Tag Archives: Panavia Tornado

Britain offers France use of airbase in Cyprus to support air war on ISIS in Syria

French combat aircraft may use RAF Akrotiri base, in Cyprus, to launch air strikes on IS.

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, Britain has offered France the use of its airbase in Cyprus, strategically located on the island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Syria, to support air strikes on ISIS.

Primarily, the base is going to act as a reserve diversion airfield for the jets operating from the French  nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle that has been operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, from where it launched the first raids against ISIS earlier this week.

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said:

“This offer is another demonstration of our solidarity with our French allies. It is right that we do all we can to help them hit ISIL harder. Meanwhile, we will continue to strike this vile organization in Iraq and build the case for extending those strikes to Syria.”

At the moment, a dozen French Rafale and Mirage 2000 jets are supporting Operation Chammal from Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan and Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE. This component is supplemented by another 20 jets based on the CDG aircraft carrier, operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

According to The Telegraph, David Cameron claimed that Great Britain is going to do “all in its power”, supporting France in the struggle against ISIS, in a response to the Paris acts of terror. The proposal emerged after the meeting of the British PM David Cameron and Francois Hollande, the French President

The RAF has been using its Cyprus airbase to conduct airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq since September 2014. Tanker and reconnaissance aircraft are also stationed there.

Interestingly, this is not the first time the French are using the British Airbase in Cyprus in cooperation with the Royal Air Force. During the Suez Crisis, in 1956, the air forces of both countries were stationed in Cyprus, launching air strikes against Egypt and flying sorties, the aim of which was to neutralize the Egyptian Air Force.

In 2012, Akrotiri airbase was “targeted” by Syrian Su-24 Fencer attack jets launched by Assad to probe the local air defenses. As we commented back then, buzzing the enemy airspace to test its reaction time or actively disturbing the enemy training activities is not rare. Much rare are actual engagements, like the one that saw a Russian Su-24 shot down by TuAF F-16 yesterday along the Turkey-Syria border).

Image Credit: Dassault Aviation

Interesting images show a Tornado IDS carrying eight GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs during test flight

The Tornado fighter bomber is one of the platforms already integrated with the GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs).

The GBU-39 SDB is a 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating bomb with a blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets.

These bombs are equipped with deployable wings for extended standoff range that open upon release allowing the GPS-guided bomb to glide for several miles before hitting the target with accuracy.

GBU-39s are quite small: they are usually carried in two pairs underneath the fuselage (on tactical jets) or on the underwing pylons (on the AC-130W that is the largest aircraft to use this kind of bomb).

Among the Lessons Learned of the Air War in Libya, there was the need to employ SDBs to improve accuracy from distance and reduce collateral damage; a GBU-39 launched at high-speed from high altitude can travel for as much as 50 miles, allowing the attack plane to remain outside the range of most SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) batteries.

The SDB is currently integrated on the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-22, that with software increment 3.1 is able to carry 8 GBU-39s, and the AC-130W whereas all the remaining U.S. bombers (including the F-35) will get the slender bombs in the future. The Israeli and Italian air forces have procured this kind of weapon as well, with the latter planning to integrate the SDBs on the Tornado aircraft upgraded to the enhanced RET 7 and 8 standards.

Separation tests from the Italian Tornado were announced in 2003 and planned from late 2015; the images in this post, taken near Decimomannu airbase, in Sardinia, Italy, by photographer Giampaolo Mallei, show a Panavia Tornado MLU (Mid-Life Update) carrying four SDBs during the testing campaign conducted by Alenia Aeronautica.

Tornado with SDBs side

Image credit: Giampaolo Mallei


The Italian Air Force showcases its most advanced aircraft and capabilities at Rivolto airshow.

Typhoons, KC-767, T-346, HH-101 and much more among the highlights of the largest Italian airshow this year.

Last weekend, the Italian Air Force celebrated the Frecce Tricolori‘s 55th anniversary with an airshow at Rivolto airbase, in northeastern Italy, attended by 450,000 spectators and featuring more than 100 planes, helicopters and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and 11 national display teams.

