Tag Archives: Eurofighter

Frecce Tricolori season's first display – Rivolto May 1, 2009

On May 1, 2009, the traditional Frecce Tricolori’ season’s opening, held each year at Rivolto, became a sort of mini-airshow enriched by the presence of the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo) displays. In fact, since the annual Giornata Azzurra (held each year at Pratica di Mare airbase) was canceled due to budget cuts, the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) decided to bring up an open day including also the 311° Gruppo Volo’s displays of the AMX, the Tornado, the C-27J and the Eurofighter Typhoon, a CSAR event involving an HH-3F of the 15° Stormo and an AB.212ICO of the 9° Stormo, and a static display.

Here’s the list of visiting aircraft:
P-180 (14° Stormo) MM62202
Falcon 900EX MM62244
C-130J-30 46-58 MM62192
B767CTA N606TW
A-319CJ MM62209

Four military aircraft were in static display:
F-2000A 4-15 MM7293
AMX (ACOL) 51-55 MM7168: on the left side of the rudder had a sticker applied by the 3 RMV with the text “3° RMV I.P. XII/2002” and UNI EN ISO 9002 certification logo
F-16ADF MM7251 23° Gruppo Special Colour
Tornado ECR 50-01 MM7021: with Link 16 badge

C-27J RS-50 N.C. 119 CSX 62219
HH-3F 15-29 MM81341 + AB-212ICO “ISAF” MM81161
AMX RS-14 MM7172: had Buscaglia text on the upper side of both wings, 132° Gruppo logo on the air intakes and RSV badge on the tail
Tornado RS-01 MM7014
F-2000A 4-13 MM7280: with 311° Gruppo Volo badge next to the display pilot’s name
10 MB-339 Frecce Tricolori: the only aricraft wearing an MM was “Pony 8” with MM54551

Matteo Marianeschi attended the Rivolto show, provided a detailed report and took the following pictures.

Frecce Tricolori season's opening and Rome International Airshow

With the mini-airshow that will be held in Rivolto, home of the Frecce Tricolori, on May 1, the airshow season of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) will officially start. Since the annual Giornata Azzurra (held each year at Pratica di Mare airbase) was canceled due to budget cuts, the traditional Frecce Tricolori season’s opening was enriched with the displays of the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo, the Italian Test Wing), that will perform with the AMX, the Tornado, the C-27J and the Eurofighter Typhoon, with a CSAR event involving an RivoltoHH-3F of the 15° Stormo, and with a static display. The May 1 Rivolto Open Day, that can be seen live through the Aeronautica Militare official website, will be only the first date of the Frecce Tricolori airshow calendar 2009. Another interesting show, the most important Italian aviation event of 2009, will be held near Rome on May 31. Despite being organized along the coastline at Ostia, next to Fiumicino, this year’s Ostia Airshow was renamed Rome International Airshow and will see the partecipation not only of the Frecce Tricolori, the RSV aircraft and the HH-3F but will be attended also by the Patrouille de France, by the Dutch F-16 Demo Team, by a Canadair CL-415 of the Protezione Civile (Italian Civil Protection), by a P-180 of the Piaggio Aero RIASIndustries, by the Breitling Devils demo team (with 3 SF-260s), by an ATR-42 of the Guardia di Finanza (Italian Customs Police), by 2 AV-8B+ Harrier of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy), and by a B767 of the Alitalia. The airshow will take place above the surface of the sea, in front of the crowded beaches beginning at 01.00PM LT. Photographers should take into consideration that the aircraft will be constantly back lightned during the air display….

Since the RSV test pilots will present the C-27J, the AMX, the Tornado and the F-2000 at both airshows, in the past weeks, they have been performing practice displays twice a day (a rehearsal in the morning and one in the afternoon). On Apr. 29, Giovanni Maduli went to Pratica di Mare to observe the afternoon rehearsals at Pratica di Mare (the last before the aircraft deployed to Rivolto to perform local practices) and took the following picture of the RSV Tornado departing for the display above the field. The picture shows the aircraft very far from the viewpoint, but, interestingly, it shows the Tornado taking off from RWY 13 (instead of 31) to perform its display (as usual) on the port side of the runway. This was the very first time I’ve heard of an air display (or rehearsal) performed at Pratica di Mare on the left hand side of RWY 13 (that is to say on the right hand side of RWY31).

Boeing KC-767A delay and the compromised Italian air-to-air refueling capabilities

On Apr. 3, 2008, the last of 4 B.707TT of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) equipping the 8th Gruppo of the 14° Stormo based in Pratica di Mare made its last operative flight during the build up phase of the Spring Flag Exercise. The aircraft, serialled MM62151, using c/s I-2151 with 67 people on board carried to Decimomannu 4 pallets of material and equipment. 23.000 FH had been flown in the previous 16 years all around the World in both air-to-air refueling (AAR) missions and transportation. The aircraft, originally purchased from the TAP airlines, is expected to be replaced by the KC-767A, a military version based on the Boeing 767-200ER version, that the ITAF has bought in 4 examples.

The B707 of the 8° Gruppo performing flypast in Pratica di Mare on Jun. 1, 2006.

