Tag Archives: AMX

“During A CSAR Mission We Integrated With Puma Helicopters and Su-25 Attack Planes”: A-10 Pilots Recount Their Warthog Experiences

A-10 Thunderbolt II Pilots Speak About The Warthog They Fly Over Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and Eastern Europe.

Dubbed Warthog, Hog or just Hawg, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the “airplane built around the GAU-8 Avenger 30-mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type cannon” to fight the Soviet tanks in the European battlefields during the Cold War, is considered one of the most durable and lethal combat plane in the CAS (Close Air Support) mission.

We have discussed the current capabilities of the Warthog with two 74th Fighter Squadron “Flying Tigers” pilots from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia: Lt. Col. Bryan T. France, Former Commander, and “Pinna” an Italian Air Force exchange pilot. Indeed, thanks to the Military Personnel Exchange Program, the U.S. Air Force has the opportunity to swap service members with an allied nation military: for this reason, whilst “Pinna”, from an AMX A-11A Ghibli experience with the 132° Gruppo (Squadron), flies with the 74th FS, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Joe “Slap” Goldsworthy, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with more than 2,700 flight hours of experience, is assigned to the 132° Gruppo and flies the Ghibli (even in combat).

Here below you can find an excerpt of the interviews both pilots gave to The Aviationist during the preparation of “BRRTTTT….deployments, war chronicles and stories of the last A-10 Warthogs” an ebook that we have just released (for details and how to buy at a very special price click here; BTW, we have also released a paperback version here).

Italian exchange pilot Roberto Manzo, 74th Fighter Squadron training assistant, prepares to taxi to the runway, Aug. 25, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Manzo is working to master flying the A-10C Thunderbolt II in hopes of returning to Italy as an instructor pilot for the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

Lt. Col. Bryan T. France, Former Commander, 74th Fighter Squadron

Can you provide some details about the 74th FS?

The 74th Fighter Squadron is a combat-coded A-10C unit ready to support our operations with the best Close Air Support, Forward Air Control (Airborne), and Combat Search and Rescue on the planet.

Where have you been deployed with the A-10? Can you recall the most interesting missions you took part with the Hog?

I’ve had experiences around the world including Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and Eastern Europe. One of my most memorable experiences was landing A-10s on austere runways previously used by the Soviet Union 25 years ago. It took a true team effort including high-level coordination with our European allies. We were able to demonstrate a great capability that is unique to the Hog as a fighter aircraft.

Even though the aircraft has undertaken several upgrade programs since it was introduced in the 1970s, and the A-10C is much different from the “original” A-10A, the airframe has not changed too much in the last 40 years. Does this affect you has a pilot and commander of a Warthog squadron?

If I were to sit down to design a heavy attack platform, it would look just like the A-10. Our airframe was built to extend loiter times over the battlefield, deliver a substantial amount of ordnance, and survive significant battle damage. It does these things exceptionally well and, with the advent of the C-model precision guidance upgrades, integrates as well as any aircraft with data and sensor management.

What’s the typical payload to carry out the above-mentioned missions?

We have a large variety of weaponeering options available to us. The starting point is, of course, the mighty GAU-8 Avenger Gatling-type cannon. It’s a highly-accurate point-and-shoot weapon that grants our pilots superior firepower and flexibility in a close-combat ground fight. Additionally, we carry many other capable munitions including GPS-guided, laser-guided, and unguided bombs. Based on the flexibility this gives us, our payloads vary greatly from mission to mission.

30 mm gun aside, what’s the most flexible weapon you have on the A-10?

Second to the gun, I think the Maverick provides the most flexibility in weaponeering. We can employ it from medium or low altitudes against a large variety of target types. It’s a difficult weapon to master, but indispensable in a CAS fight.

Italian exchange pilot Roberto Manzo, 74th Fighter Squadron training assistant, poses for a photo before flying, Aug. 25, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Manzo was raised in Rome, Italy and developed a desire to become a pilot after seeing jets fly for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

Italian Air Force exchange pilot “Pinna”

Tell us something about you. Who is “Pinna” and what about his experience?

I was born and raised in Ostia, near Rome.

