Monthly Archives: September 2010

The false problem of the armed Predators

On Sept. 18, 2010, Lt. Alessandro Romani of the Col. Moschin was killed by the Afghan insurgents in a shooting in the area to the East of Farah, Afghanistan. Lt. Romani was a member of the Italian Special Forces team of the Task Force 45 flying on board a CH-47. The Chinook, escorted by two A-129 Mangusta, was approaching the spot pointed out by a Predator of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) where some terrorists, that had just placed a bomb on a nearby road, had taken refuge. The chopper was landing when it was hit by some Kalashnikov shots that caused the death of the Italian officer.
In the aftermath of the shooting, some experts claimed that the use of armed Predators would prevent such accidents to occur: an article, written by an expert suggested that an MQ-1 equipped with Hellfire missiles would have saved Lt. Romani’s life. A direct hit into the terrorists refuge would made the Special Forces’ intervention unneeded. True, theoretically. False, if we analyse Italy’s attitude in Peace Keeping and Peace Enforcing operations. Italian forces, whose partecipation to such operations are usually strongly opposed by certain parties and are the cause of strong debate in the Parliament, have strict Rules Of Engagement, much more complicated than “Don’t fire until fired upon”. Historically, Italians are neither warmongers nor willing to use arms: for better or for worse, we tend to use diplomacy, to talk with the local people. The option of firing a couple of missiles from high altitude, from a UAV, towards some insurgents sheltered in a building, is simply something not in our DNA. What if the terrorist have hostages with them? What if the Italians cause “collateral damages”? Unacceptable for the public opinion in Italy, that still considers the Armed Forces a sort of burden, an unworthy cost, a diabolic means of destruction and war. Wisely, Italy decided to purchase only unarmed UAVs (even the MQ-9 Reaper will not carry missiles or bombs): cheaper and “safer”.
Hence, not even an armed Predator could save Lt. Romani’s life…….unless it was American.

The following images are courtesy of the Italian Air Force.

Ciao German Phantoms!

Even if it was initially expected to come to an end on Sept. 16, the German F-4 Phantoms of the JG71 detached to Decimomannu airbase, home of the ItAF AWTI (Air Weapons Training Installation) since Aug.2 headed back to Wittmund earlier, in the morning of Sept. 15 (although four examples remained in Sardinia for a few more days along with 2 A-4s of the BAe Systems). Giovanni Maduli was there once again on Sept. 15 to witness the departure of the (maybe) last German Phantoms deployment in Deci. Noteworthy, among the departing F-4s, the 38+46, wearing the special “swallows” markings on both sides of the fuselage (to “celebrate” the successful survival of the mighty “Rhino” to multiple bird strikes during a recent exercise) returned to landing for an unknown emergency shortly after departure.

Compressor stalls

When, last year, I visited the USS Nimitz and had the opportunity to take the following picture (Part 1 and Part 2)

I didn’t think that compressor stalls during “cat shots” (catapult lauches) were frequent events. However, a quick look at US Navy website let me realize that compressor stalls or compressor surges are common (most probably?) because the hot vapour generated by the catapult is ingested by the aircraft intake thus creating a breakdown in compression resulting in a the compressor’s inability to absorb the momentary disturbance and to continue pushing the air against the already-compressed air behind it. As a consequence, there’s a momentary reversal of air flow and a violent expulsion of previously compressed air out through the engine intake producing some loud bangs from the engine and “back fires”.

The following pictures are all US Navy images taken from the official website:

Farewell Aussie F-111: RAAF Williamtown airshow

A week after the two days event held in Rivolto to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori, an extremely interesting airshow took place Down Under, in Australia, where the RAAF Williamtown airshow saw the last public appearance of the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) F-111s and the first public show for their replacements, the F/A-18F Super Hornets (or “Rhinos” as they are widely known). The Australian airshow was at the antipodes of Rivolto, not only under a geographical point of view: while Rivolto saw the display of many aerobatic display team and a few solos (those of the ItAF Test Wing), the RAAF Williamtown one was more focused on operative aircraft and solos and just one display team attended the event: the RAAF Roulettes. Ed Armstrong, an Australian aviation expert (and reader of this blog), attended the show and sent me the following interesting report and pictures.

