Category Archives: Italian Air Force

Italian Air Force F-35A Lightning II Aircraft Have Completed Their First Deployment To “Deci”

Four ItAF stealth jets have completed their first training campaign in Sardinia.

Last month, four F-35A aircraft with the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) from Amendola, in southeastern Italy, have deployed to Decimomannu airbase, in Sardinia, to undertake training activities that have lasted about two weeks.

According to what local photographers and spotters observed, the aircraft arrived on Mar. 7 and departed to return to Amendola between Mar. 22 and 23. During the same period, the local-based RSSTA (Reparto Sperimentale e di Standardizzazione Tiro Aereo – the Air Gunnery Standardization and Experimentation Unit) hosted also T-339 (MB.339), T-346 (M-346) and A-11 (AMX) jets belonging to the ItAF units involved in the periodical firing activities in the Sardinian range.

As usual when it deals with the Italy’s Joint Strike Fighter, little is known about the deployment except that the aircraft, invisible to radars but not to the eyes of locals, were there in those days. As a consequence, the type of activity conducted by the F-35s is unknown; however, since the Italian Air Force F-35 CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) stealth jets have already been declared operational in the air-to-air role lately, it’s quite likely that the JSF mainly focused in activities required to achieve the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in the air-to-ground role. “The weapon system is operating in accordance with the schedule and within the envisaged scenarios” an official source said.

One of the F-35s deployed to Deci in March 2018 about to land after a mission.

Noteworthy, whilst it was the first full-fledged F-35 deployment to “Deci”, the deployment did not mark the first landing in Deci: on Oct. 26, 2017, two F-35A Lightning II of the 13° Gruppo supported Capo Teulada’s amphibious landing (as proved by one of the videos published by the Italian MoD on the website dedicated to the JS17 exercise), before landing, for the very first time, at Decimomannu airbase.

A flight of two JSFs at the break for landing.

The photos you can find in this post were taken during the deployment by aviation photographer Alessandro Caglieri.

They might be invisible to radars, but not the eyes and lens of local aviation enthusiasts and photographers.

Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri

 

 

Italian Air Force Tornado ECR Jets Are Deployed To California To Test Their New AGM-88E Advanced Anti Radiation Guided Missile

The Italian “Tonkas” are currently deployed to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake along with four Eurofighter Typhoons and a C-27J Spartan.

A small contingent of nine Italian Air Force aircraft is currently deployed to California. Four Tornado ECR (EA-200B in accordance with the Italian MoD Mission Design Series), belonging to the 6° Stormo (Wing) from Ghedi; four Eurofighter Typhoon jets (F-2000A), belonging to the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo respectively from Grosseto, Gioia del Colle and Trapani; and one C-27J Spartan with the 46^ Brigata Aerea (Air Brigate) from Pisa, have been operating out of NAWS China Lake, California, since the end of February as part of an operation dubbed “Blazing Shield” that saw the aircraft cross the Pond via Lajes, Azores, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, accompanied by two KC-767A tankers of the 14° Stormo and a C-130J of the 46th Air Brigade that provided oceanic SAR support along the route.

The Tornado ECR jets of the 155° Gruppo (Squadron) at China Lake. The aircraft are ECR RET8 “IT Full MLU” (Credit: ItAF)

The main goal of “Blazing Shield” is the Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) of the Tornado ECR (a variant specialized in Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses missions) with the new AGM-88E AARGM (Advanced Anti Radiation Guided Missile) the a follow-on variant of the HARM (High Speed Anti Radiation Missile), the missile used for SEAD missions, developed under a US and Italian joint acquisition programme led by the US Navy. The AARGM features new software, improved ability to geo-locate and neutralize the threats thanks to a multi-mode seeker that embeds a passive radar and an active millimeter wave seekers.

The OE&T involves a joint team led by the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (RSV – Italian Air Force Test Wing) and includes two live fire events in the China Lake ranges.

As a side note, along with the AGM-88B and E, the Italian Tornado ECR can carry JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions)as part of the Tornado ECR RET8 “IT Full MLU” retrofit program. The 155° Gruppo (Squadron) has achieved the mission capability qualification with the new GBU-32 JDAMs (the same carried by the Tornado IDS), with a DEAD (Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) mission in 2016.

It’s the first time the Italian Typhoons deploy to China Lake. The Tornado ECR have been already deployed there during the first firing campaign with the AGM-88 HARM in 2002.

In addition to the activity with the “Echo”, the deployment provides an opportunity to validate and improve the self-protection capabilities of the Eurofighter, Tornado and C-27J platforms, in order to expand their ability to operate in all the theaters. During their stay in the U.S. the aircraft have also had an opportunity to perform low level sorties paying visit to the famous Jedi Transition (also known as the Star Wars canyon).

The Italian Spartan on the ramp at NAWS China Lake.

The aircraft are due to return to Italy towards the end of April.

Top image: file photo of a Tornado ECR (credit: Giovanni Maduli / The Aviationist)

Northern Italy Rocked By Double Sonic Boom As Typhoons Intercept Air France Boeing 777. Media Sent Into A Frenzy.

Two loud bangs were heard across northern Italy when two Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons accelerated through supersonic speed to intercept a civilian airliner that failed to respond to the ATC (Air Traffic Control). Routine procedure.

