The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fighter components have obtained the certification to refuel from the Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A tankers.
One of the four Italian Air Force KC-767A aircraft has completed the testing required to certify the U.S. Navy fighter component to perform AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) operations with the new tanker.
The certification activities took place at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland, home of VX-23, VX-31 and Marine Aircraft Group 14, where the Italian tanker, belonging to the 14° Stormo (Wing) Strategic Transport and Air Refueling from Pratica di Mare, deployed on Aug. 19.
According to the ItAF, the whole operation was completed in 10 weeks, six of those were focused on flight testing with U.S. Navy / U.S. Marine Corps Hornets, Super Hornets, Harriers and Prowlers.
Roughly one year ago, the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo – Italian Flying Test Unit) deployed to the U.S. with the KC-767A to carry out the first certification of a USAF tanker with stereoscopic vision system (Remote Vision System – RVS). Furthermore, in the same period, a KC-767A belonging to 8° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 14° Stormo became the first international tanker to successfully complete aerial refueling of a U.S. Air Force F-35A during a boom receiver certification refueling flight conducted over California’s High Desert region on Jul. 29, 2015.
The KC-767A is a specific variant obtained from the commercial aircraft Boeing 767-200ER “Extended Range.” Equipped with both the sixth generation flying boom (based on the one of the American KC-10), and three hose and drogue stations, the tanker is be able to refuel both aircraft equipped with onboard receptacle and those with a refueling probe.
Interestingly, whilst in a KC-135 the “boomer” (as the operator is nicknamed) is prone and moves the flying boom in the receptacle watching the receiver through a rear observation window, in the KC-767 the operators move the boom using a joystick and watching the video from a series of cameras mounted on the tanker’s rear fuselage. The advanced camera system feeds a Remote Vision System that provides high-definition stereoscopic imagery to the vision goggles attached to a sort-of flight helmet worn by the boomer during the air-to-air refueling.
Italian Tornado combat planes took part in an anti-drug mission aimed at finding a marijuana plantation not far from their homebase.
About 250 kg of cannabis were seized in northern Italy after a plantation was discovered at Quinzano, near Brescia.
Interestingly, the operation was supported by the Italian Air Force Tornado IDS aircraft of the 6° Stormo (Wing) based at Ghedi, near Brescia. The ItAF jets were in fact tasked with reconnaissance runs aimed at discovering the farm and gathering imagery that was then used by the Carabinieri (Military Police) to arrest two people involved with the plantation.
It is not the first time Italian attack planes are requested by other national agencies to perform reconnaissance missions: for instance, in the aftermath of the 6.0 earthquake that hit central Italy on Aug. 24 causing about 300 deaths, ItAF Tornados supported the relief operations collecting imagery used to map the damages to Amatrice and the nearby villages.
Reccelite imagery of Amatrice in the aftermath of the earthquake. Source: ItAF
The Tornados have already been involved in sort-of anti-drug missions abroad: from November 2008 to December 2009, the Italian jets were deployed to Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, from where they supported ISAF with reconnaissance missions: many of these were tasked with the aim of discovering opium poppy farms and depots across a country that produces more than 90% of heroin worldwide.
In “recce” role at home and in theater, the Italian aircraft carry a Rafael Reccelite reconnaissance pod: the Reccelite is a Day/Night electro-optical pod able to provide real-time imagery collection. It is made of a stabilized turret, solid-state on board recorder that provides image collections in all directions, from high, medium and low altitudes.
The Reccelite reconnaissance pod is used to broadcast live video imagery via datalink to ground stations and to ROVER (Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver) tactical receivers in a range of about 100 miles.
The Tornados have used the pod in combat not only in Afghanistan, but also in Libya and more recently in Kuwait, where the aircraft were deployed to support, with ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) missions, the air war against ISIS.
Training missions in reconnaissance role see the aircraft overflying a series of targets taking photographs that are then analysed by image interpreters: during the above mentioned mission, one of the targets was a real one, a suspected cannabis farm.
Italian Air Force fighter jock becomes fully-qualified F-35A IP at Luke AFB.
An ItAF combat pilot has recently become the first Italian F-35A IP (Instructor Pilot) with the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB, Arizona.
