The 154° Gruppo has recently completed a two-week deployment to Decimomannu airbase, in Sardinia.
From Mar. 3 to 17, six Tornado IDS jets belonging to the 154° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 6° Stormo (Wing) from Ghedi airbase have deployed to Decimomannu, Italy, to carry out air-to-ground training activities in the Sardinian ranges.
The images in this post, taken by photographer Giampaolo Mallei, show the Tornado of the “Red Devils” (from the unit’s badge) carrying different loadouts: most often, the “Tonkas” flew with a Thomson CSF CLDP (Convertible laser Designation Pod) with both TV and IR capability, along with a single laser-guided GBU-16 or two CBLS pods with BDU-33/Mk-106 practice bombs.
The Tornado fighter bomber is one of the platforms already integrated with the GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs).
The GBU-39 SDB is a 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating bomb with a blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets.
These bombs are equipped with deployable wings for extended standoff range that open upon release allowing the GPS-guided bomb to glide for several miles before hitting the target with accuracy.
GBU-39s are quite small: they are usually carried in two pairs underneath the fuselage (on tactical jets) or on the underwing pylons (on the AC-130W that is the largest aircraft to use this kind of bomb).
Among the Lessons Learned of the Air War in Libya, there was the need to employ SDBs to improve accuracy from distance and reduce collateral damage; a GBU-39 launched at high-speed from high altitude can travel for as much as 50 miles, allowing the attack plane to remain outside the range of most SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) batteries.
The SDB is currently integrated on the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-22, that with software increment 3.1 is able to carry 8 GBU-39s, and the AC-130W whereas all the remaining U.S. bombers (including the F-35) will get the slender bombs in the future. The Israeli and Italian air forces have procured this kind of weapon as well, with the latter planning to integrate the SDBs on the Tornado aircraft upgraded to the enhanced RET 7 and 8 standards.
The photos in this article were taken by The Aviationist’s contributor Alessandro Caglieri as the full-scale technology demonstrator returned to Decimomannu airbase at the end of a test flight.
Noteworthy, these were shot from the left hand side of the drone with the extracted undercarriage, and they clearly show the text XAV-5A-003 on the landing gear door along with the flags of the nations that are taking part in the development of the nEUROn France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and Greece.
After completing the testing campaign in Italy, the nEUROn will move to Visdel, Sweden, for weapons trials.
Developed within a German-led multinational program as a short-range air-to-air missile to replace the ageing AIM-9 Sidewinder the IRIS-T has a range of 25 km and can engage targets flying behind the launching platform thanks to an extreme close-in agility which allows turns of 60 g at a rate of 60°/s.
Interestingly, as the top image (taken by The Aviationist’s contributor Giovanni Maduli) shows, the dummy IRIS-T missile was carried on an underwing pylon while previous tests with the AIM-9L Sidewinder were carried out with the air-to-air missiles mounted on the wing tip launchers.