The Italian F-2000 jets provide Interim Air Policing (IAP) for Slovenia from their homebases in Italy.
Last week, on Jul. 6, 2020, two Eurofighter Typhoon jets, belonging to the 4° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) based at Grosseto AB, were scrambled to carry out an intercept of “unknown” aircraft flying inside the Slovenian airspace. The “zombies” (as the unidentified aircraft are dubbed in the fighter pilot’s lingo) turned out to be two Slovenian PC-9M Swifts, playing the renegade/intruder role in an exercise that was conducted to validate the NATO procedures used for Interim Air Policing missions.
In fact, since Slovenia joined NATO in 2004, the Italian F-2000s (as the single seater Typhoons are designated in Italy), provide the Interim Air Policing for Slovenian airspace (jointly with the Hungarian Air Force since 2014): in case of need (usually, for COMLOSS events – loss of radio communication with the Air Traffic Control – or issues with the Diplomatic Clearance required to enter a sovereign airspace), the NATO CAOC (Combined Air Operation Center) in Torrejon, Spain, can activate the ItAF QRA (Quick Reaction Alert), that will scramble two armed aircraft whose mission is to intercept, identify and escort the traffic flying inside the Slovenian airspace. For this kind of missions, coordination with the local ATC agencies is required, hence the need for periodic tests.
As explained, during the latest training event, the Italians entered the Slovenian airspace and intercepted two Slovenian Air Force Pilatus PC-9M Swifts, also called Hudournik in Slovenia, ingle engine tandem-seat turboprop Light Attack Aircraft. The PC-9 can carry more than 1,000 kg of ammo including Mk82, AIM-9L missiles, gun pods, 2.75 inch unguided rockets in various combinations.
Stationed at Cerklje ob Krki Airbase, about 80 km to the east of Ljubljana and belonging to the 152. Letalska eskadrilja (152. LEESK, 152nd Fixed-wing Squadron) the Pilatus are primarily used for Close Air Support (CAS) missions, protection of convoys, armed reconnaissance and also SMI (Slow Mover Intercept): one Slovenian PC-9 is also on a 15-minute readiness status at Cerklje ob Krki to carry out intercept missions on slow moving targets.
Photographer Miro Majcen (@miromajcen) was aboard one of the PC-9Ms during the simulated air policing with the Italian Typhoons on Jul. 6, 2020. He took the cool shots you can find in this article along with the ones you can find on the Slovenian media outlet 24ur.com at this address, where a full report about the mission (in Slovenian language) was posted.
The PC-9s were intercepted and escorted to landing, then the Italian F-2000s headed back to Grosseto Air Base. Mission completed.
Slovenia aside, the Italian Typhoons provide IAP for Albania since 2009 (jointly with the Hellenic Air Force); for Montenegro since 2018 (jointly with the Hellenic Air Force), and regularly deploy across Europe to support NATO Air Policing (as done in Romania in 2019, Bulgaria in 2017, Lithuania, Estonia and Iceland, where the F-35s are currently stationed).
H/T to our reader and friend Aljoša Jarc for the heads-up!