The Italian IP has got the qualification to train Italian and partner nations pilots on the Joint Strike Fighter through a 6-month syllabus made of two distinct classes respectively called “Transition” and “Intructor Pilot Upgrade” (IPUG).
During Transition the pilots train in various forms of flight: air-to-air combat, air-to-ground missions including SEAD/DEAD tasks (Suppression / Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses). At the end of this stage, the student IPs have gained skills to fly these missions in all-weather conditions.
During the subsequent IPUG class, the students are taught how to teach follow-on pilots to fly and fight in the F-35A. The IPUG course ends with a check ride required to achieve the IP qualification.
The syllabus has become more focused on full combat training last Spring, as the U.S. Air Force prepared to declare the F-35A Lightning II ready for war by the U.S. Air Force with the 34th Fighter Squadron based at Hill AFB in Utah (that eventually achieved the Initial Operational Capability on Aug. 2).
[For a detailed analysis of the IOC milestone, please read our report published here.]
The newly qualified Italian IP will serve in the multinational pilot training center at Luke AFB in Arizona, the world’s premier conventional F-35 training base where, under a pooling arrangement, USA, Australia, Norway and Italy, share IPs and aircraft to train new pilots and instructors within the same standardized framework.
Two Italian F-35As are already part of the “shared pool” at the airbase near Phoenix: the first one, dubbed AL-1 and serialled MM7332, the ItAF’s first F-35, the first JSF built outside the U.S., arrived in the U.S. at the end of the type’s first ever transatlantic flight on Feb. 5, 2016.Image credit: ItAF
The aircraft is a A340-500 airliner that was leased from Etihad Airways for State Flights, replacing the ageing A319CJ in service with the 31° Stormo (Wing) based at Ciampino whose task is bringing the Italian Prime Minister, the Head of State and other members of the Government in every place of the world with its specialized fleet of executive aircraft.
The aircraft does not carry the typical military registration (MM – Matricola Militare) but a rather appropriate civilian “I-TALY.”
The wide-body arrived in Italy from Abu Dhabi on Feb. 1, 2016, flying as EY8569.
We attended the tactical event that closed “Tende Scaglia 2016” exercise.
Taking place from Apr. 4 to 22, “Tende Scaglia 2016” (TS 16) was an exercise organized and managed by the 1^ Brigata Aerea Operazioni Speciali (1st Special Operations Air Brigade) of the Italian Air Force.
The MOB (Main Operating Base) of the TS 16 was Cervia airbase, on the Adriatic coast, that gathered 480 military belonging to 10 different units as well as several different assets: 2x HH-212, 2x HH-139, 1x EC-27J, 1x MC-27J and 1x HH-101.
Since the first HH-101A “Caesar” medium-lift helicopter was taken on charge by the ItAF in February 2016, the helicopter, a military variant of the AW.101 that will be used to perform personnel recovery and special forces missions, SAR (Search And Rescue) and CSAR missions, as well as medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) tasks did not actively take part in the exercise.
The last phase of the multidimensional exercise included several attacks to the base, a water supply contamination and a MEDEVAC event that The Aviationist’s reporter Pierpaolo Maglio had the opportunity to attend on Apr. 21.
The latter took place in the Italian Army range at Foce del Reno, 10-minute flight time from Cervia and started with a (simulated) suicide attack against a convoy and the subsequent explosion of a loaded truck. Immediately after the explosion, 3 VTLM (Veicolo Tattico Leggero Multiruolo – Multirole Lightweight Tactical Vehicle) Lince (Lynx) secured the zone and closing all access to the landing area with the onboard machine guns.
During this phase the MC-27J Praetorian gunship aircraft established a radio-link with the troops on the ground and called in the four MEDEVAC helicopters while an EC-27J Jedi prevented the attackers from using electronic devices to remotely detonate any Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
The MEDEVAC was carried out by 2x HH-139s from the 15° Stormo (Wing), and 2x HH-212s from the 9° Stormo followed by a last HH-139 that was first refueled on the field by the FARP (Forward Arming & Refueling Point) of the 3° Stormo and then took off again to carry the last light injured to a field hospital (Camp Giudecca).
Along with the Special Ops C-27Js from the 46^ Brigata Aerea from Pisa, the exercise was supported by some “on-demand assets”: ItAF AMX tactical aircraft and Predator UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).