A RAF C-130 intercepted by two ItAF F-16s

Two Italian Air Force F-16s. (Image credit: David Cenciotti).

On June 20, 2008, a RAF C-130 flying from Lyneham to Cyprus, was intercepted by a flight of 2 F-16s of the 37° Stormo. The British aircraft had lost the radio contact with the Italian Air Traffic Control and, consequently, the COFA (Comando Operativo delle Forze Aeree)/CAOC 5 at Poggio Renatico ordered the “scramble” of the Southern QRA based in Trapani to intercept the aircraft.

The two fighters, departed at 13.11L, reached the British Hercules over Rosarno (Reggio Calabria), Southern Italy, visually identified and escorted it until 13.34L when they were cleared to RTB (Return To Base). In the meanwhile, the C-130 had been able to established again a positive radio contact with the ATC and was cleared to destination via FPL (Flight Plan) route.

It was the sixth scramble of the 2008, a routine Air Defense mission that from the beginning of the year is flown again by two aircraft on H24 alert (for a certain period, the Air Defense duties involved only a single fighter for the Northern QRA and another one for the Southern one).

Unlike what happened some years ago (in the F-104 era during the Cold War), when there were many bases sharing the QRA duties in Northern and Southern Italy (at the end of the ’80s they were: Istrana, Cameri, Rimini, Grosseto, Grazzanise, Gioia del Colle, Trapani and Sigonella, where a cell was deployed on rotation) the current Italian Air Defense set up is made of two QRA (Norther and Southern), each made of a flight of 2 fighters ready for departure in 15 minutes: 2 fighters in either Grosseto (9° Gruppo, equipped with the F-2000 Typhoon) or Cervia (23° Gruppo, equipped with the F-16ADF); and 2 aircraft in Trapani (where two Squadrons share the alert shifts, the 10° and 18° Gruppo).

It is still unclear how the Air Defense configuration will change in the 2009-2010 period, when the ItaF will leave Cervia and Trapani with the disbandment of both the 23° and 18° Gruppo and the relocation of the 10° Gruppo to Gioia del Colle.

According to the current plans, there will only be two Eurofighter MOBs (Main Operating Bases) fulfilling the Air Defense duties with the Typhoon: Grosseto (9° Gruppo and 20 OCU) and Gioia del Colle (12° and 10° Gruppo).

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.