Tag Archives: Eurofighter Typhoon

Check Out This Interesting Video Of The Italian Typhoons At Work in Estonia During Operation Baltic Eagle

The clip shows also an “interaction” with a Russian Navy Su-30SM.

As part of the Task Force Air (TFA) 36° Stormo (Wing), four Italian Air Force Typhoons are currently deployed to Ämari Air Base, Estonia, to augment NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission. Together with the Royal Danish Air Force lead detachment at Siaullai, Lithuania, the task of the Italian Operation “Baltic Eagle” is to provide 24/7 fighter capabilities that can be launched by the CAOC at Uedem, Germany, in response to unidentified air tracks in the Baltic Region.

Since early January, the Typhoons of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) have already logged six A-Scramble (Alert Scrambles) along with several T-Scramble (T for Training) ones. The following video has been released by the Italian MoD to show the Eurofighters during their daily activities in Estonia. Along with the cool cockpit footage, there are some interesting “things” worth of note: the Russian Il-20 Coot intercepted on Mar. 2, 2018; two Su-27s escorting an Il-20 (not clear whether this is the same shadowed during the Mar. 2 mission); the joint sorties with the RDAF F-16s, the U.S. F-16 of the TSP (Theater Security Package) supporting Operation Atlantic Resolve as well as the Swedish Gripens of the FSTE (Finland Sweden Training Event); the SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) activities conducted with the Estonian An-2 and L-39 aircraft. At 00:28 you can also see some maneuvering during a close encounter with a Russian Navy Su-30SM.

This is the second time the ItAF deploy to the Baltic region to support NATO BAP mission. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 27, 2015, as part of the TFA (Task Force Air) based at Šiauliai, Lithuania, four Typhoons of the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (the three Wings that fly the Euro-canard) logged about 900 flying hours, launching for 40 A-Scrambles (Alert Scrambles) and more than 160 T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles).

As already explained in a previous post, no photograph nor footage of intercepted Russian aircraft were released during and after the 2015 detachment, even though the Italians had some really interesting close encounters with some pretty interesting aircraft, including some Tu-22 Backfire, Tu-160 Blackjack and Su-27 Flanker jets. Therefore, something has changed since then.

Two Typhoons of the TFA 36 Wing. Note the configuration that includes AIM-120 AMRAAM and IRIS-T missiles (image credit: Italian MoD)

Interestingly, while securing its national airspace and augmenting Allied Air Command’s Baltic Air Policing mission, the Italian Air Force permanently conducts Air Policing over Slovenia, and in conjunction with the Hellenic Air Force, over Albania: in total, the Italian Typhoons provide Air Policing for six NATO nations (Italy, Albania, Slovenia, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia).

Image credit: Italian MoD

These Are The Latest Eurofighter Typhoon Jets For The Royal Air Force of Oman

Two new Eurofighter Typhoons on delivery to Oman.

On Feb. 5, two Eurofighter Typhoons for the RAFO (Royal Air Force of Oman) made a stopover in Malta Luqa airport on their way to Oman.

The aircraft, ZR406 and ZR407 are the ninth and tenth Omani aircraft, out of 12 aircraft (9 single-seaters and 3 two-seaters) ordered by the Gulf State in December 2012.

The Typhoons took off from Malta to continue their ferry flight as “Tarnish 01” to Adam Air Base, via RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, shortly after 09.00AM LT on Feb. 6.

Photographer Ruben Zammit took the photos of the latest Omani Typhoons that you can find in this post.

RAFO Typhoon 215 (NS006, ZR406) and 216 (NS007, ZR407) parked at Malta on Feb. 5, 2018. (Image credit: Ruben Zammit).


Backseat Experience: How You Should Prepare To Fly In A Combat Jet As A Passenger

I’m often asked what flying in a military jet looks like and how I do prepare for such missions. Here are some tips that might be useful to get the most out of your fast jet ride.

May 25, 2017

“Raven 08, Deci Tower, cleared for take-off, wind calm”.

