Monthly Archives: June 2011

Italy is ready to use the new Predator B (MQ-9 Reaper) drones in Libya to improve NATO ISR capabilities

On Jun. 28, 2011, the ItAF officially presented its first two of 6 Predator B (MQ-9 Reaper) during an interesting ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) Media Tour at Amendola, Italy’s UAV Main Operating Base (MOB).

During its initial briefing, Col. Fabio Giunchi, Cdr of the 32° Stormo (Wing), the parent unit of the 28° Gruppo (Sqn) which flies the Italian drones, affirmed that Italy’s has already achieved an IOC (Initial Operational Capability) with the Predator B and could employ it, if needed, in Libya, to strengthen the NATO ISR component by mid July.

According to Col. Giunchi, operating from Amendola, the UAS could reach Libya in 3 flying hours, with an “on station” time of about 12-14 hours.

The Italian new UAVs could soon be armed even if the final decision whether to equip the MQ-9 for instance with Hellfire missiles will have to be taken at political level. Joint commands have already agreed that, having the capability, the UAS (Unmmanned Aerial Systems) should carry weapons that “could help saving lives”, Giunchi says.

In the meanwhile, the Predator A+ have just logged more than 7.000 FH in theatre operating from Herat in missions lasting on average 8-9 hours. Two RQ-1 are currently in Afghanistan, while two are at Amendola airbase. Unfortunately, one of them crashed landed at 09.15Z on Jun. 27 on approach to Herat airbase.  Extent of damages to be evaluated.


A more detailed article about the Amendola Media Tour and about the Italian ISR component (Tornado and AMX comprised) will be soon published on this blog.

 

After the Argentine Air Force IA-63 Pampa crazy flyby the Argentine AF A-4AR's fuel tank disintegrating after a high-G maneuver….

One of the recent most discussed topic on this blog was the one about the Argentine Air Force IA-63 Pampa performing a crazy low passage. If you read my post and the subsequent thread of comments, you’ll see that the video caused a debate between those (like me) who consider that flyby an example of poor airmanship and those (mainly Argentinean readers) who believe that the “low passage” showed the skill of Argentinean pilots.

In the meanwhile, a new video shows how risky this performances can be. An amateur footage posted on Liveleak shows an Argentine AF A-4AR Fightinghawk performing a high-G climb from low level whose “collateral effect” is the collapse of the right fuel tank (with debris falling on the airport). Obviously, the maneuver which caused the fuel tank “disintegration” is not as dangerous as the Pampa one, but it demonstrates that flying at low altitudes at high speed (in this case with modernized planes built in the ’70s), when not strictly required for operational purposes, can stress the airframes to such an extent they could break apart, (potentially) causing loss of control of the aircraft or simply rendering an airport unserviceable because of debris and consequent FOD (Foreign Object Damage) risk. Don’t forget that the IA-63 Pampa pilot in the above mentioned video, pulled 5.3 G (the HUD signals “Max G”) in the zooming following the flyby. What if his fuel tank collapsed creating a weight unbalance at ultra-low level?

Italian Call 2011: an ISAF-like scenario to train European crews in a "hot, dry and dusty environment" adopting common procedures

Italian Call 2011 is the name of a Multinational Helicopter Exercise held at Viterbo, Italy, from May 23 to Jun. 9, 2011, as part of the European Defense Agency’s Helicopter Training Program. It follows two past successful exercises: GAP 2009, held in France, and AZOR 2010, held in Spain.

The exercise had the purpose of practing missions and procedures that might be required on current and future operations with a special focus on multiship formations in multinational joint environment: Medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), QRF (Quick Reaction Force), SAR (Search And Rescue), troops insertion, combat air support to ground troops, Airmobile operations.

In particular, the aim of the Exercise was to train European crews and staff to operate “in a hot, dry and dusty environment adopting common procedures while operating as joint/combined Aviation Battalion in an exercise Crisis Response Operations (CRO)”. The ISAF Theater of Operations in Afghanistan was in fact used as Exercise Scenario.

Furthermore, Italian Call 2011 provided an important opportunity for helicopters operators to share information and best practices, to conduct multi-ship formations, NVG sorties, Target hand-over operations with Troops in Contact (TIC), escort and scout missions as well as live firing exercises.

The proposed scenario saw a multinational Aviation Battalion tasked to deploy in Area of Operations (AOO) under a Combined multinational command. Prior to the deployment phase multinational units were concentrated in Viterbo army airfield in order to achieve Full Operational Capability (FOC) and to integrate all assigned assets into the Task Force (TF). Aviation assets would be deployed in the Main Operating Base (MOB) in order to support ground forces.

