Category Archives: Italian Air Force

The Italian Air Force Predator A+ Drones Appear With Brand New Markings At New Squadron Activation Ceremony

The Italian Air Force Predator A+ of the 32° Stormo (Wing) appear with new markings.

On Jul. 10, the Italian Air Force announced the reactivation of the 61° Gruppo (Squadron), disbanded in 1943, at Sigonella airbase, in Sicily, that will operate the MQ-1C Predator A+ UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) as a detached unit of the 32° Stormo, headquartered at Amendola, southeastern Italy.

The drones, piloted by aircrews coming from the 28° Gruppo and supported by ground crews of the 41° Stormo, based at Sigonella, will reinforce the Italian surveillance capabilities in southern Italy.

The new squadron will complement the other squadron of the 32nd Wing, the 28° Gruppo also based at Amendola, that already operates a mixed force of MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Predator A+ drones that are used to undertake a wide variety of tasks: along with the standard ISR (intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions, the Italian Predators have supported MEDEVACs (Medical Evacuations), TIC (Troops In Contact) operations, IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring, Convoy Escort in Iraq and Afghanistan; they have supported Operation Unified Protector in Libya, Mare Nostrum operation in the Mediterranean Sea near Lampedusa (where they have monitored the migratory flows and consequent tragic ship wreckage off the island) and, from Djibouti, have monitored the seas off the coast of Somalia in anti-piracy missions. They are also currently deployed in Kuwait to support the US-led anti-ISIS operation in Syria and Iraq. Leveraging their persistence on the target area, the drones have also supported Police forces during major events.

Noteworthy, the photos of the 61° Gruppo reactivation ceremony posted by the Italian Air Force on social media exposed an interesting detail.

Indeed, for the very first time, the Predators belonging to the 32° Stormo appear to sport the standard Wing’s livery that includes the aircraft code 32-xx on the fuselage and the Wing’s emblem, the Hawk, on the the tails.

One of the Italian MQ-1C Predator A+ drones sporting the individual code 32-33.

With the addition of the new markings, the Predators of the 61° and 28 ° Gruppo will now feature the same kind of markings worn by the F-35A Lightning II aircraft of the 13° Gruppo of the 32° Stormo, Italy’s first JSF squadron that has recently celebrated its 100th anniversary (with special tail markings.)

Close up view of the Hawk applied to the tails of the Predator.

Image credit: ItAF

Salva

Salva

Up Close And Personal With The Italian Typhoon Jets Deployed To Bulgaria Under NATO’s Enhanced Air Policing

Four Italian Typhoons have deployed to Bulgaria to bolster NATO’s Air Policing mission in the Black Sea region.

Four Italian Air Force F-2000A Typhoon jets have deployed to Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, to undertake the NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission from July until October 2017.

The Italian Typhoons belong to the 4° Stormo (Wing) of Grosseto, 36° Stormo from Gioia del Colle and the 37° Stormo from Trapani even though, as always happens when involved in real operations, the Italian aircrews will operate as part of a Task Force where, regardless of the unit, badges and traditions (all the squadrons involved in the deployment have recently celebrated their centenary…) all personnel, aircraft and equipment are completely integrated and interchangeable, thanks to fully standardized procedures and training.

The Italian rotation to Bulgaria will overlap until September with the RAF detachment of four Typhoons deployed to Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in Romania as part of the same Southern Air Policing mission.

Following a familiarization phase, the Italian team will undergo certification by NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Torrejon, Spain before providing Air Policing tasks alongside the local Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum jets.

The Italian F-2000As on the ramp at Graf Ignatievo Air Base.

A Bulgarian Air Force Fulcrum taxies next to the Italian Typhoons.

Since Bulgaria “is perfectly able to conduct NATO Air Policing with its assets; this enhanced Air Policing capability offered by the Italian jets provides the CAOC with more flexibility to conduct the mission.”

This is the first time the Italian Typhoons take part in the NATO’s Enhanced Air Policing mission in the Black Sea area: so far the ItAF “Tiffies” have supported the Icelandic (in 2013 and earlier this year) and Baltic (in 2015) while supporting the Interim Air Policing task over Slovenia (task shared with the Hungarian Air Force) and over Albania (task shared with the Hellenic Air Force).

Typhoon’s rear view.

One of the ItAF Typhoons parked at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, after its arrival on Jul. 7.

Breaking for landing

“While Air Policing is a collective peacetime task to ensure integrity and security of NATO airspace, the enhanced Air Policing was agreed and implemented by NATO Allies at the Wales Summit in 2014 under the Assurance Measures. These measures are aimed at assuring Allies along the NATO’s eastern flank of Alliance commitment and resolve as well as deterrence and defence,” said NATO in an official release about the deployment.

