Tag Archives: Aviano Air Base

57th Rescue Squadron Performs Rare Jump Onto Aviano Airbase

With the support of C-130J aircraft from the 86th Airlift Wing, 57th Rescue Squadron made a rare jump onto Aviano airbase.

Although it is scheduled to complete the move, along with the 56th, from RAF Lakenheath, UK, to Aviano AB, Italy, by the end of June 2018, the 57th RS has started getting acquainted with its new duty station located in northeastern Italy.

On Feb. 15 and 16, 2018, with the support of the Super Hercules aircraft from Ramstein Air Base’s 86th Airlift Wing, the Squadron’s pararescuemen jumped onto the base, home of the 31st Fighter Wing, the first in more than two decades.

One of the two C-130s used by the 57th RS to parachute onto Aviano AB.

The second Super Hercules involved in the 57th RS jumps onto Aviano.

Aviano has the U.S. military’s largest heavy drop facility in Europe and is the launching pad for the Vicenza-based 173rd Airborne Brigade, whose members routinely jump from C-130s onto the “Juliet” landing zone located at Maniago, about 15 miles from the base.

An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron flies over Aviano Air Base, Italy, during a routine training mission Jan. 26, 2018. Members from the 56th and 57th RQS are flying throughout the region during several different training sorties. Their presence within the area will increase as they begin to transition from Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath, England. About 350 personnel, five HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and Guardian Angel weapons systems are expected to relocate to Aviano AB in an effort to establish an enduring personnel recovery location within Europe. (U.S. Air Force by Senior Airman Cory W. Bush)

The 56th and 57th RS will bring their five HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters to Aviano in a few months, but they are also expected to train with the 173rd and Italian allies in various aircraft: with easy access to the Alps, Adriatic Sea and various Italian training ranges, their new airbase is considered very well suited for the training activities of the squadrons pararescuemen.

One of the pararescuemen about to land after parachuting from a C-130J.

Image credit: Claudio Tramontin

Another Batch Of Six Ex-Dutch F-16 Jets Delivered To The Royal Jordanian Air Force

This batch follows the first six jets delivered at the end of October.

The second batch of five F-16AMs and one two seater BM jet, formerly belonging to the Royal Netherlands Air Force, visited Aviano Air Base, Italy, on Nov. 29.

The Jordan “Vipers” (as the F-16 is nicknamed in the pilot community), using radio callsign RJZ242, were on their way from Volkel airbase, The Netherlands, to Al Azraq airbase, in Jordan (via Aviano – Souda Bay), on delivery to the Royal Jordanian Air Force. The six aircraft followed the previous six ex-RNlAF F-16 aircraft, delivered via the same route on Oct. 25, 2017.

The only two-seater of the second batch of former RNlAF F-16s about to land at Aviano AB, Italy, on Nov. 29.

In a deal signed in 2013, 15 airframes (13 A-models and 2 B-models updated to the MLU standard) were sold to Jordan as part of the Peace Falcon VI programme bringing the total RJAF F-16 to 79 (including 25 second-hand aircraft bought from Belgium within Peace Falcon III and V).

One of the five single seat F-16 in the RJAF markings landing at Aviano AB, Italy, on Nov. 29.

The latest deal follows a first one for 6 ex-RNlAF F-16BMs dating back to 2009 and dubbed Peace Falcon IV.

The first batch of six F-16s delivered to the RJAF on Oct. 25, 2017, found better weather conditions at their arrival in Aviano for a stopover enroute to Jordan.

The Aviationist’s contributor Claudio Tramontin took the photos of the “new” F-16s for the RJAF at Aviano that you can find in this post. Top image shows one of the F-16s of the first batch departing from Aviano after the stopover on Oct. 25.

A close-up look at the 31FW F-16s performing strafing runs at Ft. Irwin National Training Cent

A detailed analysis of a 510FS training mission at Ft. Irwin.

On the afternoon of Feb. 24, The Aviationist’s contributor Eric Rosenwald photographed a flight of two USAF F-16C fighters as they practiced low-altitude strafe runs at Ft. Irwin, California (National Training Center).

They each completed at least 8 passes of a target airfield, periodically dropping to an altitude of less than 500 feet.

The F-16s belonged to the 510th Fighter Squadron of the 31st Fighter Wing, based at Aviano Air Base, Italy deployed to the U.S. to take part in the Red Flag 16-1 air combat exercise.

The infographic below provides some really interesting details about the mission conducted by the “Buzzards” over the range in California.

Ft Irwin Red Flag 2016 F-16-down

A quick look at Aviano airbase’s F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole jets

Based at Aviano airbase, in northeast Italy, the 31st Fighter Wing mobilized its squadrons deploying their F-16s to Poland in response to Ukrainian Crisis.

“The noise you hear is the sound of freedom”.

This catchphrase was coined at Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station and can be read at several airbases around the world, however, this is the first thing that comes to mind by looking at the U.S. F-16s at Aviano, that we had the opportunity to visit lately.