I started my adventure in the Italian Air Force Academy, in 2003, with the Drago V course. Upon graduation, I attended the pilot courses with the Euro NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT), at Sheppard, Texas, TX, between 2007 and 2008, flying the Cessna T-37B Tweet and Northrop T-38C Talon. Back in Italy, I was assigned to the A-11B AMX “Ghibli” and attended the first LIFT (Lead in Fighter Training) course with the 61º Stormo (Wing) at Lecce-Galatina airbase, in 2009, flying the MB-339CD and then the OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) course, with the 32º Stormo, at Amendola, on the AMX and AMX-T, between 2010 and 2011.

Once I arrived to my unit, the 51º Stormo, based at Istrana in northeastern Italy, I was assigned to the glorious 132º Gruppo (Squadron) FBR (Fighter Bomber Reconnaissance) “C. E. Buscaglia,” flying the “Ghibli” until my recent departure for the United States.

In addition to my personal and professional growth, during my time with the 132º I also earned my callsign, “Pinna” (Italian for “Fin”), which I’ve carried for several years now.

How did you get the opportunity to become an exchange pilot with the U.S. Air Force A-10?

The possibility of flying the legendary A-10 emerged in 2009 as a consequence of a bilateral agreement between the Italian and the U.S. Air Force. Several factors contribute in selecting the pilot destined to the Hog, including the flight experience, the achieved qualifications and currencies and, of course, the fluency with the English language (as no specific training is foreseen to improve with it before leaving for the U.S.). Although I already had a significant experience in the Close Air Support role with the AMX, I started to focus even more on this kind of mission once I learned that I would be assigned to the A-10. “Ponch”, my ItAF predecessor as an exchange pilot on the A-10 was extremely helpful during my transition from the AMX to the Warthog: he managed my induction in the American “system,” that is no easy task considered that there is very little time before things start to get serious.

Do you like the Warthog? If so, why?

The A-10C is an amazing aircraft: reliable, durable and lethal. It is a one of a kind combat plane: every single part of the Warthog is designed for Close Air Support. It is simple to handle and “forgiving”; its flight envelope makes it extremely maneuverable at low speeds and able to turn in tight spaces: this means it can circle over restricted areas and provide better support to the troops on the ground. Obviously, it’s not too fast but speed is not a mandatory feature when your main need is to remain “on station” as long as possible.

Everything in the airplane is duplicated, so as to make it as durable as possible: there are two tails, two hydraulic systems, two engines which are positioned on the outer side of the fuselage so as to minimize the risk of fire in case one of the two turbofan engines is hit. What’s more, the pilot sits in a titanium aircraft armor, referred to as a “bathtub,” which protects the cockpit from rounds fired from below.

Whilst externally the aircraft is almost identical, the avionics of the current A-10C has virtually nothing to do with the old “Hawg” that became particularly famous as the “Tank-buster” during the first Gulf War 25 years. The aircraft features an advanced data link system, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, three radios, a latest generation Targeting Pod, and also a sophisticated HMCS (Helmet Mounted Cueing System), that alongside the rest of the aircraft’s sensors, allows the pilot to effectively employ the weapon in a matter of seconds.

What are the main differences between the A-10 and the AMX? What part of your experience with the 132° Gruppo in Italy has been important with the Thunderbolt?

The A-10C and the AMX are much different aircraft. Both share a certain ease in handling, and it is no secret that the pilots of both aircraft would appreciate a bit more thrust from the engine. Furthermore, the Warthog is more maneuverable at low speeds while the AMX, with its aerodynamic design, is faster than the A-10. There are some differences in terms of missions flown by the two aircraft, though: throughout the years, an AMX pilot learns to fly several different mission profiles, spanning from reconnaissance to light attack, from CSAR (Combat SAR) to Close Air Support; the U.S. Air Force squadrons equipped with the A-10C, focus in these last two missions. My time with the 132° Gruppo, especially the tour in Afghanistan as a member of the Task Group Black Cats, has been extremely important in developing those skills required to keep up with colleagues who excel in CAS and CSAR execution. 

Two Italian Air Force A-11 Ghiblis arrive to receive fuel from a KC-10 Extender during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Aug. 7, 2017. Italy plays a key role supporting Coalition’s military operations through air capabilities based in Kuwait: one KC-767 aerial refueling aircraft, one unmanned Predator surveillance aircrafts, four AMX aircrafts for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations and an intergraded multi-sensory exploitation cell. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

Any particular experience you’ve lived with the “Flying Tigers” you want to share with The Aviationist’s readers?

