Italian Eurofighter Typhoons Scramble To Intercept US-Registered Beech King Air During COMLOSS Incident

Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons QRA
Two F-2000A jets of the 51° Stormo. (Image credit: Author)

The Italian Air Force Typhoons in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) were launched to intercept a U.S.-registered aircraft experiencing loss of radio comms with the Air Traffic Control.

Two Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) service at Istrana Air Base, Italy, were scrambled to respond to a COMLOSS incident, on Apr. 3, 2021.

The F-2000A jets belonging to the 51° Stormo (Wing) and assigned to the 132° Gruppo (Squadron) took off around 14.10LT to intercept a Beech B200GT King Air, registration N130JF on its way from Athens to Zurich, which had failed to respond to the calls of Padova ACC, the local ATC (Air Traffic Control) agency, as it overflew northeastern Italy at FL260, 245 knots, heading NW towards the Austrian airspace.

According to the Italian Air Force, the F-2000As (as the single-seat Eurofighter Typhoon is designated in Italy) reached the “zombie” (as the aircraft to be identified is dubbed in the fighters community) in the area north of Bolzano; they carried out a VID (visual identification) procedure to ensure that there were no emergency conditions nor evident security threats. After all the required checks were carried out and the Beech had restored radio contact with the ATC, the fighters returned to their homebase at Istrana.

Interestingly, some more details about the US registered aircraft have been disclosed (thanks to Emiliano Guerra for the heads up!): the King Air was on delivery from Sydney, Australia, to Sao Paulo, Brazil. The aircraft’s registration is provisional, as it has been reserved the registration PS-FAV.

Here below you can find the photos of the two F-2000s (taken by our friend Simone Gazzola) as the jets they landed back at Istrana AB after the QRA launch (note, one of the aircraft sports the markings of the 4° Stormo based at Grosseto).

F-2000 of the 51st Wing landing at Istrana after the QRA launch. (Image credit: Simone Gazzola).
One of the Typhoons involved in the scramble on Apr. 3, 2021, sported the markings of the 4th Wing. (Image credit: Simone Gazzola).

COMLOSS events are pretty frequent in Europe and all around the world and often cause the QRA cells to scramble. According to NATO Allied Air Command, loss of communications of civilian airliners with civilian air traffic controllers is the main reason for the Alliance to launch alert fighter aircraft. The vast majority of these incidences are caused by human error. In 2018 alone, the Allied Air Command via the Combined Air Operation Centres (CAOCs) received more than 900 reports from the Nations’ about COMLOSS incidents. Allied interceptors were launched in almost one tenth of the incidents.

COMLOSS incidents are extremely serious since controllers are unable to distinguish between simple communication failures and potentially dangerous reasons.

The route of N130JF. (Image credit: Flightradar24.com)

Back to the latest event, it’s worth remembering that the Eurofighter Typhoon assigned to the 132° Gruppo have started supporting the SSSA (Servizio Sorveglianza Spazio Aereo – Air Space Surveillance Service) providing QRA again, after 22 years since last time with the F-104 Starfighter, in April 2020. The squadron, that is also flying the last AMX A-11 Ghibli light attack aircraft have received the Eurofighter Typhoons sporting 51-xx codes in November 2019.

Along with the 132° Gruppo at Istrana, these are the ItAF units flying the Typhoon:

  • 9° Gruppo and 20° Gruppo OCU, with the 4° Stormo at Grosseto AB
  • 10° and 12° Gruppo, with the 36° Stormo at Gioia del Colle AB
  • 18° Gruppo, with the 37° Stormo, at Trapani.
Two Typhoons of the 132° Gruppo. Therefore, until the AMX ACOL aircraft is retired, the 132° Gruppo will operate two fleets: the Eurofighter Typhoon in the Air Defense role, and the AMX, whose main missions are attack, reconnaissance and CAS (Close Air Support). (Image credit: Author)

 

About David Cenciotti 4401 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.