Taking place between May 9 and 20 at Cambrai airbase, in northern France, NATO Tiger Meet (NTM11) has been attended by about 60 planes and helicopters belonging to the Austrian, Czech Republic, German, Hellenic, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Turkish, Swiss and Slovak air forces.
From a simple meeting of flying units sharing a Tiger (or feline) emblem, the NTM has become a multi-national mid-size exercise offering a two-week program that includes all types of air-to-air and air-to-ground and a wide variety of support missions, comprising CSAR and large COMAOs. The 2011 edition was to be the biggest ever organised; unfortunately, many units cancelled their participation because of their commitment in “Unified Protector” the NATO led air campaign in Libya.
Nevertheless the NTM lived up expectations with some interesting participants: the F-16 Block 52 of the Polish Air Force’s 6 Sqn from Poznan, equipped with AIM-120, AIM-9X, JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System) and Sniper pod, at their first appearance at the Tiger Meet; the Spanish Air Force EF-18s carrying the IRIS-T air-to-air missile at wingtips; the Swiss Hornets with AIM-9X coupled to JHMCS.
The ItAF took part to the NTM11 with the 21° Gruppo of the 9° Stormo based at Grazzanise, a Sqn with many Tour of Duty in Afghanistan, whose AB.212ICOs performed CSAR and Combat Recovery missions as well as Special Forces support and Non-Combatant Evacuation operations. As usual, there was also a certain number of eye-catching Special Colours or Tiger markings: an operational nonsense, since they only increase visibility of the aircraft whose deleterious effects are however mitigated by the fact that future air-to-air scenarios are BVR (Beyond Visual Range) rather than WVR (Within Visual Range), meaning that the enemy will hardly get so close to see the special colour scheme….
After publishing the first images of the RDAF (Royal Danish Air Force) F-16s deploying to Grosseto in a previous article, on Feb. 7, 2011, I visited Grosseto airbase to see the Danish F-16AM and BM MLU (Mid-Life Update) of the Esk 727 and 730 from Skrydstrup operating with the Eurofighter Typhoons (both F-2000A and TF-2000A, according to the Italian Mission Design Series) of the local-based 4° Stormo.
The RDAF detachment (100 military) is currently hosted in the north part of the airport, where the WH11 liaison cell is also settled. The 11 aircraft are parked in the apron in front of the Hangar 3 of the GEA (Gruppo Efficienza Aeromobili), west of the RWY21 threshold.
The MLUs of the Fighter Wing Skrydstrup are multi-role fighters assigned to the Nato High Readiness Force (HRF) hence they are flying different types of training sorties: air-to-air (mainly with the Italian F-2000s); air-to-ground (with Danish and Italian ground forces), flying low-level in Central Italy; and also COMAOs (Combined Air Operations) like those conducted in the operational areas east of Sardinia with the 48FW F-15E of the 494th FS deployed to Decimomannu until Feb. 4.
Usually two waves are scheduled each day: at 10:45LT and 14:15LT. A third one is planned a couple of days a week for night flying (with departures at around 17:15LT).
Most of the aircraft deployed to Grosseto carry the LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) and the AIM-9X coupled with the JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System). Noteworthy, lthe Danish MLUs are equipped with a search light, mounted on the port side of the fuselage beneath the canopy, used for the identification during interception at night, much similar to that of the Italian F-16 ADF.
Below are some pictures of the detachment, that will last until Feb. 11, 2011, when the F-16s are due to return to their homebase.
On Jan 18, for the first time since the beginning of the Italian involvement in the Afghan theatre, the Joint Air Task Force (JATF) of the RC-W (Regional Command – West) planned and perfomed a complex COMAO (Combined Air Operation) to protect a convoy of the Esercito (Italian Army) that was in bound a remote post in the North of the country against an eventual hostile actions of the insurgents. COMAO were among the most important “themes” of the Spring Flag 2008, a Joint, Interdepartmental, International Exercise, that took place in Italy in April 2008 (for more info: http://cencio4.wordpress.com/2008/04/23/spring-flag-media-day-debrief-part-2/ and http://cencio4.wordpress.com/tag/spring-flag/).
The Afghan operation saw the involvement of A-129 Mangusta and CH-47 Chinook helicopters ot the Italian Army and of single Predator UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) of the 28° Gruppo / 32° Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF), both departed from Herat. The CH-47 were tasked with the transportation of armoured vehicles and took off from Herat only after the Predator had completed a reconnaissance mission in the area where the vehicles were about to be ferried. While the area was patrolled by 2 Mangusta, the CH-47 were escorted during their flight by other two A-129s. Once the Chinook had reached the target area and unloaded the vehicles the returned to Herat with the escort provided by the 4 Mangusta. The Predator UAV after fulfilling its task within the COMAO has surveilled other two convoys of the Army that were South bound.
In the Southern area, other missions were conducted on Jan 18: the AB.212 of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) ensured the transportation towards the Farah remote base of personnel and equipment and performing, at the same time, a low level Recce mission; a C-27J of the 98° Gruppo of the 46^ Brigata Aerea performed a tactical transport to the Mazar-e-Sharif airbase, the deployment base of the 2 Tornado IDS of the 154th Gruppo that, on the same day, performed a night reconnaissance mission which required an air-to-air refueling from a US KC-135. As explained by the JATF Cdr, Col. Francesco Vestito, all the Task Group of the JATF flew in one day 50 Flight Hours: 1% of the activity flown in 1 year. In 2008 the JATF logged 4.600 flight hours, 1.400 of which were flown by the Predators. It is organized in Task Groups (TG): Devil, (Tornado), Astore (Predator), Albatros (C-27J and now with a single C-130J), Pantera (Italian Navy AB-212), Fenice (Italian Army CH-47C and AW-129), and Tigre (ItAF AB-212ICO).
Dealing with the two C-27J Spartans, the aircraft returned home on Jan 27, after completing their first tour of duty which started on Sep. 12, 2008. 200 Flight Hours, 50 missions, 1.500 passengers and 30.000 pounds of cargo: these are the figures of the first operative mission of the C-27Js. The aircraft have been tasked with different kind of missions: cargo and personnel transportation but also MEDEVAC (MEDical Evacuation). The aircraft proved to be particularly important since they are able to operate from both the convetional airports and the tactical strips.
All the following pictures, courtesy of the Aeronautica Militare / Cellula PI Herat
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