Tag Archives: 12 Gruppo

Libyan Tu-22 Blinders: are they still operative? Satellite pictures raise question

In the previous post (Why Libyan Air Force aircraft pose a risk to Italy) I explained the reasons why Libyan fighters must be closely watched by the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF). I also suggested reading another article, titled Memories of a fighter pilot, the story of the period in which the main fears of the Italian Air Defence came from the Libyan Migs and the Tupolev wearing the red star, which flew through the Otranto Channel (Southern Adriatic Sea in front of Albania) causing the frequent Alert Scrambles of F-104s in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) service, specially those belonging to the 12° Gruppo of the 36° Stormo, based in Gioia del Colle. During those years, the ItAF pilots collected many photographic evidences of the “close encounters” (like those I published in the Zombie page) some of which involved interesting Libyan planes. For example, the following ones were taken by the 12° Gruppo on Sept. 20, 1983 (and later released by the 5° Reparto of the Italian Air Force Staff) and show some Tu-22B Blinders flying next to the Italian airspace off Otranto. The Libyan Blinders (whose exact number is not clear with data reporting from 7 to 18 planes) were supersonic bombers based at Okba Ben Nafi Air Base (currently Mitiga, prior to June 1970, known as Wheelus Air Base and used by the USAF) that were used in combat against Tanzania in 1979 and Chad in the ’80s, during the Chadian-Libyan conflict. Libyan Tu-22 pictures are extremely rare. One of the most famous, taken by a USN fighter over the Med shows a desert scheme, similar to that of the Iraqi Blinders, with the former Royal Libyan Air Force insigna (later replaced by the green roundel), that is sensibly different from those in this post which show another kind of camouflage.

Dealing with roundel, rebels have begun applying new insigna to their aircraft as the following screenshots from a BBC reportage show.

All Libyan AF Tu-22 should be retired from use now (mainly for lack of spare parts). There are no reports of active Blinders from many decades. However a quick look at Google Earth unveiled a certain number of Tu-22s (7) that, from satellite, seems to be parked and apparently serviceable at a large base near Hun, in Central Libya. The timestamp on the satellite image is July 20, 2010 and the airbase 7 months ago seemed to be full of aircraft presumed to be retired from some time, like Mig-25s and G.222s.  For instance, another Tu-22 can be identified by means of Google Earth at Benina, but it is clearly an almost abandoned example wrecked next to the airport’s fence. The question is: are any of those aircraft still operative or are they retired examples aimed at deceiving satellites hiding the actual status of the LAF?  Hmmm… I think the right answer is the second one…..

Below, the images of the airbase near Hun, Central Libya.

Some Mig-25s at the same airfield.

Below, a satellite view of the wrecked Tu-22 at Mitiga.

German Phantoms (and Italian Typhoons) in Decimomannu

A few weeks ago, in a previous post I reported about the last GAF F-4s detachment in Decimomannu airbase, Italy. Between Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, the photoreporter Giovanni Maduli went again
in Sardinia, to take some pictures of both the JG71 Phantoms and ItAF Eurofighter Typhoon deployed over there to undertake air-to-air training activities.
Noteworthy, among the Italian F-2000s there were also some examples sporting the new 10° Gruppo markings. On Jul. 1, the 10° Gruppo, equipped with the leased F-16 ADF, moved from the Trapani-based 37° Stormo, to Gioia del Colle, joining the 12° Gruppo, within the 36° Stormo.
Below, just a small selection of pictures taken in Decimomannu by Giovanni Maduli. The full selection is available at the following address: http://lowpassage.com/2010/09/07/german-phantoms-and-italian-typhoons-in-decimo/