Operating from a Forward Operating Base (FOB) the Aviation Battalion assets are called on a daily basis to operate to support ground units with fire suppression, Medical Evacuation and convoy escort missions. Local insurgents clans and several mixed terrorist elements are operating in the AOO with a wide array of threats: Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), Small Arms Fire (SAFIRE) and Rockets and Mortars (RAM) mainly attacking convoys. Regional policy was to set up further platoon-company size strong points along the main supply routes and around the main urbanized areas and to re-supply them by air and by ground as a daily routine activity. The Aviation Battalion was also tasked to escort ground convoys and to re-supply allied positions.

A total of 32 helicopters beloning to three classes were involved:
– CH-47, CH-53 (more than 10 tonnes payload);
– NH-90, EH-101 Merlin e Mi-17 (5-10 tonnes payload),
– A-109 & AB-412 (less than 5 tons payload).

Besides Italy, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovenia participated with aircrafts and crews, with Lithuania and Greece having observers for a total of around 350 military.

Here’s a list of the participating assets as provided by the special blog published and updated on a daily basis to provide information and news about the Exercise (note that the list was not updated since it contains only 29 helos).

ITALY
4 x A 129
2 x CH47C
2 x NH90
1 x SH-3D
4 x AB-212
AUSTRIA
3 x AB212
BELGIUM
3 x A109
CZECH REPUBLIC
4 x Mi 17
2 x Mi 24
GERMANY
2 x CH-53
SLOVENIA
2 x Cougar

The Exercise took place within the huge R53 (“Romeo 53”) restricted airspace, an area that “surrounds” the Viterbo airport and that is dedicated to the military training activity of Italian Army helicopters.  All the participating units could get informed about ATC and planning procedures for IT CALL 2011 thank to the ENAC (Ente Nazionale Assistenza al Volo) “Self Briefing” platform which enables real time Web access to AIS, Meteo, AFTN and ATFM info via Internet.

More than 600 flying hours were flown during Italian Call 2011 with 50 daily sorties (on average) and a total consumption of 450.000 lts of fuel.

Thanks to the help of Col. Massimo Meola and Lt.Col. Giovanni Ramunno of the Italian Army, contributor Giovanni Maduli had the opportunity to report from Viterbo and to take the following interesting images of Exercise Italian Call 2011.

La Ferté-Alais 2011: from Blériot age to Unified Protector

With Paris Le Bourget currently making the news and 50th NATO Tiger Meet held at Cambrai in May, France has been the place to visit for aviation journalists and aircraft spotters during the last few months. For warbirds and historic planes lovers, La Ferté-Alais yearly Whitsun Airshow is a must.

Its traditions date back to 1929, when Jean-Baptiste Salis created “Pilotes du Souvenir” (Flyers of remembrance) to preserve what was done in the early years of aviation; with the same goal “Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis” (AJBS) was born in 1972 to preserve and restore classic airplanes and warbirds and keep them flying. Today, the association represents 300 members of those, about 60 are intensely active during the week and the weekend to keep some 30 historic aircraft flying.

Since the early ’70s each year the AJBS’s airshow traces aviation history from Blériot planes, to WWI, to Pearl Harbour, to the Vietnam War to the Libyan ops, thorugh solo and formation displays.

Noteworthy, although participation in Operation Unified Protector prevented the Rafale and the Super Etendard from attending the NATO Tiger Meet, both French fighters displayed at Cerny-La Ferté Alais 2011.

Contributor Alessandro Fucito provided the following interesting pictures of the Jun.11 and 12 airshow.

Thunderbirds opposing solos perfect symmetry (it's also a matter of observer's point of view)

The following picture, taken by contributor Giovanni Maduli, were not Photoshopped. They show the Thunderbirds opposing solos F-16s performing their famous mirror passes (belly-to-belly calypso pass and inverted one) at Jesolo Air Extreme 2011. From his very unique point of view, slightly different from mine (read my previous reports Thunderbirds condensation clouds, rehearsals and airshow to compare pictures), he got a picture (the first one) seemingly showing the two solos touching each other with the top of their tails.

Here’s the same pass, taken by me from a slightly higher spot, showing how the opposing solo have to arrange their respective positions to appear aligned to the spectators’ eyes observing the flyby from the ground.

People that are not used to see a USAF demo team display always wonder why Thunderbird 5 has its number painted on upside down: as these pictures show, in mirror flybys, the inverted F-16s is always number 5. Since that solo flies inverted most of the routine, its “5” almost always appears in the correct position to observers on the ground.