Monthly Archives: October 2011

Special feature: the most interesting pictures of the aircraft involved in Libya air war

On Oct. 31, at 23.59 Libyan Time, exactly 7 months after it began, NATO Operation Unified Protector has come to an end. Since the beginning of the Uprising and especially from Mar. 19, the Day 1 of the war (then named Odyssey Dawn), this site has provided an unmatched analysis of the air campaign with special reports, previously unreleased information, detailed debriefings, infographics and pictures.

I’ve already written the first part of the Lessons Learned during the war in the post titled Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained: Final Report (part two will follow in the next days….so stay tuned, I’ve still something to say about the air war in Libya). However, to celebrate the official end of the air campaign, I’ve collected some of the most interesting pictures of the aircraft involved in the operations in Libya taken by unofficial sources (whose name are listed at the end of this post) since February 2011.

Most of them were taken at Malta International Airport that, although not being directly involved in the allied operations, was a hub for all the civil and military aircraft involved in the humanitarian airlift in the aftermath of the Uprising (when Libya was evacuated) and, during the war, was often the preferred alternate airfield for all the OUP aircraft experiencing mechanical failures or fuel shortage.

This post will not show you all the technologies that took out Gaddafi but will probably show most of those that played a critical role in the “victory”.

Each image’s filename contains where and when the picture was taken.

Images by: Estelle Calleja, Matthew Scerri, Trafford Vella, Brendon Attard, Roderick Agius, Giovanni Maduli, David Cenciotti and a couple of anonymous contributors.

Republic of Korea Navy's warships meet the Italian aircraft carrier Cavour in the Mediterranean Sea

On Oct. 29, two warships of the Republic of Korea Navy or ROK Navy (ROKN) involved in a training campaign in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean met with the Italian aircraft carrier Cavour in the Ionian Sea, 60NM from the Italian coasts, in what has been the first Passex (Passage Exercise) between the two navies.

Image source: Marina Militare

The South Korean naval group was made by the Kang Gam Cham, a class Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin destroyer, and by the Cheonji, a Fast Combat Support Ship of the same class.

After a first radio contact on the radio, the ships have performed a series of tactical maneuvers which included take off and landing operations on both vessels by an Italian helicopter.

Italian Air Force Special Operations Forces training

The 21° Gruppo is one of the most famous squadrons of the Italian Air Force: formerly belonging to the 53° Stormo at Cameri, it has been a member the NATO Tiger Association since 1968. The squadron moved to Gioia del Colle on Mar. 1, 1999, and operated within the 36° Stormo until Mar. 1, 2001, when it was disbanded. The squadron was officially reactivated on Mar. 23, 2006 within the 9° Stormo at Grazzanise, with the aim to create a deployable flying unit able to perform a large variety of combat duties:

  • MEDEVAC (MEDical EVACuation) and CASEVAC (CASualties EVACuation)
  • Personnel Recovery: CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue), NEO (Non-combatant Evacuation Operations) and HRO (Humanitarian Relief Operations)
  • Light Reconnaissance
  • Air Marshalling
  • Special Operations insertion/extraction
  • Vehicle interdiction
  • Short range transportation
  • Helisniping

Most of the above mentioned missions were flown during the several Tours of Duty in Afghanistan that have seen the 21° Gruppo’s AB.212s (UH-1N in the US designation; UH-212ICO according to the Italian Mission Design Series) operating in support of the ISAF (International Security and Assistance Force) multinational force.

Since 2005, the Squadron is equipped with the AB.212ICO (Implementazione Capacità Operative – Operational Campabilities Implementation) a retrofitted version of the previous AMI-SAR model that will be employed until 2014-2015, when it is expected to be replaced by the new AW-101 CSAR helicopter. The AB.212ICO is equipped withECDS-1 Flares dispensers  for self-protection from IR-guided missiles and two MG 42/59 caliber 7.62 mm NATO machine guns on both sides of the fuselage. It wears an armored cockpit and fuselage to protect the 2 pilots and 2 gunners from small arms; noteworthy, the rudder area, vulnerable to bullets shot from the ground because of the observation windows, has been shielded with 3 inches of kevlar. The helicopter cruise speed is 90 – 100 KIAS.