Italian Typhoons news: new squadron and fewer aircraft

July 2010 will be remembered for being a month full of news for the Italian Typhoon fleet. First of all, on Jul. 1, the 10° Gruppo, equipped with the leased F-16 ADF, moved from the Trapani-based 37° Stormo, to Gioia del Colle, to join another Typhoon unit, the 12° Gruppo, within the 36° Stormo.
As I had already explained in my article published on April 2010 issue of Air Forces Monthly: “With the activation of the fourth Typhoon squadron at Gioia, the ItAF will achieve the following “configuration”: 4 Gruppi (comprising 1 OCU) equipped with the F-2000 based in 2 MOBs, one in Northern Italy and one in Southern Italy, respectively home of the so-called “QRA Nord” and “QRA Sud”. The original plan foresaw the conversion to the Typhoon of a fifth squadron, the 18° Gruppo, that was intended to fly the Typhoon along with 10° Gruppo from Trapani airbase. However, the uncertainty surrounding the Tranche 3 deal and the new trend of concentrating all the front line assets on a few dedicated airports to reduce the force’s dispersal and the overall management costs, persuaded the AM in 2007 to review the initial project; as a consequence, both the 18° Gruppo and its parent unit, the 37° Stormo, will be disbanded as last F-16s return to the US and Trapani will become a DOBs (Deployment Operating Bases) of the Typhoon fleet, meaning that, although it will not permanently host any active F-2000 squadrons, for the entire duration of the programme, it will maintain trained personnel and equipments to support and handle cells of temporarily deployed Eurofighters. The other DOBs of the fleet will be Grazzanise and Cervia, where the locally based 23° Gruppo of the 5° Stormo will be disbanded in 2010”.
As I explained, a few months ago, there were much doubts about the possibility that the Aeronautica Militare could ever get the last batch of 25 F-2000s of the Tranche 3B. Under Tranche 3A, by 2013, Italy will receive 21 Typhoons bringing the total to 95 (comprising 27 Trance 1 and 47 Tranche 2 examples). On Jul 21, the Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said at Farnborough, that Italy will cut its order by 25 examples (Tranche 3B) with an expected saving of 2 billion Euro. Many did not understand the choice, but I think that 95 aircraft are more than enough to equip the 4 interceptor squadrons as decided by the ItAF in 2007. For sure, at least another Air Defence squadron would ensure a better coverage of the peninsula but, with ever shrinking budgets and the need to relocate all the assets on a few bases, Tranche 3B was most probably useless. Furthermore, it must be considered that unlike other partners, that will employ the aircraft in the air-to-ground role, as I wrote in the above mentioned article: “the Italian aircraft will be only used in the air superiority role, as Italy, due to the cost associated with the envisaged upgrades required by the integration of the air-to-ground weapons, has always been skeptical about a multi-role Eurofighter. At the end of 2008, answering some questions about the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter), Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, former ItAF Chief of Staff, current Defence Chief of Staff, affirmed that: “There’s no competition or conflict between the JSF and the Eurofighter. The Eurofighter was designed for the Air Defence, a role that the aircraft is perfectly able to fulfil, but it can’t perform the attack role in an economically sustainable manner”. That vision hasn’t changed with the Tranche 3 contract signed in July 2009. In a recent interview, Gen. Giuseppe Bernardis, Air Force Chief of Staff, said that Italy did not completely rule out the use of Eurofighters for air-to-ground missions, since both T2 and T3 aircraft will have the ability to carry Paveway and JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) that are already used by the Tornado and the AMX, and will be carried in the future by the F-35s (that Italy plans to acquire in 109 examples: 69 conventional take-off and landing F-35As and 40 short take-off and vertical landing F-35Bs). Hence, the air-to-ground mission is viewed as secondary for the Typhoon; provided their ability to use the ordnance in inventory for other aircraft, the Eurofighter will be possibly be used as “back up” attack platforms until 2040“.

All the following pictures are from the Author or ItAF via Author

12° Gruppo F-2000s deployed to Trapani

The mini-airshow held in Trapani on Jun. 8, 2009 to celebrate the first 1.000 flight hours of Maj. Salvatore Ferrara and Maj. Maurizio De Angelis (to read more about the event click Part 1, Part 2) provided the opportunity to take some pictures of the Gioia del Colle F-2000s temporary deployed to Trapani to perform firing activities in the Sardinian range (Trapani is ideal for such a kind of activity since it is located on the coast and the armed aircraft can reach the ranges overflying only the sea). The aircraft belonged to the 12° Gruppo of the 36° Stormo. During the afternoon of Jun. 8, one of them suffered a minor failure during the firing activity and was compelled to return to Trapani and perform an emergency landing as one of the pictures, taken by Giovanni Maduli, shows.

Below, the last artwork by Ugo Crisponi of AVIATIONGRAPHIC.COM, showing a Typhoon with the markings of the 12° Gruppo.

A day in the life of the 36° Stormo of Gioia del Colle

After publishing the photostory named “A day in the life of the 9° Stormo of Grazzanise“, an article to provide a snapshot about the 9° Stormo and Grazzanise airbase in a day of 2003, and “A day in the life of the 5° Stormo of Cervia“, with all the pictures shot in the home of the Italian Vipers of the 23° Gruppo in Feb. 2004, I publish a new “A day in …..” photostory, with the pictures were taken at Gioia del Colle in Sept. 2004 during a 2 day visit I made to prepare an article that was published on Rivista Aeronautica (that you can read here in Italian). They are interesting because in that period, the local based 36° Stormo was made of 2 Gruppi on 3 aircraft types: the 156° Gruppo, equipped with the Tornado IDS, and the 12° Gruppo, that was returning the Tornado F.3 leased by the Royal Air Force (but was still flying them) and was converting to the SMI (Slow Movers Interceptor) role with the MB-339CD, “on loan” from the 61° Stormo (212° Gruppo).

Here just a selection of the about 250 pictures you will find in the gallery by clicking here: http://lowpassage.com/2009/03/30/36-stormo-gioia-del-colle-sept-2004/