Obviously, the leading role in the airshow was played by the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) that showcased its most advanced “hardware” and capabilities.

The Italian Eurofighter Typhoons took the stage not only with a stunning solo display by the F-2000 (as the aircraft is designated by the ItAF) of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Test Wing) from Pratica di Mare but also by escorting an Alitalia A320 and an A330 in an air defense role demo aimed at showing what the aircraft do more frequently.

Alitalia +Typhoon

Image credit: Alessandro Fucito

In fact, Italy has been the very first (and the only one, for the moment) nation to provide so-called IAP (Interim Air Policing) tasks over four foreign airspaces: Iceland (on rotation), Slovenia, Albania (task shared with the Hellenic Air Force) and Baltic States (where first rotation ended at the end of August, when the four Italian F-2000s successfully completed their 8-month NATO Baltic Air Patrol deployment to Lithuania, logging about 900 flying hours, 40 Alpha-Scrambles (alert takeoffs), more than 160 Tango-Scrambles (training scrambles) and several training missions).

As already mentioned here, during the airshow, the ItAF unveiled two special colored Typhoons belonging to the 10° Gruppo (Squadron) of 36° Stormo (Wing), based at Gioia del Colle: two aircraft (MM7297 and 7308), with camouflaged tail, tricolored rudder and a large black rearing horse on white cloud, symbol of Italy’s top WWI ace Francesco Baracca, performed a flyover along with a replica of the SPAD XIII, the French biplane fighter aircraft flown by Baracca that inspired the new special color scheme.

Typhoon Cavallino

Image credit: Alessandro Fucito

Aerial refueling is another capability that Italy is continuing to develop to improve power projection: the Italian Boeing KC-767A, the first international tanker to successfully complete aerial refueling of a U.S. Air Force F-35A on Jul 29, took part in the display flying over Rivolto airbase leading a formation of two  Typhoons and two Tornado IDS and two AMX bombers that had previously performed a simulated attack on the base. A real first was the HAAR (Helicopter Air-to-Air Refueling) demo showing a brand new AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar of the 15° Stormo (Wing) trailing a KC-130J tanker of the 46^ Brigata Aerea from Pisa: a confirmation that the new CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) helicopter that the ItAF will use for Special Forces support, Personnel Recovery in hostile environments, MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) and SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) missions will soon start aerial refueling certification testing.

HH101 refuel

Other Italian helicopters taking part in the flying display were also the HH-139A multipurpose combat chopper and the new AW.149 medium-lift military helicopter.

AW149 front

Another interesting display was the one of the T-346A (the Italian Air Force designation for the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master advanced jet trainer) of the RSV from Pratica di Mare that showed the stunning performance and maneuvering capabilities of the dual-engine LIFT (Lead-In to Fighter Trainer) jet selected by Italy, Poland, Israel and Singapore.

T-346A Legend 06 take off

Dealing with pilot training, one of the highlights of the airshow was a unique “Legend formation,” made of all the most important training planes in the history of the Italian Air Force, from the G.59, to the T-6 Texan, to the MB.326 to the above mentioned T-346, the latest and most advanced one, flying with the 61° Stormo at Lecce Galatina airbase and used for advanced pre-operative training of the Italian, Dutch (and soon Polish) pilots destined to the 4th and 5th Generation combat planes.

Legend formation abeam

339CD + 326

Although the most exciting part of the airshow was the “dynamic” flying display, some interesting things could be found among the participants in static display. Among them, the mock-up of the T-344 V.E.S.P.A. (Very Efficient Smart Power Aircraft), an ItAF indigenous project based on the Caproni C-22J light jet-powered aircraft that will be used for basic ab initio jet training.

The P.1HH HammerHead UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), that the ItAF has already procured (three UAS systems, consisting of six aircraft and three ground stations and complete with ISR configuration, that will be delivered early next year), was also in static display sporting the markings and code of 28° Gruppo (Squadron) belonging to 32° Stormo from Amendola, the ItAF’s UAV unit.


