Tag Archives: Afghanistan

75.000 flight hours for the ItAF C-130J and first C-27J delivered to the US Army

As already written in the previous post ItAF C-130J Special Colour the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) achieved 75.000 flight hours with its fleet of 22 Lockheed Martin C-130J, a record that includes the first combat missions flown in the Super Hercules and the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies. The 46^ Brigata Aerea (Air Brigade), toook the first C-130J into server in Aug 2000 and in 8 years of operations contributed to the development of the the tactics for the employment of the “J” version of the Hercules in theatre and out-of-area scenarios. The ceremony held in Pisa was attended by Lockheed Martin’s vice president for C-130J Programs, Ross Reynolds, who praised the Italian transport unit involved in missions in support of allied troops in Afghanistan as well as humanitarian missions in every corner of the World. Reynolds said: “75.000 flight hours is a tremendous achievement….you are truly the operator by which all other C-130J operators are measured”. Reynolds presented the “Quarantaseiesima” (46th) with a large scale C-130J model that will stand in the entrance to the National Training Centre in Pisa, where all the Italian C-130J aircrew and maintainers are trained. Since it was established in 2004, the centre has provided more than 800 hours of training, graduating some 150 pilots a year.
The ceremony held in Pisa comprised also an air display: 4 flypasts performed not only by the C-130J but also by the C-27J that has been deployed to Afghanistan from the end of September. In fact, two Spartans of the 98° Gruppo are currently deployed to the FSB (Forward Support Base) Herat. One of the aircraft, after a short period of familiarization will replace the C-130J currently performing intra-theatre airlift tasks in Afghanistan that have achieved some 17.000 flight hours in theatre. The second aircraft will be employed as spare. In the last year, the 7 C-27Js of the 46^ Brigata Aerea flown approximately 2000 flight hours in both operative and training missions. The deployment will help the crews to improve the operative knowledge of pilots and maintainers. Yesterday it was an important day also for the C-27J as the first Spartan was delivered to the US Armed Forces in Waco, Texas (following picture courtesy Alenia Aeronautica).

The aircraft is the first of 78 C-27J that were ordered last year within the 2.04 billion dollar contract for the Joint Cargo Aircraft. The C-27J JCA is the greatest export success ever obtained for an aircraft designed and manufactured in Italy, that was delivered to the customer both on time and on budget. The contract for the supply of 78 C-27Js was signed on the Jun 13, 2007. The US Armed Forces envisage the acquisition of 145 airplanes 75 of which will be for the US Army and the remaining 70 for the US Air Force, with an total forecast of 207 aircraft within 10 years, with an estimated value of 6 billion dollars. The JCA maiden flight took place on Jun 18 2008 at the Flight Test Center of Alenia Aeronautica’s Caselle plant. The aircraft flew over the Atlantic, performing stopover in Iceland and Canada and reaching the USA in mid August for the integration of some specific components required by the US Army. The second C-27J JCA (civil registration I-RAIF) will reach Waco in the next days.
Below, some more pictures of the 75.000 flight hours ceremony, taken by Matteo Marianeschi in Pisa on Oct. 15 2008.

AB.212 emergency landing

According to a brief news published by the ecodicaserta.it website, on Jul 17, an AB.212 of the 9° Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare, performed an emergency landing near Mondragone after experiencing an engine fire. The aircraft, belonging to the 21° Gruppo, landed in a field and the crew escaped safely. No damages to the helicopter have been reported.

Even if it is not clear if the aircraft was an AB212AMI-SAR or one of the 5 AB.212ICO (Implementazione Capacità Operative) of the squadron, as 3 of them are currently deployed in Afghanistan to support the Italian contingent within the Kabul AOR (Area Of Responsibility) performing recce, transportation, MEDEVAC and CASEVAC missions, it is possible that the chopper involved is the AB.212ICO MM81375 “Special Colour” that was not deployed to Kabul. The helicopter, wearing tiger markings, took part to the last Tiger Meet in Landivisiau at the end of June and was recently spotted near Pratica di Mare.

Here are some pictures of the AB212 operated by the 21° Gruppo.