The images in this post were taken by Nikolay Dimov at Graf Ignatievo as the Italians landed to support the Air Policing task in Bulgaria on Jul. 7, 2017.

Two of the four IRIS-T air-to-air missiles carried by the Italian Typhoons in Bulgaria.

Typhoon head on: take a look at the loadout.

Image credit: Nikolay Dimov

 

Salva

Check Out The Four Italian Eurofighter Typhoons In New, Stunning Special Color Schemes

Four F-2000A Typhoon jets, each wearing a unique special livery, were unveiled on Jun. 24 at Grosseto airbase.

As already reported, on Saturday Jun. 24, Grosseto airbase hosted the event that celebrated the 100th anniversary of five Italian Air Force squadrons: the IX Gruppo (9th Squadron, using the Roman numerals), belonging to the 4° Stormo (Wing), based at Grosseto; the X and XII Gruppo (10th and 12th Squadron), both belonging to the 36° Stormo, Gioia del Colle; the XIII Gruppo (13th Squadron), with the 32° Stormo from Amendola; and the XVIII Gruppo (18th Squadron), belonging to the 37° Stormo, based at Trapani.

Along with the world’s first ever F-35A with special tail markings presented by the XIII Gruppo, the IX, X, XII and XVIII, that fly the Eurofighter Typhoon, unveiled their special colored F-2000A jets.

The IX Gruppo special, MM7340/4-9, was designed by Silvano Mainini and Andrea Scomparin (who are also behind many other famous paint jobs including the special liveries of the last Grosseto F-104 Starfighters back in 2003). It sports the squadron’s white rearing horse and “9” squadron number on the left hand side of the tail and the horse and IX numeral on the right one.

The IX Gruppo special landing at Grosseto on Jun. 25, 2017. (image credit: The Aviationist’s Alessandro Fucito)

The left hand side of the MM7340/4-9 (image credit: The Aviaitonist’s Alessandro Borsetti)

The X Gruppo special, MM7341/36-10 was designed by Lt. Giovanni D’Antonio and features Francesco Baracca’s black rearing horse along with a red “Picca” (pike – from the unit’s radio callsign).

The X Gruppo special: MM7341/36-10 (credit: Alessandro Fucito)

The “Picca Special” prepares to land on Sunday Jun. 25 after taking part with all the other specials, including the F-35, in the Marina di Grosseto airshow (credit: Alessandro Fucito)

MM7318/36-12, the XII Gruppo special jet was designed by our friend Ugo Crisponi and features the rearing horse on a sand background, along with the silhouettes of all the aircraft flown by the squadron since 1917.

The special 36-12 about to land in Grosseto (credit: Alessandro Fucito)

Another view of the MM7318/36-12. This photo was taken as the aircraft arrived in Grosseto on Friday Jun. 23, 2017 (image credit: The Aviationist’s Giovanni Maduli).

The XVIII Gruppo special colored Typhoon MM7293/37-18, once again made by Mainini and Scomparin, has a different scheme on the right and left side of the tail: the right one shows the “Vespa Arrabbiata” (Italian for Angry Wasp) of the 3° Stormo to which the squadron belonged during WWII; the left side shows the XVIII numeral superimposed to the typical green and black checkerboard.

The MM7293/37-18 on the ground at Grosseto during the centenary celebrations (credit: Alessandro Borsetti)

This photo of the 37-18 shows the livery on the right hand side of the aircraft (credit: Alessandro Fucito)

As the photos in the post show, all the aircraft had the airbrake and canards painted as well.

In a world of military aviation dominated by overall grey paint schemes, some colour is much appreciated by enthusiasts, photographers and spotters!

 

Salva

Salva

Here Are The World’s First F-35A Lightning II Stealth Aircraft With Special Tail Markings

Two Italian Joint Strike Fighters were given special tail markings to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 13° Gruppo.

On Saturday Jun. 24, 2017, the Italian Air Force celebrated the 100th anniversary of five of its most famous combat squadrons: the IX Gruppo (9th Squadron, using the Roman numerals), belonging to the 4° Stormo (Wing), based at Grosseto; the X and XII Gruppo (10th and 12th Squadron), both belonging to the 36° Stormo, Gioia del Colle; the XIII Gruppo (13th Squadron), with the 32° Stormo from Amendola; and the XVIII Gruppo (18th Squadron), belonging to the 37° Stormo, based at Trapani.

During a event, held at Grosseto and gathering personnel from all the centenary units, each of the five squadrons unveiled aircraft in special color scheme. Therefore, whilst the IX, X, XII and XVIII, flying the Eurofighter Typhoon, unveiled their special colored F-2000A jets (that we will cover in an upcoming post), the XIII, Italy’s first JSF unit, displayed an F-35A aircraft with special tail markings (on the left hand tail only).