The Annual Defence Force Airshow took place at RAAF Williamtown on Sept. 18 and 19. Williamtown is Australia’s largest fast jet base and home to the RAAF’s fighter force. The show marked a number of significant events. Both Nos.1 and 6 Squadrons based at Amberley are transitioning to the F/A-18F Super Hornet – “Rhinos” in place of the long serving F-111C. The first of the new jets arrived in country in March and 1 Sqn currently has 11 of its planned complement of 12. IOC is set for years end. Williamtown was the type’s public debut. 1 Sqn brought 4 jets; A44-208 for the static, A44-204 & A4-207 for the flying display and A44-209 as spare.
After 37 years of Australian service the F-111C will be retired at the beginning of December and 6 Sqn, the last user of the type, currently has 7 to 8 serviceable jets. Williamtown was the last ever public show for the “Pig” and 6 Sqn crew Flt Lt Leon Izaat and Flt Lt Matt Michel did not disappoint with a spectacular, fast and noisy, flying display finishing with a steep climb out from a touch and go whilst performing the trade mark “dump and burn”. The display jet, on both the Saturday & Sunday, was one of the unique RF-111C jets: A8-126.
All types that the RAAF is currently flying were represented at the show either static or flying. 2 Sqn had their new Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft in the static, the RAN (Royal Australian Navy) displayed their Agusta 109, Sea King, Seahawk and Squirrel helicopters. The latter two types attended the flying display also. Temora Aviation Museum contributed their Meteor F.8, the world’s only flying example, Spitfire VIII, Hudson and CAC F-86 Sabre, the only Avon powered example flying. Also present were 4 of Australia’s 7 P-51 Mustangs and HARS brought along their Catalina and Neptune for the flying and Super Connie and C-47 for the static.
Whilst the F-111 was the star of the show, Williamtown’s based units put on some superb flying, a crisp display by a Hawk 127 from 76 Sqn, the specially formed “Purple Cobras” of 3 Sqn flying four F/A-18A Hornets, lead by the unit CO Wing Commander Terry Van Harren. And 77 Sqn provided the Hornet solo. “Ackers” putting on a stunning display. The Sunday was his last show before stepping down as Hornet display pilot.
For the display rehearsals in the week ahead of the show, 6 Squadron favoured F-111A/C A8-109 (that can be seen in the first pictures below while practicing over its home base of Amberley on Monday Sept. 13).

Special tail markings to mark the retirement of the F-111 featuring a stylised “dump and burn” seen here on F-111A/C A8-113 in the static at Williamtown. Two other jets are known to carry these special marks are A8-126 and A8-135.

The Roulettes display team

A "near miss" wildlife strike

People usually thinks that aircraft are subject to “bird strikes” collisions between airborne animals (usually birds) with flying aircraft. However, until the aircraft is on the ground, taxiing or rolling for take off, it is at risk of collisions with dogs, cats, hare, kangaroos, etc. (hence called “wildlife strikes”) that cross aprons, runways and taxiways with the same possible catastrophic results of a bird strike.
A “near miss” (that is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, or damage although having the potential to do so) wildlife strike involving a rabbit occurred during the recent airshow held in Rivolto to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori. As the interesting picture below, taken by Giovanni Maduli shows, on Saturday Sept. 11, while the first section of five Alenia Aermacchi MB.339A/PANs of the Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (Italian Aerobatic Team) was taking off for the last display of the day, a hare crossed the runway 06 not far from the aircraft number 1, flown by the leader of the Frecce Tricolori. Fortunately, the animal was fast enough to complete the crossing without being hit by any of the five aircraft, but this exclusive picture reminds us that strike hazard for both military and civilian aviation does not only come from flying animals but also from the ones on the ground living in the vicinity of airports.