At the beginning of 2016 I’ve also had the chance to take part in a deployment to Europe as part of the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. It was impressive to see in what conditions the A-10C was able to operate: in Estonia, every morning, a dedicated team had to defrost the aircraft; then we taxied between pile-ups of snow surrounding the taxiways! In Bulgaria we had the opportunity to conduct air-to-air training with the MiG-29 and to fly at low altitude through the mountains before reaching the firing range; I was also fortune to participate in a CSAR training where we have managed to integrate Puma helicopters and Su-25 attack planes… something you don’t see every day!

In Germany, I had the pleasure of flying a CAS mission during which I was assigned an Italian JTAC: I still remember his surprise hearing an Italian voice coming from an American A-10.

I think the most complicated exercises are those in which we simulate the “contact” between friendly troops and the enemy on the ground: learning how to safely use the weapons in such [TIC – Troops In Contact] situations is as complex as vital, and requires extremely accurate planning on the ground and fine execution in flight…

You can read the rest of the interviews (and much more) in “BRRTTTT….deployments, war chronicles and stories of the last A-10 Warthogs” (for details and how to buy at a very special price click here. For the paperback version click here).

The cover of our recently released ebook (141 pages, 31 Articles,129 Pics and 6 Aircraft profiles) where you can find the rest of the interviews. Click here for more details! A paperback version will be available soon.

Salva

We have taken part in an aerial refueling mission during TJ15, NATO’s largest exercise in decades

We were onboard an Italian Air Force KC-767 tasked to refuel Eurofighter Typhoon and AMX jets involved in the largest NATO exercise in decades.

On Nov. 3, we were given the opportunity to take part in an aerial refueling mission in support of Ex. Trident Juncture 2015, the largest NATO exercise in more than 10 years.

AMX close up

Aboard an Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767 MM62228 belonging to 8° Gruppo (Squadron) of 14° Stormo (Wing) using callsign “Breus 15,” we launched from Pratica di Mare airbase and headed to the working area located near Ponza island, over the Tyrrhenian sea, to refuel Eurofighter Typhoons with 37° Stormo, based at Trapani airbase, in Sicily, and AMXs, with 51° Stormo, from Istrana airbase, but temporarily based at Trapani.

The images in this post show the aircraft being refueling using the hose-and-drogue system: the KC-767 is a NextGen Tanker equipped with both the hose and the flying boom and, unlike all the previous boom-equipped refuelers, uses an adveniristic remote boom operator’s station located behind the cockpit.

AMX wide port

Indeed, whilst in the KC-135, the “boomer” (as the operator is nicknamed) is prone and moves the flying boom in the receptacle watching the receiver through a rear observation window, in the KC-767 (and future KC-46 that will replace the KC-135E in the U.S. Air Force), the boomers, move the boom or control the refueling operations of the probe-equipped planes using a joystick and through the video from a series of cameras mounted on the tanker’s fuselage.

Typhoon boomer closeup

Typhoon starboard side

The advanced camera system feeds a Remote Vision System (RVS) that can provide high-definition stereoscopic imagery to the vision goggles attached to a sort-of flight helmet worn by the boomer during the air-to-air refueling.

Typhoon boomer view

The KC-767 is one of the tanker types supporting TJ2015; other aerial refuelers include the Canadian CC-130, the Dutch KC-10 and the U.S. KC-135 deployed at several airbases across southern Europe.

 

KC-767 Tanker at dusk

All images by The Aviationist’s photographer Giovanni Maduli

Great video showing Brazilian air force jets on a training bombing mission

Laser Guided Bombs, attack runs and some low level flying in a cool footage featuring Brazilian Air Force A-1 light attack jets.

Known locally as “A-1”, the AMX light attack aircraft is the backbone of the Força Aérea Brasileira.

The Brazilian Air Force operates about 50 such aircraft, based at Santa Cruz, near Rio de Janeiro, and Santa Maria, to the west of Porto Alegre, and upgraded to the A-1M variant, that features a glass cockpit, advanced avionics, a Mectron SCP-01 Scipio radar, Embraer BR2 data link, FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red), and support for the DASH IV helmet mounted display.

The aircraft, flying with the 1 Esquadrão/16 Grupo de Aviação Esquadrão “Adelphi”, 1 Esquadrão/10 Grupo de Aviação Esquadrão “Poker” and 3 Esquadrão/10 Grupo de aviação Esquadrão “Centauro”.

The A-1s are used in the air-to-surface as well as the reconnaissance role, the same kind of missions flown by the type within the Italian Air Force, that has also used the AMX in combat during Allied Force in Kosovo, during Operation Unified Protector in Libya and in support of ISAF in Afghanistan.