The Italian Tornado fleet reorganises

With the arrival of a formation of 10 Tornado IDS of the 156° Gruppo in Ghedi on Jul. 1, the relocation that was described in a previous post on this site (http://cencio4.wordpress.com/2008/06/14/italian-tornados-relocation/) officially took place. The 156° joined the 102° OCU and the 154° Gruppo within the 6° Stormo, that for the moment will keep the status of “Stormo” not becoming an “Aerobrigata” (a flight unit with more than 2 Sqns). According to the information released by the Aeronautica Militare on its official website, the Operational Conversion Unit will keep its training role, even if it was speculated it could merge with the 154° Gruppo. Noteworthy, according to the same news release, the TASMO role, historically assigned to the 156° Gruppo (whose task was also the maritime support because of its strategic position in Southern Italy), should be relieved by the 154° Gruppo, while the “Recce” role, could be taken on charge by the 156°. It would be very strange, since TASMO and Reconnaissance are different missions which require years of specific training and can’t be swapped quickly. In my opinion, the things will remain as they are now and both Sqns will keep their current specialities.
The “Tonkas” of the 156° Gruppo arrived in their new base from Gioia del Colle with the escort of 2 F-2000 Typhoon of the 12° Gruppo (the other unit of the Gioia-based 36° Stormo) and were welcomed by a flight of 2 Tornado of the 6° Stormo. With 3 Sqns on a MOB (Main Operating Base) and a flight line of around 30 aircraft, Ghedi represents one of the most interesting and active airbases in Italy. However, for the moment at least, it will not be the only Tornado base in Italy since the ECRs of the 155° Gruppo will remain in Piacenza, home of the 50° Stormo (even if they were recently compelled to move to Cameri because of the works interesting their homebase).

The following pictures, courtesy of the Italian Air Force Press Office, shows the 10 ship formation of the 156° Gruppo flying to Ghedi on Jul 1 2008.

In the meanwhile, the Italian Ministry of Defense, visiting the Italian contingent in Herat and Kabul confirmed the possible deployement of the Tonkas in Afghanistan. As La Russa explained, currently, the German and British detachments provide the reconnaissance and they would like Italy to share the effort in the “recce” mission. According to the MOD such a request is reasonable even if the final decision to deploy the aircraft must be taken by the whole Italian Government and has to take into account also the economic effort required by a temporary deployment overseas. As reported by the ANSA news agency, a 3 months deployment of a cell of 4 Tornados could cost up to 15 milion Euro.

Italian Tornados relocation (and possible deployment to Afghanistan)

In these days, two movements seem to interest the Italian Tornado fleet.

The first one was announced many months ago and it is part of a project of rationalization of the ItAF resources, a plan that foresees to concentrate homogeneous fleets on the same bases.

It deals with the transfer of the 156 Gruppo aircraft, currently located in Gioia del Colle and belonging to the 36 Stormo, to Ghedi. The Tonkas wearing the Lynx badge will join the 154 Gruppo and 102 OCU of the 6 Stormo, thus creating a Tornado IDS MOB (Main Operating Base).

Piacenza will remain the only other base hosting the Tonka, even if the type of aircraft equipping the 50 Stormo’s 155 Gruppo is the ECR version, used for SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) mission.

By next July, all the 156 Gr aircraft and crews will return to Ghedi 42 years after they moved in the opposite direction in 1966, when the Squadron left the 6 Aerobrigata to be annexed to the 36 Stormo.

The other possible relocation was hypothesised by the Italian MOD Ignazio La Russa during the NATO Council meeting in Bruxelles on June 13. Even if nothing has been decided yet, the Ministry explained that the deployment of the Tornado could be evaluated if demanded by the other allies to relieve the six German Tornados used for reconnaissance in Southern Afghanistan.

The GAF planes have been operating under NATO command from Apr 9 from Mazar-e-Sharif, a forward base in Northern Afghanistan. The aircraft are used for “recce” missions and equipped with high-tech cameras and provide hi-rez images providing additional security for both the ISAF troops and civilian population. This would be the same task of the Italian Tornados.

The 154 Gruppo has recently received its new Reccelite pod and has performed the first reconnaissance mission with the new equipment on Mar 13.

The Rafael Reccelite is a Day/Night electro-optical pod able to provide real-time imagery collection. It is made of a stabilized turret, Solid-state on board recorder that provides image collections in all directions, from high, medium and low altitudes and can transmit to a ground station the collected data in real-time via data-link. The Reccelite was integrated with the Tornado with the cooperation of the Alenia Aeronautica and the Reparto Sperimentale Volo, at Pratica di Mare and can be used to provide imagery of suspected Taliban positions in Afghanistan.

Since reconnaissance is one of the duties of the 154 Gruppo, which flew recce missions also on the Balkans and in case of national calamities, this Squadron is most probably the one destined to operate in Afghanistan should the need arise. In 2006, the possible deployment of the 51 Stormo AMX Ghiblis to Afghanistan was speculated; Ministry La Russa clearly explained that the only option under evaluation these days doesn’t foresee the involvement of Ghibli.