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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The number of waves can vary, depending on the instructional targets, the availability of the training areas as well as the weather conditions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Any Indian juridicial action “not fully in line with international law risks creating a dangerous precedent concerning international peace and anti-piracy missions; missions to which Indian military take part and whose effectiveness and operational capability would be put at risk ”: this is the content of the warning statement relayed by the Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh following the decision of a court in the southern state of Kerala who jailed for two more weeks, while investigation is underway, the two Italian Navy marines, accused to have killed two Indian fishermen in a shooting off India’s coast on Feb. 15.
The two Italian soldiers were on an anti-piracy mission on board the merchant ship Enrica Lexie. The presence of military personnel for VPD (Vessel Protection Detachment) is ruled by an Italian law compliant with the UN anti-piracy resolution and there are about 100 military currently aboard cargo ships in areas under threat of pirates.
Although the episode is still under investigation, the position of Rome is that the shooting happened in international waters and the case should be judged in Italy. Furthermore, Italy says that military should be gived absolute judicial immunity to the foreign state’s jurisdiction (as happens in Afghanistan, for instance). On the other side, the Indian authorities say that the victims are Indian hence the case should be handled by New Delhi that doesn’t grant the validity of the VPD (that is valid between NATO and EU members).
The Italian Foreign Affairs Minister has visited India last week while a diplomatic delegation is still on-site to try to find a solution to the stand-off.
This episode has some similarities with the incident of the USMC EA-6B (callsign “Easy 01″) that in 1998, during a low level mission from Aviano airbase hit a cableway at 360ft and caused the death of 20 people.
The crew was not judged in Italy, because an Italian court recognized that NATO treaties gave jurisdiction to U.S. military courts that, in spite of some violations to the regulations for military VFR flights in the area, found the pilot and the navigator not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide (later they were found guilty for having destroyed a videotape recorded during the doomed flight).
The Indian Navy has deployed one Dornier to Seychelles under a government to government treaty. The patrol aircraft is stationed at Victoria, is operated for Exclusive Economic Zone surveillance and anti-piracy patrols by Indian aircrew in response to requirement projected by the Seychellois government.
According to this press release, the airplane will fill the gap until a new Dornier under manufacture at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, India, is handed over to the Seychelles government.
Here’s an image of an Indian Navy Do.228.
In the meanwhile, helicopters have been used to deliver food and satellite phones on board.
Little more than a month since the Costa Concordia ran aground on rocks off the Isola del Giglio Island, Italy, another Costa cruise ship is facing an emergency. The Costa Allegra (188 meters long, 28,597 tonnes, 399 cabins, capacity of 1,400 pax) is adrift with 1,049 people on board, in the dark, about 250 miles southwest of the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean.
Image credit: AP Photo/Tano Pecoraro
The ship had left Madagascar on Saturday and was due to reach Mahe, in the Seychelles, on Tuesday. Following a fire (that has been extinguished), the ship is immobilized, with no electric lights and emergency batteries being used to keep essential services going. Although there’s no immediate danger for the people on board, all passengers and part of the crew are at the muster stations.
Merchant ships and tug boats have been directed to the rescue of the liner but the first asset to reach the stranded ship has been an unspecified maritime patrol aircraft belonging to the Seychelles Islands Development Company & Coast Guard launched by Seychelles International airport.
The aircraft has overflown the Costa Allegra assessing the status of the ship and relaying it to the Coast Guard and other ships involved in the rescue operation.
Mahe also hosts a U.S. drone detachment involved in the anti-piracy activities in the Horn of Africa (and are believed to launch air strikes against terrorist camps in the region): indeed, the Costa Allegra is adrift in an extremely dangerous waters, where the risk of pirate skiff attacks is ranked high.
For this reason, among the people on board the ship there are also Italian Navy armed guards: a Military Security Team is embarked on all Italian ships in seas under threat of pirates. A standard practice on all ships these days, even if Somali pirates have never hijacked cruise ships in the area.
Two Italian Navy riflemen belonging to the San Marco Battalion, are currently under custody in India pending the investigation about the alleged killing of two Indian fishermen 30 miles off the southern Indian coast on Feb. 15.
Lockheed Martin has just released a media update that provides some interesting figures about the F-35 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) flight test plan. The press release traces the history of the JSF program since the beginning of 2012. However, I’ve modified it a little bit to add some interesting information about the program: either officially released news by partner countries authorities or details reported by media all around the world.
On Jan. 9, AF-4, an F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) test aircraft, reached the highest altitude to date in an F-35; 43,000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL).
The F-35 SDD fleet including AA-1, the original test aircraft, crossed the 2,500 flight hour threshold on Jan. 25.
During a Media Briefing in Rome, Italy, Tom Burbage, Executive VP of Lockheed Martin and General Manager of F-35 Program Integration, said that the F-35C (Carrier Variant) was fixed with a new tailhook system that will be tested beginning next April, making arrested landing on aircraft carriers possible after the series of failed tests. “We will solve all issues” he said.
On Jan. 30 the Associated Press reported that Australia is reviewing its purchaase schedule for 12 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
A BAC1-11 configured with the F-35′s AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and the AN/AAQ-37 infrared distributed aperture system (DAS) has taken part to the Bold Alligator 2012 exercise.
On Feb. 7 a UK Ministry of Defence spokeswoman announced that Britain will not make final decisions on the overall number of F-35 before the next planned Strategic Defence Review (in 2015).
On Feb. 15, Italian Minister of Defense announced Italy’s plan to purchase 90 F-35s. The aircraft will be delivered to four Italian Air Force squadrons at Amendola and Ghedi, and one Navy squadron at Grottaglie (equipped with F-35B that will also operate from Cavour aircraft carrier).
On Feb. 17 the Government of the Netherlands announced that the first F-35 designated for the RNlAF had its jet engine installed. The Netherlands has ordered two JSFs as test aircraft.
On Feb. 19 the Canadian Press reported that Canadian Defense experts are considering a further upgrade to the aging RCAF F-18s (CF-188s in the local designation) to fill the gap until the delivery of the first F-35s, expected in 2016.
On Feb. 21 Royal Air Force test pilot Squadron Leader Jim Schofield flew CF-2, the Carrier Variant of the F-35 that will be known as Joint Combat Aircraft in UK.
On Feb. 22, six days after the first F-35A CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) had flown with external stores, even the STOVL (Short Take Off and Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, flew for the first time with external weapons.Noteworthy, along with the AIM-9X carried by the CTOL, the F-35B carried a never seen before white 25 mm gun pod on the centerline.
On Feb. 23 Turkey confirmed its plan to buy 100 F-35s for 16 billion USD. “In the first stage, orders will be given for two F-35 planes. Turkey plans in total to buy 100 F-35 warplanes” the Minister of Defense said.
Cumulative flight test activity totals for 2012 through Feb. 20 are provided below:
F-35A CTOL jets have flown 46 times.
F-35B STOVL aircraft have completed 45 flights.
F-35C Carrier Variant (CV) jets have flown 23 times.
From the start of flight testing in December 2006, F-35s have flown 1,704 times, including the production-model flights and AA-1, the original flight test aircraft.