Category Archives: Military Aviation

Baucau and Australia's invasion anxiety

During my recent travel to Australia I was given from Gianni, my local guide, some interesting information concerning Aussie’s fear of an invasion. He explained that at the end of the 19th century, the British colonists were afraid that Russia could attempt an invasion of the Island and built Fort Denison, in Sydney Harbour, to protect Sydney’s back door. What the guide told me (and what I later discovered by investigating WWII history on the Internet) made me think about something I was explained by an ItAF Officer back in Y2000, during E Timor crisis. He had just returned from Australia where he had joined the 46th Brigata Aerea pilots that were flying daily missions from Darwin AB to support INTERFET multi-national force. As I wrote in an article published by Air Forces Monthly (click here to read an abstract of that piece), the Italian G.222s flew daily from Darwin to E Timor, connecting the island’ small airports. One of the landing strips that were daily reached by the Italian flights was Baucau, an airport located around 1.000 meter AMSL on the Northern coast of the island. The ItAF Officer recalled that the airfield appeared “mysterious” to him: it was on a plateau and was very well camouflaged with the surroundings. He explained that another officer visiting Timor with him commented that Baucau was possibly built with the purpose of being used as a Forward Operating Base for an invasion of Australia. When he recalled this thing I didn’t give much credit to this story, since I didn’t think someone could have ever thought of invading such a large continent.
During the Crimean War, British colonists built defences to protect Sydney from a feared Russian invasion and, in 1885, a few years after Russian military ships had made a port visit in Melbourne sparking again fear of an imminent attack, Bare Island Fort was built in Botany Bay, to defend Sydney. Obviously, the airport in E Timor has nothing to do with these episodes, since it was built much later. However, the airport is linked to the Japanese plans to invade Australia, a military campaign hyphotised by officers of the Japanese Navy in 1942. Actually, Japan hadn’t enough troops to attempt a ground invasion of such a large territory and thought that the best option was to occupy all New Guinea and to attack Northern Australia by air with bombers taking off from forward airfields. The proposal was finally rejected in favour of an alternative plan to attack Midway and isolate Australia from the US but Baucau was built after the Japanese invaded Timor, to support raids on the island. Interestingly, despite not being invaded, Australia suffered (for the first and only time) a series of attacks on Sydney and Newcastle, performed by submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy between May and June 1942.

F-16 immelmann after takeoff

On the ItalianVipers forum there was an interesting discussion following a video found on Youtube showing a flight of 3 F-16s of the 23rd Gruppo, performing an Immelmann after take-off from Cervia. I suggest you reading the discussion here:

This is the video:

We found out that this kind of take off is not standard and it is made only on open days, airshows and for special guests even if it can also be considered as a sort of noise abatement procedure since it enables the 23rd Gruppo Vipers to avoid overflying a nearby village.

I was interested in this procedure so I asked Dan Canin, a Block 60 pilot at Lockheed Martin to give me more details concerning this kind of departure. This is what he wrote:


As for the Immelmann after takeoff —The F-16 can do an Immelmann in AB from any speed over about 250 kts (slower if light, faster if heavy). From an AB takeoff we can usually get to 400+ by the end of a 10kft runway, so doing an Immelmann within the confines of the runway is not really a difficult thing. I’m afraid I don’t know the exact minimum speed to start the maneuver as a function of gross weight. As for configuration, the flaps in the F-16 are actually “flaperons”, serving dual purpose as high-lift devices during takeoff and landing (gear-down) by drooping, while at the same time providing roll control. There’s no flap switch in the cockpit — the flaperons come up with the gear. At LM we don’t typically do this sort of takeoff climb. For one thing, it’s not required for noise abatement because we have clear climbout corridors on both ends of our runway and nobody’s asked us to do anything other than a normal rate climbout. For another thing, our airport underlies the DFW “Class B” airspace, which has a floor of 4000 ft msl…so we need to ask for and get clearance for an “unrestricted climb” if we want to blast through that airspace on takeoff. Having said that, on some of our test profiles it’s sensible to do a full AB Immmelmann climb after takeoff. Specifically, our functional checkflight procedures following an engine change recommend doing a maximum AB climb to “high key” (~8kft), directly overhead the field, immediately after takeoff. This maneuver puts us as quickly as possible in a position to execute a flameout approach back to the runway if there’s a problem with the new engine. I did this this past Saturday on an airplane that had just undergone an engine change. The airplane weighed 27,000 lbs at takeoff, and when I started the pull to the vertical at the end of the runway I had almost 450 KIAS. (GREAT AIRPLANE!!!) As for whether this could be done in mil power — sure, but you’d have to accelerate a lot longer to get to much higher speed before pulling up, so you’d probably be several miles off the end of the runway when you did it. 