Although not the standard tail markings, the still rather simple celebratory markings include the Italian flag along with a large 13° Gruppo’s emblem, Don Quixote, with the addition of a “100” number and the dates 1917-2017.

The detail of the special markings applied to the ItAF F-35As.

Here are the “standard” markings worn by the Italian F-35A: the Stormo badge along with the individual 32-xx code (credit: ItAF)

Actually, the tail markings have been applied to two aircraft, the MM7336/32-05 and the MM7357/32-07, that flew to Grosseto alongside the MM7337/32-13 on Friday Jun. 23, at the end of the Italian Air Force’s first three-ship F-35 mission.

MM7336/32-05 with the special markings on the left vertical tail.

As already reported, on Dec. 12, 2016, Italy received its first two F-35A Lightning II, becoming the very first country to take delivery of the 5th generation stealth jet outside of the U.S. in what was just one of the several “firsts” scored by the Italian Air Force with the JSF: on Dec. 3, 2015, the Italian Air Force welcomed the first F-35A assembled and delivered outside the U.S. at the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.

Then, on Feb. 5, 2016 in the hands of an ItAF test pilot, an Italian F-35 successfully completed the type’s very first transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. More recently, the first F-35B assembled internationally has rolled out of Cameri FACO.

Considered that the previous JSF in special color tails or high visibility markings were either B or C models (and mostly prototypes), those unveiled by the 13° Gruppo on Jun. 24 are, to our knowledge (and if we missed any previous “special” Lightning CTOL variant let us know) the very first operative F-35As in special tail markings. Another Italian first with the 5th generation aircraft.

One of the Italian F-35s taking off from Grosseto. This is the flagship aircraft of the 13° Gruppo belonging to the 32° Stormo (hence the code 32-13). Image credit: The Aviationist’s Giovanni Maduli.

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

First F-35B Assembled Internationally Rolled Out of Cameri FACO Production Facility

It’s the first F-35B assembled outside of the U.S.

On May. 5, the first F-35B, the Short Take-Off Vertical Landing variant of the the F-35 Lightning II, destined to the Italian Navy, rolled out of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.

The aircraft, designated BL-1, is the first F-35B assembled internationally. It is expected to perform its first flight in late August and will be delivered to the Italian MoD in November 2017. After a series of “confidence flights” from Cameri, an Italian pilot will fly the first F-35B jet to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, early in 2018 to conduct required Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification. The next Italian F-35B aircraft is scheduled for delivery in November 2018.

According to a Lockheed Martin release, besides the first B example, two Italian F-35A aircraft will be delivered from Cameri this year, the first by July and the second in the fourth quarter. To date, seven F-35As have been delivered from the Cameri FACO; four of those jets are now based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for international pilot training and three are at Amendola Air Base, near Foggia on the Adriatic coast. With these aircraft based in Italy and flown by the 13° Gruppo, the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) has already flown more than 100 flight hours.

In spite of a very low profile on the subject, Italy has achieved some important results with the F-35.

On Dec. 3, 2015, the ItAF welcomed the first F-35 at the Cameri FACO. That aircraft was also the first assembled and delivered outside the U.S.

On Feb. 5, 2016 the first Italian Air Force F-35, successfully completed the type’s very first transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. On Dec. 12, 2016, the Italian Air Force became the first service to take delivery of the first operational F-35s outside the United States.

“Italy is not only a valued F-35 program partner that has achieved many F-35 program ‘firsts’, but is also a critical NATO air component force, providing advanced airpower for the alliance for the coming decades,” Doug Wilhelm, Lockheed Martin F-35 Program Management vice president, said at the event for the roll out of the first F-35B. “Italian industry has participated in the design of the F-35 and Italian industry made components fly on every production F-35 built to date.”

The Italian FACO, a 101-acre facility including 22 buildings and more than one million square feet of covered work space, housing 11 assembly stations, and five maintenance, repair, overhaul, and upgrade bays, is owned by the Italian Ministry of Defense and is operated by Leonardo in conjunction with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. According to Lockheed, 800 skilled personnel are engaged in full assembly of the Conventional Take-off/Landing F-35A and F-35B aircraft variants and is also producing 835 F-35A full wing sets to support all customers in the program.

The Cameri FACO has the only F-35B production capability outside the United States. It will assemble the 60 Italian F-35As and 30 F-35Bs (for a total of 90 aircraft to be procured by the Italian Air Force and Navy), will build 29 F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and was selected in December 2014 as the European F-35 airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade center for the entire European region.

In spite of some initial internal criticism and threatened cuts, F-35s will replace the Italian Air Force ageing Tornado and AMX attack planes and the Italian Navy AV-8B aircraft.

Image credit: LM