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).
Taken on Nov. 7 by The Aviationist’s contributor Estelle Calleja, the following images show winching training conducted by an Italian Air Force AB.212 (MM81158) at Melieha, in the nortwestern part of Malta.
The Italian chopper is one of the two assets permanently based at Malta to support the local SAR (Search And Rescue) service with mixed aircrews (Italian and Maltese).
Dating back to 1973, the military cooperation between Italy and Malta includes pilot and pararescuemen training.
Last month, Sardinia Island, Italy, was hit by a tornado, dubbed “Cleopatra” that cost the life of 16 people including 4 children.
Aircraft, helicopters and personnel belonging to all the Italian Armed Forces and Corps joined the relief efforts throughout the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
Among the units called to support the rescue operations there was also the 670^ Squadriglia, based at Decimomannu airbase, with its AB-212 helicopter.
The 670^ Squadriglia is tasked with Search And Rescue and its crews daily train to undertake these missions in the mountains or (considered the location of the base on an island), more frequently, at sea.
In Summer 2013, The Aviationist was invited to take part in a training mission in the Gulf of Cagliari. Alessandro Caglieri and Gian Luca Onnis boarded the AB.212 helicopter and shot the images and footage of the helicopter winching ops.
Image credit: Gian Luca Onnis and Alessandro Caglieri
The 21° Gruppo is one of the most famous squadrons of the Italian Air Force: formerly belonging to the 53° Stormo at Cameri, it has been a member the NATO Tiger Association since 1968. The squadron moved to Gioia del Colle on Mar. 1, 1999, and operated within the 36° Stormo until Mar. 1, 2001, when it was disbanded. The squadron was officially reactivated on Mar. 23, 2006 within the 9° Stormo at Grazzanise, with the aim to create a deployable flying unit able to perform a large variety of combat duties:
MEDEVAC (MEDical EVACuation) and CASEVAC (CASualties EVACuation)
Personnel Recovery: CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue), NEO (Non-combatant Evacuation Operations) and HRO (Humanitarian Relief Operations)
Special Operations insertion/extraction
Short range transportation
Most of the above mentioned missions were flown during the several Tours of Duty in Afghanistan that have seen the 21° Gruppo’s AB.212s (UH-1N in the US designation; UH-212ICO according to the Italian Mission Design Series) operating in support of the ISAF (International Security and Assistance Force) multinational force.
Since 2005, the Squadron is equipped with the AB.212ICO (Implementazione Capacità Operative – Operational Campabilities Implementation) a retrofitted version of the previous AMI-SAR model that will be employed until 2014-2015, when it is expected to be replaced by the new AW-101 CSAR helicopter. The AB.212ICO is equipped withECDS-1 Flares dispensers for self-protection from IR-guided missiles and two MG 42/59 caliber 7.62 mm NATO machine guns on both sides of the fuselage. It wears an armored cockpit and fuselage to protect the 2 pilots and 2 gunners from small arms; noteworthy, the rudder area, vulnerable to bullets shot from the ground because of the observation windows, has been shielded with 3 inches of kevlar. The helicopter cruise speed is 90 – 100 KIAS.
The 9° Stormo, currently commanded by Col. Marino Francavilla, a pilot with 2,400 flying hours and a huge combat experience with helicopters in Somalia, Kosovo and Iraq, belongs to the 1^ Brigata Aerea Operazioni Speciali (1st Special Operations Air Brigade). Also belonging to the 9° Stormo since 2009 is the Air Riflemen Group, whose duty is to provide force protection, NBC defense, EOR (Explosive Ordneance Recognition) and EOD (Explosive Ordnance Deactivation), both at home and on deployment, within PSO (Peace Support Operations). The unit is currently deployed to Herat, where it ensures the protection of the local Forward Support Base.
The Air Riflemen Group is made of around 100 soldiers equipped with the standard assault rifle Beretta SCP 70/90 cal. 5.56mm, that will soon be replaced by the Beteretta ARX160, along with other firearms (sniper rifles, combat shotguns, guns). The unit has also some VTLM Lynx vehicles, with mounted Browning cal. 12.7 mm or Minimi cal. 5.56 machine guns.
Much of the training activities take place at Grazzanise airbase, where the Air Riflemen operate with the 21° Gruppo and where we were invited to attend an Afghanistan-type operation involving both the rotary wing and the special forces of the 9° Stormo on Oct. 3, 2011: MEDEVAC needed to rescue a Rifleman wounded while securing a bridge located inside an insurgent-controlled area.
Giovanni Maduli took the following images.
I wish to thank Col. Marino Francavilla, Capt. Cristoforo Russo, and the ItAF PIO for giving us the opportunity to visit Grazzanise airbase during the SOF event.
The first Italian aircraft to be deployed in Afghanistan has been a Bell UH-1N Twin Huey helicopter in a version built under license by Agusta and designated AB-212. Both the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) and the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) have been called to support ISAF (International Security and Assistance Force) multinational force with the AB.212, that can fulfil a wide variety of tasks, from MEDEVAC, to reconnaissance, to personnel transportation, to special forces ops.
The 21° Gruppo of the Italian Air Force has conducted several Tour of Duty in Afghanistan. Since 2005, it is equipped with the AB.212ICO (Implementazione Capacità Operative – Operational Campabilities Implementation) a retrofitted version of the previous AMI-SAR model that was upgraded in anticipation to the deployment to Kabul and surrounding areas, where the high-altitude environment is not suitable with the other CSAR helicopter in ItAF inventory, the old fashioned HH-3F that suffered a tragic incident in 2008. The AB.212ICO is equipped with two manually activated Flares dispensers for self-protection and can carry two MG 42/59 caliber 7.62 mm NATO machine guns on both sides of the fuselage. It wears an armored cockpit and fuselage to protect the 2 pilots and 2 gunners from small arms; noteworthy, the rudder area, vulnerable to bullets shot from the ground because of the observation windows, has been shielded with 3 inches of kevlar.
The new outfit has cost the aircraft half of its original endurance, currently limited to 1 hour and 40 minutes, and the increased weight, in Afghanistan, at an average height of 7.000 feet AMSL (Above Mean Sea Level), with ground temperature often above 40° Celsius, makes the AB.212 unable to recover a survivor from the ground with the hoist.
To board people, the Twin Huey has to land. A minor problem as the following pictures taken by Capt. Giacomo Andreotti at 9,100 feet, on top a mountain in central Italy, during a routine mission of the 21° Gruppo a proud member of the NATO Tiger Association, based at Grazzanise.
High-altitude can be tricky for rotary wings: first, because of the loss of engine power; second for the loss of rotor lift caused by the thin air. That’s why helicopters suitable for high altitudes need plenty of excess power that can be spent to overcome the reduced lift and engine performance.
The AB.212 will be employed until 2014-2015 when it is expected to be replaced with a CSAR version of the AW-101.
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