Panoramic photography – part 3

Grazzanise 07.04.04 The famous 9-99 rests in front of a shelter in the 10th Gruppo area of the Grazzanise airport. Two AMX of the 32nd Stormo are visible on the background (see the other panoramic photo of the 2 aircraft in my previous post)

Rome 02.07.04 View of the Foro Romano from the Palatino

Grazzanise 07.12.04 37St F-16s parked in the 609 Sq. apron at Grazzanise

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 23.05.07 Sydney skyline from a boat cruising in the bay. Original pic is 12584 x 1884 pixels (13,7 MB)

Panoramic Photography

Panoramic photography is one of the great achievements of the photographer in the digital era. Stitched panoramic shots, made by series of overlapping shots joined using special software, provide views that normal lenses could not catch. After watching my works I’ve often noticed that the whole scene as seen in a panoramic picture unveiled much more details than a single shot.

Grazzanise 04.03.04  SF-260 of the 70th Stormo, deployed to Grazzanise lined-up in the 609th Squadriglia Collegamenti apron next to the Squadriglia’s AB.212AM

Grazzanise 04.03.04 A lone TF-104G of the 20th Gruppo, temporary operating from Grazzanise, sitting in the 10th Gruppo ramp

Grazzanise 07.04.04 Two AMX from Amendola, deploying to Grazzanise for firing activities inside Sardinia ranges 

Pratica di Mare 27.04.04  At the end of a training mission “Agip 25” sits in the 14th Stormo apron next to a G.222RM

Pratica di Mare 29.05.04 9 F-104s prepare for take off during Starfighter farewell

Pratica di Mare 29.05.04 F-104s line-up during on the taxyway during Starfighter reunion

Pratica di Mare 29.05.04 An F-104 of the 9th Stormo attends the Starfighter reunion

Gioia del Colle 22.09.04 One of the last Tornado ADVs of the 12th Gruppo getting out of the shelter before departing for a training mission with the Squadron’s MB-339CDs

Bangkok 13.05.07 View of the town from the Sheraton’s 21st floor

Melbourne 17.05.07 Victoria’s capital town

Kangaroo Island, South Australia 21.05.07

Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia 24.05.07

Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia 26.05.07 Sunset at Ayers Rock

Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia 27.05.07 Sunrise

Kata Tjuta, Northern Territory, Australia 27.05.07 The group of rocks also known as the Olgas and Uluru (visible on the right), sacred to the Aborigines 

Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia 27.05.07 Sunset at Ayers Rock

Why do the Frecce Tricolori fly with "blank tails"?

On March 28th 2007, the Frecce Tricolori made a flypast on Vigna di Valle museum, during the ceremony for the 84th Anniversary of the Aeronautica Militare (ItAF). The following pictures, taken there by Giovanni Maduli, show the formation flying with 5 “unmarked” aicraft, almost a record. As you can see, number 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 are flying without the distinctive yellow code on the tail. The 313° Gruppo is equipped with 15 MB.339A/PAN MLU, aircraft that (internal smoke generator system aside) differs from the version serving with the 61th Stormo, by the characteristic blue colour scheme. The big yellow numbers are ID stickers that are usually removed at the end of the airshow season when aircraft are grounded and inspected for maintenance purposes. Airframe stress is not uniformely distributed within the formation; aircraft flying along the longitudinal axis of the formation sustain minor G loads than those flying externally (the so-called “2nd wingmen”) and so they usually keep their position and corresponding number for more seasons. However they can change position (as these pictures show), to replace aircraft that suffered higher airframe stress and need some “rest”. For instance, the number “10”, flown by the solo and thus sustaining intense G forces, is replaced each year with the aircraft of the formation in better conditions. Moves happen very often and this is the reason why during the “training period” (from November to May 1st), Frecce Tricolori fly the whole formation with blank tails or with unusual numbers, like “12” or “13”.