What we can consider a routine intercept made the news in Italy today after the loud sonic booms of two Italian jets in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) were heard across northwestern Italy. The two Eurofighter Typhoons, belonging to the QRA cell based at Istrana airbase, in northeastern Italy, were scrambled by the CAOC (Combined Air Operation Center) of Torrejon, Spain, after an Air France Boeing 777-300, registration F-GZNF and flying as AF671, failed to respond to the ATC calls. The two Typhoons intercepted the airliner near Aosta, close to the French border, managed to establish a radio contact with the crew and requested the French “wide body” to perform a 360° turn (clearly visible in the track recorded by Flightradar24) in order to verify that the aircraft was not being hijacked.

After the B777 complied with the interceptors request, the Italian Typhoons handed over the civilian aircraft to the French Air Defense and ATC, and returned home.

The route followed by AF671, with a pretty evident 360° turn performed close to the border between Italy and France. Credit: Flightradar24.com

This is not the first time a civil flight experiencing a radio failure is intercepted by the Italian Air Force QRA jets that “break” the sound barrier in the process. Supersonic intercepts are routine, when needed, all around the world. However, this morning’s incident sent the Italian media into a frenzy, especially after emergency agencies telephone switch boards started receiving reports of a large bang or “explosion” and some schools and a courthouse were even evacuated for safety reasons.

Nothing special then, just “the sound of freedom”…

 

Check Out This Interesting Video Of The Italian Typhoons At Work in Estonia During Operation Baltic Eagle

The clip shows also an “interaction” with a Russian Navy Su-30SM.

As part of the Task Force Air (TFA) 36° Stormo (Wing), four Italian Air Force Typhoons are currently deployed to Ämari Air Base, Estonia, to augment NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission. Together with the Royal Danish Air Force lead detachment at Siaullai, Lithuania, the task of the Italian Operation “Baltic Eagle” is to provide 24/7 fighter capabilities that can be launched by the CAOC at Uedem, Germany, in response to unidentified air tracks in the Baltic Region.

Since early January, the Typhoons of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) have already logged six A-Scramble (Alert Scrambles) along with several T-Scramble (T for Training) ones. The following video has been released by the Italian MoD to show the Eurofighters during their daily activities in Estonia. Along with the cool cockpit footage, there are some interesting “things” worth of note: the Russian Il-20 Coot intercepted on Mar. 2, 2018; two Su-27s escorting an Il-20 (not clear whether this is the same shadowed during the Mar. 2 mission); the joint sorties with the RDAF F-16s, the U.S. F-16 of the TSP (Theater Security Package) supporting Operation Atlantic Resolve as well as the Swedish Gripens of the FSTE (Finland Sweden Training Event); the SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) activities conducted with the Estonian An-2 and L-39 aircraft. At 00:28 you can also see some maneuvering during a close encounter with a Russian Navy Su-30SM.

This is the second time the ItAF deploy to the Baltic region to support NATO BAP mission. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 27, 2015, as part of the TFA (Task Force Air) based at Šiauliai, Lithuania, four Typhoons of the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (the three Wings that fly the Euro-canard) logged about 900 flying hours, launching for 40 A-Scrambles (Alert Scrambles) and more than 160 T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles).

As already explained in a previous post, no photograph nor footage of intercepted Russian aircraft were released during and after the 2015 detachment, even though the Italians had some really interesting close encounters with some pretty interesting aircraft, including some Tu-22 Backfire, Tu-160 Blackjack and Su-27 Flanker jets. Therefore, something has changed since then.

Two Typhoons of the TFA 36 Wing. Note the configuration that includes AIM-120 AMRAAM and IRIS-T missiles (image credit: Italian MoD)

Interestingly, while securing its national airspace and augmenting Allied Air Command’s Baltic Air Policing mission, the Italian Air Force permanently conducts Air Policing over Slovenia, and in conjunction with the Hellenic Air Force, over Albania: in total, the Italian Typhoons provide Air Policing for six NATO nations (Italy, Albania, Slovenia, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia).

Image credit: Italian MoD

The Italian F-35A Stealth Jets Declared Operational In The Air-To-Air Role

The Italian Air Force F-35A Lightning II have successfully achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in the air-to-air role.

The first Italian F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing), based at Amendola air base, in southeastern Italy, have achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability), the Italian Air Force has announced.

Since Mar. 1, 2018, the first five stealth aircraft assigned to the Aeronautica Militare have been supporting the SSSA (Servizio Sorveglianza Spazio Aereo – Air Space Surveillance Service) with a Standard Conventional Load (SCL) that includes the AIM-120C5 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) missile. This means that, if needed, the 5th generation aircraft can undertake regular QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) shifts or be diverted from a different mission to intercept and identify unknown aircraft.

An armed F-35 sits inside the shelter at Amendola Air Base. AIM-120s are housed inside the weapon bays (hence not visible). Image credit: ItAF.

Whilts the F-35 is a multirole aircraft (hence an air-to-air capability should not be too surprising) all the Italian Air Force combat planes (including Tornado and AMX fighter bombers as well as the T-346 advanced jet trainers) are required to be fully capable in the air-to-air role to support Italy’s Air Defense.

Scramble in progress!

The IOC in the air-to-air role comes after a long period of training that has seen the F-35s perform T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles) as well as joint drills with Typhoons, G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) and T-346 jets. Last year, the Italian Lightnings took part in their first national large scale drills during Vega 2017 multinational joint exercise.

ItAF F-35 about to taxi from the shelter.

In December 2016, the Italian Air Force became the very first service to take delivery of the 5th generation stealth jet outside of the U.S. The IOC in the air-to-ground role of the Italian JSF has not been declared yet.