Along with the F-5s, the A-1s will be replaced by the Brazil’s JAS-39E/F multi-role fighters.

The following footage shows the Brazilian AMXs during training activities on the range.

H/T Marcelo R Silva for the heads-up

[Updated] Greek F-16 has reportedly crashed on TLP apron during take off from Albacete. Other aircraft reportedly hit

Photos from Albacete airbase, in Spain, show fire on the flightline.

According to the reports coming from Albacete airbase, home of the Tactical Leadership Program, an F-16 belonging to the Hellenic Air Force has crashed on take off.

Photos emerging on social networks seem to suggest the aircraft may have hit the flightline: two Italian Air Force AMX jets seem to be quite close to the burning wreckage of the Greek two-seater F-16D. However, more aircraft are believed to be involved, since several explosions were heard following the impact of the HAF fighter jet.

www.rtve.es

Screenshot from rtve.es website

Spanish media outlets have been issuing updates since the incident occurred around 3.00 PM LT: according to the latest reports, 2 people were killed and 10 injured as a consequence of the crash.

Update 18.30 GMT

10 casualties and 13 injured people, according to the latest reports from the crash scene. At least one French Alpha Jet seems to have been hit by the F-16D; U.S. F-15E aircraft appears to be parked close to wrecked Fighting Falcon.

According to the Italian MoD 9 Italian military injured in the Greek Air Force F-16D crash at Albacete in Spain. The Italian contingent taking part in TLP includes 2 AMX jets from 51° Stormo (Wing) of the Italian Air Force from Istrana airbase and 5 AV-8B+ Harrier II of the Italian Navy from Grottaglie airbase.

 

Top image credit: @MotorAire

 

This is how Italian Tornado jets and Predator drones will contribute to the war on ISIS

Along with the KC-767s, already supporting the coalition forces with an aerial refueling capability, Rome has committed four Tornado IDS and two Predator drones to the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The Italian Air Force is about to move four Tornado IDS attack planes, belong to the 6° Stormo, from Ghedi airbase, to Kuwait, to join the US-led coalition that is fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. According to DefenseNews, the aircraft are going to be based at Ahmed Al Jaber air base in Kuwait, the same country where Rome has deployed one of its brand new KC-767 tankers.

The aircraft will not be used to perform air strikes (although they could join the raids at a later stage as happened to the AMX in Afghanistan), but will perform reconnaissance mission: a role the Tornados have already undertook in Libya and Afghanistan.

For this kind of mission, the aircraft usually carry a Rafael Reccelite reconnaissance pod: the 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.

Reccelite

The Reccelite reconnaissance pod is used to broadcast live video imagery via datalink to ground stations and to ROVER (Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver) tactical receivers in a range of about 100 miles.

The pod can also be carried by the AMX ACOL, the light tactical jet that has performed close air support/air interdiction and ISR missions in support of ISAF from 2009 until the summer of 2014.

Also based in Kuwait are two MQ-1C Predator A+ from Amendola airbase, that are tasked with ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions in Iraq.

The Italian Air Force operates a mixed force of 6 MQ-9 Reaper and 6 MQ-1C Predator both assigned to the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing).

The Italian UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) have already operated in Iraq between January 2005 and 2006 when the first RQ-1 Predator A was deployed to Tallil airbase, in Iraq.
Later, two Predator A+ (designated MQ-1C A+ a standard to which all the former RQ-1 were upgraded) were deployed to Herat, in Afghanistan, to perform a wide array of missions: mainly MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), support to TIC (Troops In Contact), IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring and Convoy Escort.

The Italian unarmed drones will probably be involved in High Value Target surveillance and Reconnaissance (and, maybe special ops support).

MQ-1C

Although it was not disclosed, most probably Predators will be employed in Iraq as they were employed in Afghanistan: in accordance with the so-called Remote Split Operations (RSO). During RSO, aircraft is launched from a local, in theater airbase, under direct line-of-sight control of the local MGCS (Mobile Ground Control Station).

Then, by means of satellite data link, it is taken on charge and guided from Amendola. When the assigned mission is completed, it is once again handed over to a pilot in Afghanistan, who lands it back to Herat airbase. The 1-second delay introduced by the satellite link is not compatible with the most delicate phases of flight; hence, aircraft are launched and recovered in line-of-sight by the deployed MCGS (US drones use the same kind of remote control).