Turkish Phantoms, U.S. F-16s Integrate With Italian Air Force And Navy During Poggio Dart 2023

Poggio Dart 23
Turkish Air Force F-4E 2020 Terminator launching from Istrana. (All images credit: Alessandro Fucito)

The Turkish Air Force Phantoms joined U.S. F-16s and other Italian assets for Exercise Poggio Dart 23 (PODA 23).

On Dec. 15, 2023, the two-week combined NATO exercise Poggio Dart 23 (PODA23), organized by the Deployable Air Command & Control Centre (Poggio Renatico) came to an end.

Nearly 30 aircraft of various types, took part in the drills. The DACCC deployed its Mobile Radar (DADR) from Poggio Renatico to Cervia Air Base while six US F-16s of the 31st Fighter Wing from Aviano and three Turkish Air Force F-4s of the 111 filo deployed to Istrana Air Base, in northeastern Italy, home of the 51° Stormo (Wing) of the Italian Air Force, and integrated with Italian joint assets operating from their homebases. Among them, six F-35s, six Eurofighters, four Tornados, one KC-767 tanker, one MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft from the Italian Air Force, two F-35Bs and two AV-8B Harrier jets from the Italian Navy as well as two Italian Army Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) teams.

Turkish F-4E launching for a PODA 23 sortie.
F-16 of the 31st Fighter Wing.
Italian Air Force Typhoon of the 132nd Squadron/51st Wing.

According to NATO, an average of 35 sorties per day were conducted during the second week of the exercise, the one that focused on the live flying activities (the first week was a Command Post Exercise/Computer-Assisted Exercise, testing the real-world capacity of the DACCC’s operational level). “The exercise not only confirmed the agility of the Alliance’s air power, but also its ability to deploy rapidly and effectively,” NATO Allied Air Command said in an official press release.

“PODA23 brought together participants from several NATO’s member nations, united by a common goal: to enhance interoperability and demonstrate a united front in the face of evolving geopolitical challenges,” said Major General Denny Traas, Commander, DACCC: “The comprehensive training exercise served as a powerful proof of Alliance’s commitment to cohesion and readiness, and set a remarkable standard for collaborative defence strategies,” he added.

A pair of Italian Eurofighters.

“Beyond the simulations and high-flying missions, PODA23 provided a unique opportunity for military personnel to forge bonds promoting deeper understanding across different nations,” said Colonel Damiano Spalluto, DACCC’s Public Affairs Officer. “The Media and Spotters Day at Istrana Air Base with nearly 400 photographers was a huge success. It provided a unique opportunity for Allied participants to showcase their combined joint capabilities and for journalists and aviation enthusiasts to witness, capture and report on various aircraft and flight activities”.

TuAF F-4E 2020 landing at dusk.

Among the photographers at Istrana for PODA 23 there was also our contributor Alessandro Fucito who took the photographs you can find in this article.

F-16 taking off from Istrana.

As a side note, some interesting (kill?) markings were spotted on one of the F-16s of the 31st Fighter Wing (#87-0350) operating from Istrana during Poggio Dart 23. Bird strikes?

Some unusual markings on this F-16C of the 31st FW.

Click here to read our report from last year’s edition of Poggio Dart (PODA 22).

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a 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 five books and contributed to many more ones.