I’m in the backseat of a Tornado IDS belonging to the 154° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 6° Stormo (Wing) from Ghedi, currently deployed to Decimomannu airbase, Italy, for the yearly training activity in the Sardinian firing ranges. The words of the controller, that I can hear quite clearly before the noise will spread through the cockpit making all the subsequent communications barely readable, have a double meaning to me: first, they give the “go ahead” to the most exciting part of my flight in a Tornado (the very first one on this kind of aircraft); second, they mark the end of the long and delicate stage of the jet flight preparation; a preparation that determines either the success or failure of the sortie from the journalistic point of view.

A NAV during a quick briefing in the backseat of the Tornado IDS RET8.

A flight in a jet usually lasts between 45 and 110 minutes (longer if it includes aerial refueling, but it’s not the case): in my case, fully exploiting the (short) time available to “observe” a mission from the inside and collect all the photos and video material for both aviation magazines, this blog and its connected social networks, is paramount. A flight in a combat aircraft represents an almost unique opportunity and it is important to make the most out of it. If something in the backseat goes wrong, if a camera body fails or a lens proves to be unsuitable for the photo session, there will hardly be a second chance. In about 20 years I’ve had this opportunity quite a few times, hence here are a few suggestions based on my little (if compared to others) experience in a combat aircraft. If you are going to fly in fast jet for the first time, because you were invited or simply because you’ve paid for a ride, maybe the following few tips will help you maximize your experience.

In the backseat of the Tornado IDS of the 154th Gruppo returning to Decimomannu after flying over Capo Frasca range.

Even though the thrill of flying in a jet fighter is always the same, learning from the past mistakes as well as the experience gained over the years, have been pivotal to perfecting the preparation of the mission so as to minimize the risk that something unexpected can jeopardize the reportage’s success. For example, during one of my first jet flights, to have a back-up in case of problems with the main camera, I decided to put a compact camera in one of the pockets of the flight suit, the one located more or less over the right’s lower leg. Fortunately I did not need it. In fact, I hadn’t taken into account that the anti-G suit, dressed over the normal flight suit, would have made the “emergency” camera inaccessible during the flight! Since then, I only use the pockets of the anti-G pants for all those small accessories I might need in the cockpit.

“Double selfie” with two accompanying Typhoons heading to the “merge”.

With regard to the flight gear, in addition to my mask, I always try to use my own helmet, which is also easily recognizable by the bright yellow-green checkerboard on the cover (check the top photograph). However, this is not always possible: for instance, in the case of the Eurofighter, the aircrews have to use the specific flight equipment designed for the Typhoon flight line which differs from that used on any other Italian Air Force aircraft and includes, among the other things, a Gentex ACS (Aircrew Combat System) helmet and an EFA / ACS mask. For my flight in the Tornado, I had to use to an HGU-55G helmet, with the characteristic 154th squadron’s “red devil” symbol painted on the cover, that I was lent by the unit.

Shooting some photographs of the first Italian T-346 near Lecce Galatina airbase in 2015. I was the first journalist to fly in an ItAF T-346 Master.

Back to the preparation of the mission, once the flight gear’s check and fitting have been completed, I think the most important thing is the inspection of the rear cockpit of the aircraft: it is essential to know how to “move” in the backseat, where to attach the GoPro so that it is both stable and reachable (to modify some settings or move it), evaluate the size of any storage compartment to see if it can be used to accommodate a camera body or lens. In fact, digital cameras have greatly simplified life in a jet: when I was still using color slide films I needed to change the rolls several times during the flight. This forced me to continuously estimate the number of photographs I could take so that I didn’t run out of shots during a maneuver: in order to replace the finished roll with a new one, it was necessary to remove the gloves, be more or less stable (that is, in level flight) and have the time to safely remove and store the used roll before inserting a new one; an operation that would take just a few seconds in other conditions but, performed in a very narrow space, strapped into the ejection seat, wearing the heavy helmet, the mask, the Secumar, etc., was, especially at the beginning, quite challenging. With the advent of digital photography, this problem has been solved.

