-8B+ jump jets of the Marina Militare, that can be also tasked with air-to-ground, anti-ship, reconnaissance and identification of naval units missions thanks to the flexibility of the platform.

Harrier in Deci_03

As explained by Chief of Operations and Training Group, as well as Commander of the detached unit, Ten. Vasc. Fabio “Bias” Marzano, the “Wolves” (by the unit’s badge) deployed to the Sardinian airbase to perfom the flying activity required to keep the currencies or get the qualification in the air-to-air role.

Harrier in Deci_05

In order to achieve these goals and to maximize the instructional value of the detachment, pilots conducted a specific training at the simulator that aimed to replicate the sorties flown in the Sardinian ranges.

Harrier in Deci_06

Realism is the foundation of a successful training, that’s why the deployment involved also a team of FCs (Fighter Controllers) and AAWOs (Anti-Air Warfare Officer) coming from the Naval Units of the fleet.

Harrier in Deci_08

Not all pilots taking part in the same deployment get the same kind of training and achieve the same objectives: mission planning is tailored to their experience, qualifications and takes the need to interact with the rest of the staff involved in the detachment.

Harrier in Deci_09

The training activities of the Wolves (either at Decimomannu or at their homebase at Grottaglie) begins with the morning briefing of variable duration depending on the complexity of the mission, during which the different aspects of the operations are assessed and planned.

Harrier in Deci_10

The number of waves can vary, depending on the instructional targets, the availability of the training areas as well as the weather conditions.

Harrier in Deci_11

Typical missions last between 60 and 90 minutes and can involve from 2 to 4 aircraft (from 1 vs 1 to 2 vs 2 scenarios) that engage one another under the control of one or more FCs.

Harrier in Deci_12

Although the activity at Grottaglie ensures the achievement of the whole spectrum of the training goals, pilots and ground crews are regularly deployed to the AWTI in order to optimize the training process through the use of the AACMI (Autonomous Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation).

This complex system consists of a pod, similar to a Sidewinder missile, which transmits flight a parameters to a ground station in real time.

Harrier in Deci

As explained by T.V. Marzano “the contribution provided by a similar training aid in the debriefing phase is priceless.”

Missions can be reviewed on screens in order to have a closer look at each phase of the sortie and become aware of mistakes and things that can be improved.

“An analysis of the flight so detailed that would be impossible to do during a standard debriefing conducted elsewhere.”

In the current scenario, characterized by the need to contain costs while maximizing training results, the Italian Navy finds in the technology available at the AWTI Decimomannu a valuable ally.

Harrier in Deci_14

Indeed, besides the help it provides in training, the AACMI gives the AV-8B+ Harrier jet to engage in mock air-to-air combat without employing ammunition whatsoever: this not only increases safety of air ops due to the absence of weapons but also lowers the overall weight of the aircraft, thus reducing the costs of fuel and the environmental impact on the ranges and surrounding areas.

Based on the Deci base visit by Alessandro Caglieri. All pictures by Alessandro Caglieri.

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