The new outfit has increased the AB.212’s weight and the helicopter is unable to recover a survivor from the ground with the hoist  in the Afghan scenario [average height of 7.000 feet AMSL (Above Mean Sea Level) and ground temperature often above 40° Celsius].

The 9° Stormo, currently commanded by Col. Marino Francavilla, a pilot with 2,400 flying hours and a huge combat experience with helicopters in Somalia, Kosovo and Iraq, belongs to the 1^ Brigata Aerea Operazioni Speciali (1st Special Operations Air Brigade). Also belonging to the 9° Stormo since 2009 is the Air Riflemen Group, whose duty is to provide force protection, NBC defense, EOR (Explosive Ordneance Recognition) and EOD (Explosive Ordnance Deactivation), both at home and on deployment, within PSO (Peace Support Operations). The unit is currently deployed to Herat, where it ensures the protection of the local Forward Support Base.

The Air Riflemen Group is made of around 100 soldiers equipped with the standard assault rifle Beretta SCP 70/90 cal. 5.56mm, that will soon be replaced by the Beteretta ARX160, along with other firearms (sniper rifles, combat shotguns, guns). The unit has also some VTLM Lynx vehicles, with mounted Browning cal. 12.7 mm or  Minimi cal. 5.56 machine guns.

Much of the training activities take place at Grazzanise airbase, where the Air Riflemen operate with the 21° Gruppo and where we were invited to attend an Afghanistan-type operation involving both the rotary wing and the special forces of the 9° Stormo on Oct. 3, 2011: MEDEVAC needed to rescue a Rifleman wounded while securing a bridge located inside an insurgent-controlled area.

Giovanni Maduli took the following images.

I wish to thank Col. Marino Francavilla, Capt. Cristoforo Russo, and the ItAF PIO for giving us the opportunity to visit Grazzanise airbase during the SOF event.

F-35: an expensive hard-to-recycle form of garbage?

I find the following picture rather funny. It was taken at Seoul Air Show and shows a Lockheed F-35 Lightning II….with a “garbage” sign posted on the barrier in front of the plane. Obviously it’s only a matter of perspective, but I must admit that the signs seems to be an explainatory panel like the ones you can find next to the airplanes in static display. The person who took this picture and sent it to me has a sense of humour (and knows how to tease a competitor).

The F-35 is in fact among the candidates for S. Korea’s next generation fighter, known as FX-III project with a budget of 8.29 trillion won (7.86 billion USD) for 60 jets. It competes with the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing F-15SE and Sukhoi T50 PAK-FA (yes, the Russia’s 5th generation fighter plane, that was forced to abort take off after at MAKS 2011 air show on Aug. 21, at Ramenskoye air base, near Moscow.

Initially seen as the favorite candidate, the F-35 has been recently questioned because of the delays and the high unit cost. As reported by the Seoul Daily on Sept. 16, a high raking DAPA (Defense Acquisition Program Administration) recently said “A fighter, which is not detected by the radar system, but low in strike capability, will not be effective. We will not necessarily insist on stealth function”, a remark that undermined one of the cornerstones of Lockheed’s appearant advantage over competitors.

Competitors that didn’t miss the chance to take a picture that ridiculed the still dangerous opponent.

PS Please don’t send me tons of emails to tell me why I’m against the F-35. It’s just a humorous picture.

Spherical Flying Machine: the new low cost Japanese military ground and aerial drone (with tilt rotor-like flying capabilities)

The following video shows a brand new spherical unmanned aerial system (UAS) developed by the Japan Ministry of Defense and presented at the Digital Content Expo, held in Tokyo from Oct. 20 to 22, 2011.
Equipped with gyrosensons and wings, it can both hover and fly forward at 60 Km/h because the propeller can either generate the horizontal propulsive force to let the wings generate the lift as an airplane, or act as a helicopter’s rotor (with wings used as attitude control surfaces). So it’s not a real tilt-rotor as the MV-22 Osprey, but it offers more or less the same flying capabilities.

Noteworthy, this sort of UFO (whose weight is 350 g and diameter is 42 cm) is done of commercial parts and costs around 1.400 USD. It can bypass obstacles along on its path and, thanks to its particular shape, it can land on any surface, and move along the ground, or it can fly keeping in contact with the surface of a wall or a roof, becoming an interesting low-cost spy-machine able to perform both aerial and ground missions.