Even if the 31st Fighter Wing has deployed 12 F-16s from the 555th Fighter Squadron to Poland for a combined exercise with the Polish Air Force in response to Ukranian Crisis, and six more Vipers from the 510th FS “Buzzards” to Romania, plenty Fighting Falcons continue to perform training sorties from the base in the northeastern Italy.

With its forty Block 40 F-16CMs/DMs (formerly CGs/DGs), the 31st Fighter Wing is part of the United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE).

As explained to The Aviationist by U.S. personnel, the Vipers belonging to to both squadrons are capable of flying both offensive and defensive air combat missions, performing mainly air superiority, attack and CAS (Close Air Support) missions; no SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) role, since this specific task is assigned to the 52nd Fighter Wing Vipers, based at Spangdalhem, in Germany.

Quite impressive is also the wide array of weapons used to carry out their missions.

Air-to-air weaponry includes AIM-120B/C AMRAAM and the AIM-9L/M/X, with the latter model of the Sidewinder even more lethal because combined with the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System. For the air to ground role every kind of free fall bombs is available: from the various general purpose bombs belonging to the US Mark 80 series, to the modern smart bombs such as the GBU-10/24/31 and JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) models.

The visit was also the opportunity to talk with some experienced crew of the 31st FW about the way the F-16 compares with other USAF hardware: the F-15E Strike Eagle, more powerful and more easy to maintain than the Fighting Falcon, but less maneuverable and with a higher radar-cross section; the F-22 Raptor, an impressive fighter that still requires time to achieve its full potential; and the F-35 Lightning II, an interesting, very expensive weapons system with many unresolved problems and an uncertain future.

Still, 31st FW pilots are more than happy with their old F-16s: “The Common Configuration Implementaion Program (CCIP), brought essential avionics upgrades to our F-16s keeping them to a state of the art standard” they said “and with our Vipers we are ready to deploy anywhere our presence is requested to protect US and NATO interests.”

As the deployments to Poland and Romania prove.


Image credit: Dario Leone


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“Vega 31”: the first and only F-117 Stealth Fighter Jet shot down in combat (15 years ago today)

On Mar. 27, 1999, the fourth night of Operation Allied Force over Serbia, an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter jet was shot down while returning to Aviano airbase, in northern Italy after bombing a target near Belgrade.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Darrell P. Zelko, a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, was flying a stealth plane from the 49th Fighter Wing, deployed to Italy from Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, with the radio callsign “Vega 31” when he was hit by the Serbian air defense near Novi Sad.

Zelko was flying his third Allied Force sortie and he was egressing the target area when his since-then invincible, F-117 was hit, forcing him to eject behind the enemy lines at 20.45 LT.

An MH-53M, MH-53J and MH-60 aircrew along with Special Tactics Airmen responded to the emergency and  within 5 hours of being alerted, AFSOC (Air Force Special Operations Command) assets, coordinated by E-3 AWACS and supported by several specialized platforms, including an EC-130E ABCCC and A-10 in Sandy role, rescued the F-117 pilot prior to enemy forces who were bearing down on the downed pilot’s location.

How the Serbian air defense managed to achieve the first and only stealth plane is open to debate.

According to the Serbs, Belgrade’s air defenses operators had found they could detect stealth planes using some slightly modified Soviet radars. In particular, the modifications involved using long wavelengths that enabled such radar systems to detect the stealth planes at relatively short range when the low radar cross section of the aircraft was affected when the bomb bay doors were open to drop 2,000 lb bombs.

Moreover, Serbs monitored U.S. and allied radio comms on UHF and VHF frequencies (mostly unencrypted – as happened 12 years later during the opening phases of Operation Odyssey Dawn over Libya) and were also able to intercept NATO plane’s ATO (Air Tasking Orders) that enabled them to put anti-aircraft batteries at positions close to the ground targets.

In other words: Serbian air defenses knew where and when to look at incoming bombers.

The F-117 82-0806 (whose remains are exhibited at Belgrade Air Museum) was shot down by the 3rd Battalion of the 250th Air Defence Missile Brigade of the Army of Yugoslavia, with one of several missiles fired by an S-125 “Neva” missile system (NATO reporting name, SA-3 “Goa”) at a distance of about 8 miles.

F-117 wreckage 2

According to Sergeant Dragan Matić, the soldier later identified as the operator who fired the missiles, the stealth plane was detected at a range of about 50 to 60 kilometres and the surface-to-air missile radar was switched on for no more than 17 seconds to prevent the site to be detected by the NATO’s SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) aircraft.

Some pieces of the 82-0806 shot down near Novi Sad were reportedly sent to Russia, to be used in developing anti-stealth technology.

F-117 wreckage

On May 2, 1999, a 31FW F-16C was shot down by the 250th Air Defense Missile Brigade becoming the second and last allied plane to be shot down by Serbian air defenses during Allied Force.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin, Serbian Air Force


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