The view from the backseat of a Tornado IDS during a low level transition to the range.

Returning to the preparation of the flight, once understood how to move (or not move) in the rear cockpit, it is important to discuss with the crews that will take part in the mission and determine which phases of the missions will be suitable for some aerial shots. Although I have had the opportunity to arrange “pure” air-to-air photo sessions, I usually prefer to take part in missions that bring me in the aircraft’s operational environment: I am a journalist and I find it much more interesting for my readers (and for myself) to see and recount the mission from a privileged point of view, focusing on both the tactical aspects of the flight and the technical details of the employed weapon systems. This means that the time available for photography is normally reduced to about ten minutes: during the transition to the operating zone or during the RTB (Return To Base) phase.

A scan of a slide taken in 2003, from an MB339A of a three-ship F-104S/ASA-M near Grazzanise airbase, home of the world’s last operative Starfighters.

Obviously, a sortie with well-defined operational goals leaves little room for aerobatics or formations flying in favor of light: if you are part of a 3-ship that is acting as “Red Air” in a 4 vs 3 supersonic training mission, as in my flight in the Eurofighter, the aircraft will fly towards the operational area in fighting wing, with a significant spacing from one another, and the time for close formation will be reduced to a few minutes. However, as I have already explained, I prefer a few clicks from a realistic operational situation rather than taking part in a sortie that is particularly cool from a photographic point of view, but “poor” from the operational one. Generally, “how to arrange the aircraft” and “when to take photographs” are topics discussed with the aircrews during the briefing and reviewed, if necessary, during the flight, asking the pilot in the front seat to assume a specific attitude so as to obtain a particular shot.

Pulling some 5g in a supersonic turn from FL460 during an aerial engagement experienced from the backseat of the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Dealing with the photographic equipment, in addition to the GoPro and camera, I bring with me what I need inside a large removable pocket that comes with velcro to be attached to the anti-G at the thigh: here is where I put spare batteries or extra lenses, like fisheye and zoom for the iPhone, used to take short videos or photos that complement the work of the DSLR camera. As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle. From 1999 to today I have carried several camera bodies with me, but the lens I prefer in the backseat is almost always the Canon 28-135 USM, an extremely reliable, versatile and lightweight lens, more than adequate for my needs. If you do not have hundreds of flights under your belt, photographing air-to-air from the cockpit of a military aircraft is not an easy task: properly framing the other jets during some maneuvers requires some physical effort (the camera is subject to the same accelerations as aircraft meaning that in a 5 g turn the camera weighs five times its weight on the ground …) and gives very nauseous feelings too. Luckily, I have never needed it, but I always bring a bag for nausea in the anti-G pocket; I also drink a lot of water and limit carbohydrates, alcohol or spicy foods ahead of flying. Anyway, pro photographers, with hundred if not thousand flight hours in fast jets, such as Katsuhiko “Katsu” Tokunaga, Jamie Hunter or Frank Crebas (to name but few) may provide much more expert advice about air-to-air photography and related tips and tricks.

Scan from a slide: taken from the backseat of a TF-104 during the low level nav segment of a Starfighter sortie on Nov. 27, 2000.

The opportunity to fly in a high-performance aircraft every now and then has given me some exciting and long-lasting memories: the formation aerobatics with the TF-104, the BBQ (Ultra-low level flying) with AMX, the LIFT (Lead In Fighter Trainer) sortie with the T-346A or the supersonic BVR (Beyond Visual Range) interception flown as Aggressor with the Eurofighter. True adventures that I have tried to describe not only with my stories published on both The Aviationist website, the world’s most important media outlets and the books I’ve written or contributed to, but also by means of the shots you can find in this article.

Flying in formation with the Italian Air Force’s last F-104 in special color scheme on Sept. 19, 2003, the day the aircraft rolled-out in the new livery.

