Tag Archives: Aeronautica Militare

Decimomannu: winter activity and interesting visitors

Last week, Giovanni Maduli went to Decimomannu to report about the training activities performed by the aircraft deployed in Sardinia. Interestingly, he not only took some pictures of the temporary based Tornados of the 155° Gruppo and F-16s of the 37° Stormo, but he also caught some interesting visitors, as the Austrian C-130K.

Cavour aircraft carrier joins Haiti relief effort

At the time of writing, the Italian aircraft carrier Cavour, is currently cruising towards Haiti in order to assist the rescue efforts in Haiti. The ship of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) is carrying a field hospital, medical equipments, food supply, cranes, bulldozers, 4 SH-3Ds and 2 EH-101s helicopters for MEDEVAC (MEDdical Evacuation) missions, and special teams of the Carabinieri (Italian Military Police), the Esercito Italiano (Italian Army) and of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF). Before reaching the Caribbean island, the Cavour will make a stop in Brazil, to embark Brazilian military and rescue personnel destined to Haiti. “White Crane” is the first operative mission since the ship was commissioned and since its deployment will cost Italy a lot (the vessel costs some 100.000 – 200.000 Euro each day), many argued the ship was the most appropriate asset to support the relief operations. First of all, it represents a sign of Italy’s willingness to provide help to a poor country devastetad by a earthquake stronger than the one that hit Abruzzo in April 2009; second, it will showcase Italy’s latest hi-tech defense jewel at work. The Cavour will not be the only aircraft carrier supporting the multi-national rescue force: the USS Carl Vinson, a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was sent towards Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake to serve as a landing pad for a fleet of helicopters carrying emergency teams, survivors and victims. The supercarrier, carrying 19 helicopters (CH-53 and SH-60s) is outfitted with water-purifying machinery (capable of 400.000 gallons of driking water each day), dozens of hospital beds, three operating rooms and a giant flight deck that can accommodate many “external” helicopters.

Shipbucket image by MihoshiK & MConrads & Enrr

1974 memories

Recently, Jean-Luc Beghin, a Belgian Aviation Illustrator (I suggest you to visit his site: http://www.jeanlucbeghin.com/), sent me the following pictures explaining that he was looking for the names of some pilots of the 22° Gruppo of the 51° Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) who he had the opportunity to meet and invite for dinner at his house, in 1974, while they were deployed to Beauvechain, Belgium, for a Squadron Exchange. While I was unable to recognize them I thought that the pictures below could be of some interest for the F-104 and flight gears enthusiasts as they provide some details on the flight suits, patch and hats worn by the Italian pilots in the mid 70’s.

Flying with the SF-260EA

Usually, within my articles and blog posts, I tend to publish the most beautiful pictures of a particular photo-session. These, most of times, depict the aircraft with as less distubing objects (canopy mounts, wing tips, etc.). However, in some cases, pictures that don’t make the news and that are not published, are interesting as well, as they provide a different point of view and give “a taste” of what, flying an airplane looks like. The following “flight-oriented” pictures were taken by both me and Giovanni Maduli (flying in the 70-24 bird) during King flight on June 4, 2009. The article about the 70° Stormo SF-260EAs was published on Rivista Aeronautica 06/2009.

Even Predator UAVs face Information Security problems

A series of interesting articles, dealing with the interception of live video feeds broadcasted by the Predator UAVs (Unmanned Air Vehicles) operating in Iraq and Afghanistan by the local insurgents, was published today on worldwide newspapers.

Evidence of the hack was found in the insurgent’s laptops that contained video files intercepted by the aircraft’s unencrypted downlink to the ground stations. Obviously, being a live video feed from the aircraft’s on-board camera, the insurgents could only “eavesdrop” the communication between the Predator and the ground station and could not take control of the drones or interfere in some way with their flight.

Nevertheless, being able to intercept the images gave the insurgents the advantage of determining which building, roads, tents etc were under surveillance before either the aircraft or the ground troops could intervene. One might think the hack was done using sophisticated tools but according to the information released so far, the insurgents used a commercial software, SkyGrabber, from Russian company SkySoftware, that can be purchased for as little as $25.95 on the Internet. The stolen video files show once again how the most advanced military technologies can lose their effectiveness because of very well known vulnerabilities, exploited with cheap off-the-shelf code.

Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who oversees the Air Force’s unmanned aviation program, told the Wall Street Journal that some of the drones would employ a sophisticated new camera system called “Gorgon Stare,” which allows a single aerial vehicle to transmit back at least 10 separate video feeds simultaneously. But since the UAVs need to send their feeds over great distances they are subject to listening and exploitation: in other words, as we have already explained many times on this blog, Confidentiality (the attribute of Information representing the assurance that information is shared only among authorised persons) was compromised.

Since the U.S. government has known about the vulnerability since the U.S. campaign in Bosnia in the 1990s, it is clear that the Pentagon assumed the risk of data being intercepted by local insurgents or enemies, unimportant. An effective countermeasure that could prevent anybody from intercepting the video feeds is obviously encryption. Someone wondered why there are plenty of systems to encrypt radio transmissions while there’s almost nothing to encrypt video feeds. Simple: because encrypting a hi-definition video streaming is much more demanding (in terms of computational needs, hence hardware equipments) than encrypting audio.

Therefore, fixing the security hole would have caused additional costs and delays (because of the time needed for procurement, testing, implementation etc). Even the MQ-9 Reaper (whose version order by the Italian Air Force is known as Predator B), whose cost is around 10 million USD each, despite being faster, better armed and more capable than the Predator, will be subject to the same problem…an issue that will have to be fixed as soon as possible since the aircraft is already operating in Afghanistan, Iraq and it is also involved in anti-piracy combat patrols in the Indian Ocean.