Another aircraft that caught the interest of the public was the M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer) a trainer based on the M-311 and expected to enter service with the Italian Air Force between 2017-2020 to replace the aging MB.339. The M-345 HET was selected to be the next aircraft flown by the Frecce Tricolori display team.

Newsworthy, the Frecce Tricolori, that sported the new livery introduced in 2015 for the 55th anniversary, presented a new maneuver dubbed “Scintilla Tricolore” (Tricolored Spark) during their final display.

MB339PAN Lorenzo Cenciotti

Image credit: Lorenzo Cenciotti

As already said, Italy’s largest airshow in 2015 featured some interesting foreign participants, including the Royal Saudi Air Force Saudi Hawks and Finnish Air Force Midnight Hawks display teams and the Polish Mig-29 and Belgian F-16 solos, as well as the AH-64 Apache of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Demo Team.

AH-64 inverted

Midnight Hawks taxi

Saudi Hawks landing

Interestingly, for the first time ever, Rivolto airshow was preceded by a Spotter Day attended by about 300 photographers who were given the possibility to get shots of the arrivals and rehearsals. Kudos to the Italian Air Force and its Public Information Office for this much appreciated initiative.

Mig-29 panning

All images by David Cenciotti unless otherwise stated.


Stunning footage shows Saudi Arabia’s air power at war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels

Interesting footage shows Saudi warplanes involved in Operation Decisive Storm.

On Mar. 25, Saudi Arabia launched the first air strike on targets located in neighbouring Yemen.

Codenamed Operation Decisive Storm, the air war was started to counter the Houthi offensive on Aden, the provisional capital town of the internationally recognized (yet domestically contested) Yemeni government.

As Yemeni President Hadi left Aden to Saudi Arabia, the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) along with several regional air arms launched the first raids against Houthi, who are allied with Yemen’s ousted former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Warplanes from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain are taking part in the operation.

The following footage shows RSAF Tornado IDS, F-15S and Eurofighter Typhoon jets launch and recover, day and night, from King Khalid airbase.

Noteworthy, the clip also shows one of the four Sudanese Air Force Su-24Ms that are taking part in the coalition air strikes in Yemen.

Here below you can find another interesting video, focusing on UAE Air Force contribution to the Operation:

H/T to ACIG.info Forum, for hosting the most interesting thread on the Yemen air war you’ll find on the Web.


Video shows Brimstone anti-armour missile fired by RAF Tornado destroy ISIS armed pick-up in Iraq

Here’s the effect of the first British air strike on ISIS in Iraq.

On Sept. 30, RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft from RAF Akrotiri airbase, Cyprus, attacked ISIS positions in northwestern Iraq.

The two planes, were flying an armed reconnaissance mission when they were tasked to support Kurdish troops who were under attack from ISIS terrorists.

During the second strike, the British “Tonkas” destroyed a “technical” (armed pick-up truck) with a Brimstone missile.

The Brimstone, is a fire-and-forget anti-armour missile, first fielded during 2008 after an urgent operational requirement, used on the RAF’s Harriers during operations over Afghanistan, that became the RAF weapons of choice during  in the Air War over Libya.

The Tornado GR4, that didnt’ carry the Brimstone on their very first armed patrol over Iraq, carry a mixed load out with a single rack of three Brimstones and two Paveway IV 226kg bombs along with the Rafael Litening III targeting pod.

Optimized for use against fast moving platforms, these small guided missiles feature a warhead of 9 kg and have a range of 7.5 miles. They use a millimeter wave (mmW) radar seeker with a semi-active laser (SAL) that enables final guidance to the target by either the launching platform or another plane, and are perfect to destroy a vehicle with very low collateral damage risk, and an accuracy of about 1 – 2 meters.

Brimstone is an extensive redevelopment of the AGM-114 Hellfire and can be used on fast jets, helicopters and UAVs.