Italian Air Force Typhoon, AMX, Tornado, T-346 And F-35A Jets As Well As Greek F-4E Phantoms Take Part In Italy’s Largest Drills In 2017

Exercise Vega 2017 put the Italian Air Force’s most advanced “hardware” to test.

Vega 2017 (VG17) is the name of the Italian Air Force-led aerial exercise included in Joint Stars 2017, Italy’s largest joint drills organized this year “to train commands and forces undertaking various types of missions that may be required in future national and multinational operations. ”

The JS17 developed through two phases. The first one, dubbed Virtual Flag 2017 (VF17), took place from Jun. 10 to 15 and was a Command Post Exercise / Computer Assisted Exercise (CPX / CAX): a virtual exercise that, among the other things, simulated the planning and execution of an Air Heavy (AH) Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD)-oriented Small Joint Operation (SJO). Noteworthy, VF17 also featured several cyber threats and attacks to the network used to disseminate information among participating units.

The second part of the JS17, which began on Sept. 25 in the form of a CPX, continued from Oct. 16 to 27 as three “federated” exercises within a LIVEX (Live Exercise), an exercise made of actual assets. In particular, this phase saw the integration of three exercises: “Lampo 17” led by the Italian Army; “Mare Aperto 2017” led by the Italian Navy; and “Vega 2017,” the Italian Air Force’s exercise.

The Livex phase of JS17 focused on a SJO in the form of a Non-combatant Evactuation Operation (NEO) and included a series of tactical events, including an amphibious operation.

Dealing with the Italian Air Force, VG17 saw the involvement of 1,000 military, 40 aircraft, 7 airbases, one GCI site and several C2 (command and control) units, the task of those was to ensure air superiority within the context of a CSO (Crisis Support Operation) as well as various other missions flown in support of the other Armed Forces, including CAS (Close Air Support), SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses), CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue), AEW-BM & C missions (Airborne Early Warning – Battlefield Management and Communication), tactical transport of operational personnel, evacuation of injured or endangered civilians.

An ItAF Typhoon with the 36° Stormo from Gioia del Colle, deployed to Trapani, during aerial refueling ops with a KC-767.

The MOB (Main Operating Base) of the exercise was Trapani, in Sicily, where Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft with the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (the local-based Wing), along with Tornado IDS and ECR of the 6° Stormo and AMX of the 51° Stormo were deployed.

ItAF AMX ACOL are currently deployed to Kuwait as part of the Task Force Air Kuwait supporting the coalition involved in the air war on Daesh performing reconnaissance missions. The unit has already logged more than 3.000 FH in theater.

Decimomannu, in Sardinia, was the DOB (Deployment Operating Base) for the T-346 belong to the 212° Gruppo of the 61° Stormo , for the C-27J belonging to the 46^ Brigata Aerea, for the HH-101 and HH-139 of the 15° Stormo, for the HH-212 of the 9° Stormo.

The HH-212 of the 21° Gruppo wearing the Tiger Meet special livery.

F-4E Phantom jets of the 339 Mira (Squadron) of the Hellenic Air Force, at their latest international appearance before the unit was disbanded, after 65 years of history, on Oct. 31, 2017, took part in VG17 operating from “Deci” as well.

Four Hellenic Air Force F-4E AUP jets. The HAF deployed its Phantoms belonging ot the 339 Mira to Decimomannu.

The Greek F-4E AUP Phantoms from 339 Mira took part in VG17 few days before the squadron was disbanded after 65 years.

The other supporting assets mainly operated from their homebases: the G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) aircraft of the 14° Stormo flew from Pratica di Mare, the KC-767 Tanker of the 14° and the KC-130J of the 46th Air Brigade, engaged in multiple daily sorties, operated respectively from Pratica di Mare and Pisa; the MQ-9 Predator B of the 32° Stormo, from Amendola.

Italian Tonka gets fuel from the hose of a KC-767. The Italian Air Force committed both the KC-767 and the KC-130J to support the exercise.

