Monthly Archives: April 2008

New Italian Special Colour to celebrate the 21° Gruppo 90th Anniversary

In order to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the 21st Gruppo, a new Special Colour was officially presented on Apr 26 at Grazzanise airbase, during the ItAF Tiger Sqn Reunion. The aircraft is an AB.212ICO MM81375 previously wearing the ISAF markings that after completing the Exercise Spring Flag (see the other posts dealing with this exercise on this site) was hand-painted by the personnel of the local GEA (Gruppo Efficienza Aeromobili). The aircraft will attend the Giornata Azzurra open day in Pratica di Mare on May 24 – 25 and should join the static display of the NATO Tiger Meet in Landivisiau.

The following pictures were taken by Lt. Roberto Grasso during the painting of the aircraft inside one of the shelters of the 21st Gruppo in Grazzanise on Apr 22. They were taken with a mobile phone and despite the poor quality, they are interesting since they show the livery being prepared for the ceremony.

Spring Flag Media Day in pictures

Here are a few more interesting pictures of the Spring Flag Media Day held on Apr 17 at Decimomannu airbase. For the air display of the Exercise some assets of the Trapani-based Opfor visited Deci:
MM722 1-15 AV8B+ I GrupAer
MM7034 50-50 Tornado ECR 155 Gr
MM7266 F-16B 18 Gr
MM7269 F-16B 18 Gr
MM55514 SF260EA 207 Gr (this latter was reported in Deci on Apr 10 too even if SF260EA were based in Alghero as “special players”).

Extremely interesting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk marking on an F-16 of the 142 Filo of the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (Turkish Air Force). For more info visit the following link.

Spring Flag Media Day report (debrief part 2)

The Media Day of the Spring Flag 2008 was focused on the press conference that provided lots of information about this year’s edition of the exercise.
Here’s a summary of the main figures of the Spring Flag:
SF08 was a Joint, Interdepartmental, International Exercise, integrated with some Government Agencies and with the Red Cross. During the two week, medium-scale air operations were conducted from two DOBs (Deployable Operating Base), Deci and Trapani. This is one of the main differences between the SF07 and this year’s edition: in order to create a more realistic scenario, the aircraft were not all based on the same airport. Because of the current financial constrainsts, this year’ SF did not host the field hospital, kitchen and all the logistic assets that during 2007 edition were based in Decimomannu. Unlike last year, when JFACC (Joint Force Air Component Command) managed all the air ops, this year the JFACC split in a DCAOC (Deployable Combined Air Operations Center), deployed to Bari-Palese airport, that managed the coalition forces, and CAOC5 that from its usual homebase in Poggio Renatico, managed the opposing forces (“opfor”). 52 Italian and 23 foreign assets (and 1.968 people) attended the exercise, performing all range of missions; among the most interesting sorties the SF08 encopassed also Intelligence gathering missions, Combat SAR (CSAR), Slow Mover Interception (SMI) and Urban CAS (Close Air Support). In order to test the handling capabilities of the airport, an ATOC (Air Terminal Operation Center) was established in Deci and operated for 8 days with 12 people providing check-in and boarding services and handling some 600/800 passengers per day.
Tactical sorties were launched in 1 daily window during the first week and 1 night window during the second week. As already reported in this site, the air campaign was affected by the bad weather conditions that interested during both weeks the Mediterranean region:the Coalition forces logged 212 missions out of 373 planned sorties (63%). The Opfor based in Trapani were less affected by the meteorological conditions and flew 119 sorties out of 137 planned (87%).
According to Gen. Iacomino, CinC of the COFA (Comando Operativo Forze Aeree, Air Forces Operative Command) all the aims of the exercise were achieved; last but not least the goal to enable journalists providing a complete media coverage of the event “in order to show to the citizens the importance of a certain kind of training to prepare the Italian Air Forces, the other Armed Forces and allied ones to operate efficiently and efficaciously in Peace Support Operations”. 120 journalists and photographers of the most important Italian and foreign television, newspapers, magazine and agencies attended the Spring Flag 2008. The journalist’s figure is particularly important for the Italian Air Force that today considers the media operators as active players that “orbit” around the air ops and must have access to the information needed in a timely way. But not only. In current scenarios, especially in areas of crisis, a journalist can also be the subject to rescue with a complex CASEVAC mission, like displayed during the Media Day air display or on Apr 8 CSAR event.

David Cenciotti

In order to read the previous posts about the Spring Flag published on this site click here and scroll down: Spring Flag 2008 posts

More pictures will be uploaded soon.

Another Scramble for the Italian F-16s

On Apr. 18, a Kuwaitian C-130 UK-bound, coming from Athens and crossing the Italian airspace was intercepted by two F-16s of the 5th Stormo. The Italian fighters took off from Cervia, intercepted the “zombie” over PNZ (Ponza) radiobeacon at 08.45L, identified it and escorted it until the boundaries of the Italian airspace.
On some forums and mailing lists, commenting a previous Scramble, people wondered why an aircraft flying througn multiple NATO countries was intercepted intercepted and escorted only from Italy.
As I’ve explained a FPL must contain a diplomatic clearance to cross some countries’ airspaces. The diplo clearance is issued by each country individually so a flight can have a valid one to cross a
country and an expired one to cross another one. At least in Italy, if a flight has no diplo clearance, the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) will be scrambled to visually identify the traffic. That’s why scambles are not at all rare things.

Spring Flag 2008 debrief – part 1

The VIP / Media Day held on Apr 17 at Decimommanu airbase was the final act of the Exercise Spring Flag. The final press conference provided lots of interesting details (that will be discussed in the next days in a dedicated post); one of the most important deals with the weather conditions that affected flight operations during the whole duration of the Exercise. Sardinia island (and most of Italy) was interested by cloudy weather that had a significant impact on the planned sorties.


Just to have an idea of the rate of cancellations let’s have a look at some figures: the Coalition forces, based in Deci flew 212 out 373 missions, the 63% of the planned sorties. The Opfor based in Trapani were less affected by the meteorological conditions and flew 119 sorties out of 137 planned, the 87%. Even for this reason, one of the Exercise’s lessons learned is that next year the Spring Flag could take place a little later, most probably in May.


I think the pictures in this post, taken by Alessandro Fucito, are particularly interesting. They show a layer of sand dust on the upper surfaces of the aircraft taking off from Deci on Apr 11. The night before, the airport was interested by a storm coming from Northern Africa that brought rain and sand from the Sahara Desert on the aircraft parked along the main apron between the Nelly West and Sally West taxiway.