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).
The Aviationist’s photographer Giovanni Maduli was there to take the images you can find in this post.
The aircraft, belonging to the 4° Stormo, based at Grosseto, and 36° Stormo (Wing) based at Gioia del Colle – even though personnel taking part in the mission come from all the units flying the Typhoon, including the 37° Stormo based at Trapani, will join the two-seater Eurofighter that took part in the “F-35 trail,” accompanying the first Italian JSF in the type’s first transatlantic crossing.
The aircraft, divided into two flights, are supported by two KC-767A tankers from the 14° Stormo and three C-130J Super Hercules with the 46^ Brigata Aerea (Air Brigade) from Pisa.
This is the very first participation of the ItAF Typhoon fleet to the Red Flag exercise, even though the aircraft have taken part in real combat operations in Libya and have undertaken air defense duties in Iceland and the Baltic States.
The F-2000s (as the aircraft are designated in Italy) will focus in the air-to-air role during RF 16-2, employing the Typhoon’s latest software package and the HMDS (Helment Mounted Display System).
It was pretty much an Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) achievement: the aircraft was the ItAF’s first F-35, the first JSF built outside the U.S., piloted by one of the two ItAF test pilots, belonging to the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Test Wing) from Pratica di Mare, who successfully completed the training at Luke AFB in November last year, and supported by a formation made by 2x KC-767s, 2x C-130Js and 2x Typhoons, all belonging to the Italian Air Force.
11 flying hours, one stopover (in Lajes, Portugal) and 7 aerial refuelings made the crossing possible.
In this post you can find some cool photographs of the trip just released by the Italian Ministry of Defense. Noteworthy, the image below (the only one on the ground) shows the pilot performing the external checks on the F-35: you can clearly see the low-visibility 13th Gruppo (Squadron) emblem applied to the left air intake.