Dealing with Amendola, it’s worth mentioning that two F-35A Lightning II of the 13° Gruppo supported Capo Teulada’s amphibious landing on Oct. 26 (as proved by one of the videos published by the Italian MoD on the website dedicated to the JS17 exercise), before landing, for the very first time, at Decimomannu airbase.

The F-35A 5th gen. combat aircraft of the 13° Gruppo took part in a joint exercise for the very first time.

Among the most interesting things we have noticed during VG17, it’s worth a mention the fact that the F-2000s flew some sorties carrying the Litening targeting pod on the centerline pylon, most probably to support CAS missions, meaning that they were also tasked with Swing Role missions. In fact, a secondary air-to-surface capability of the the ItAF Typhoon fleet was developed back in 2015 and validated in 2016 with the participation in Red Flag 16-2 with three Tranche 2 aircraft that embedded the P1E(B) upgrades and were loaded with the latest SRP (Software Release Package) that allowed the use of GBU-16 Paveway II LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs).

A Tornado refuels while four Typhoons wait their turn on the tanker’s left wing.

VG17 featured some other interesting “firsts”: besides the G550 CAEW, at its first joint exercise [actually the aircraft has already taken part in a real operation, to secure the G7 summit in Taormina back in May 2017], the drills saw the operational debut of the T-346’s HMD (Helmet Mounted Display) system. The helmet system projects essential symbology and aiming parameters onto the visor, enhancing the pilot’s situational awareness and providing head-out control of aircraft targeting systems and sensors. The HMD coupled to its stunning performance and ability to simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and to replicate a wide array of sensors and weapons as if these were actually installed on the aircraft made the T-346, playing the Aggressor role, an even more realistic “Bandit” in the aerial engagements of VG17.

T-346s from the 212° Gruppo performed the Aggressors role as part of the OPFOR (Opposing Forces).

All the images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s photographers Alessandro Fucito and Giovanni Maduli.


Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Claim They Have Shot Down A Saudi Eurofighter Typhoon Over Yemen

Yemeni media outlets are reporting that a Royal Saudi Air Force Typhoon was shot down over Yemen yesterday. However no pictures have been released to back Houthi rebels claims, so far.

According to several still unconfirmed media reports, a RSAF Typhoon fighter was shot down by Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels on Oct. 27. The fate of the pilot is unknown at the time of writing. No images of the wreckage or any other kind of evidence have been released so far.

“Yemen’s air defense unit told the country’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that the aircraft had been targeted with a surface-to-air missile as it was flying in the skies over Nihm district east of the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a on Friday evening,” Yemen Press reported.

For the moment there haven’t been comments by the Saudi-led coalition over the Houthi claims. Still, Saudi sources, including popular Saudi military aviation expert @MbKS15, deny the accident has occurred, saying it’s just propaganda.

Earlier this month, on Oct. 1, a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down over Sanaa: footage filmed from several different locations (the UAV was over the capital in daylight conditions when it was destroyed) depicted the incident from start to finish.

If confirmed, this would be the second Saudi Typhoon lost over Yemen while supporting Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi-led air war on the Houthi rebels in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula: indeed, a RSAF Eurofighter crashed into a mountain in Al Wade’a district on Sept. 13. Back then, the cause of the crash was an alleged technical failure during a CAS (Close Air Support) mission. The pilot, identified as Mahna al-Biz, died in the accident.

Anyway, provide the reports are accurate and a Typhoon has really been shot down, the accident would be the fourth crash of a Eurofighter jet in one a a half months: along with the already mentioned RSAF Typhoon combat aircraft that crashed in Yemen on Sept. 13, 2017, on Sept. 24, an Italian Air Force Typhoon crashed into the sea while performing its solo display during the Terracina airshow killing the test pilot, whereas on Oct. 12, a Spanish Air Force Eurofighter crashed into the ground while returning to Albacete after taking part in the National Day Parade over Madrid.

We will update this post as soon as new official details/confirmation/denial emerge.

Top image credit: Alessandro Fucito