The delay in the delivery of the new tanker (initially scheduled to be delivered in 2005, then in 2006 and so on until 2009) has reached the 4 years and the ItAF is quite upset, since the air force not only is unable to perform the daily AAR missions needed to keep the air crews proficient with the refueling operations, but compelled the ItAF to be supported by other tankers belonging to foreign air forces even to deploy abroad. The imminent deployment of the AMX fleet to the US for taking part to the Red and Green Flag exercises requires foreign asset’ support. In order to mitigate the risk of loosing the capability, initially, the ItAF extended the operative life of 2 of its B707 for another 2 years (the other B707s were sold to the Omega Air), with the Boeing company paying for the cost of the maintenance of the aircraft. Furthermore, one C-130J of the 46^ Brigata Aerea based in Pisa, was converted by means of a refueling kit into a KC-130J with two refueling pods underneath the wings. The aircraft (the first of 8), serialled MM62176 “46-41” was extensively tested by the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo), the ItAF Test Wing based in Pratica di Mare, to qualify the compatibility of the tanker with the F-2000, with the MB-339CD and also with the French helicopter EC-725 Super Cougar.

The KC-130J on loan to the RSV on May 24, 2008 during Giornata Azzurra 2008 rehearsals

Finally the Italian crews have been flying a B767 CTA provided by Boeing that will allow the 8th Gruppo pilots to acquire a basic training on the new type. The aircraft, a white B767-200 CTA (Commercial Trainer Aircraft) of the Boeing company serialled N606TW landed on Jul. 1, 2008, at Pratica di Mare airport coming from McConnell AFB, Wichita, Kansas. It will be used in the next months for training purposes by the Aeronautica Militare in anticipation of the delivery of the first KC-767 tanker. The CTA that is currently operating with the 14° Stormo is not equipped with any refueling equipment and can’t be employed for AAR training.

The B767-200 CTA taking off from Pratica di Mare on Feb. 13, 2009.

According to an article dated Sept. 8, 2008 (by Tom Kington on DefenceNews):

“Flight testing and FAA certification will be concluded by year (2008) end, at which point the Italian Air Force will start the tender for acceptance process, which takes about three months,” said John Williamson, communications director for Global Mobility Systems at Boeing.

Last November (2007), Boeing officials said they had fixed an airflow problem on the wing and promised first delivery to Italy in the second quarter of 2008. Italian officials were skeptical at the time, and the date has steadily been pushed back.
In July, the head of the Italian Air Force, Gen. Daniele Tei, hinted that delivery could slip into 2009.
This week, a senior Italian defense official confirmed it.
“Boeing is now reaching the specifications and the revised schedule, which is for a delivery early next year,” the official said. “This means the delivery of the last aircraft will now be closer to the first, since the first and second of the four aircraft were the problems.”
Boeing’s Williamson said the second of Italy’s four tankers, which joined the flight testing program at Boeing’s Wichita site in July, would start the tender for acceptance process in January, the third in March and the fourth in August, meaning all four would be handed over to the Italians during 2009.
The fix to the wing pylons tested in 2007 was sound, Williamson said. “We have no issues with the wing air-refueling pod; no changes have been made this year and we do not anticipate making changes.”
Despite that, the delivery date has slipped six months since the fix was first touted in 2007, which Williamson attributed to “design changes and FAA certification factors.”
An internal Boeing memo, seen by Defense News, charts some of the issues that were being tackled in April this year. They include an Italian request to reduce the possibility of smoke from electrical equipment entering the cockpit, flight testing scheduled to continue as late as November, and a recommendation made to the Italians to relax their standards to align with slightly less stringent FAA regulations.
Boeing was also working on obtaining the right temperature settings for passengers.
Italian officials took issue with cockpit noise, which reached 79 decibels at the pilot’s right ear while cruising at 0.8 Mach at 35,000 feet. The Italians had specified that noise be no louder than 75 decibels.
Boeing officials responded that reducing the noise would also reduce the capability of the aircraft, and recommended the Italians change their specs.
The memo also highlights a persistent weight issue, listing the plane’s operating empty weight (OEW) in cargo configuration at 200,804 pounds, 3 tons over the “maximum allowable OEW to meet mission” of 194,340 pounds.
In passenger configuration, the current weight is 220,258 pounds, almost 4 tons over the maximum allowable 212,510 pounds.
“The defects addressed early this year are now being taken care of,” the senior Italian defense official said. “We are pushing Boeing every day and we will pursue all options, but we want to stick to the contract.”
The April memo sheds light on why Boeing delayed the flight testing of its revised wing pod pylon for so long, a decision that slowed the entire program.
Boeing first identified the air flow problem at high speeds on the pylon holding the wing refueling pods in July 2005, before redesigning it for test flights in August 2006.
But the memo says that “boom refueling development and major modification” took precedence in test flights for a whole year, until August 2007, with wing-pod flight testing restarting only in October 2007.
Boeing has admitted that it struggled to keep up the pace of flight testing with just one aircraft to use.
“People remain upset over the fact that Boeing did not invest sufficiently in the program,” the Italian defense official said.

In Sept. 2008, ItAF Air Staff estimated the delivery of all the 4 aircraft by the end of year 2009. Today the picture is changed once again. In an interesting interview with Andrea Nativi of RID (Rivista Italiana Difesa) Gen. Tei said that the aircraft, that were presumed to be “force multipliers” became “illusions multipliers” and that the current roadmap estimates the delivery of the first two aircraft by 2009 and the delivery of the remaining two postponed to 2010. ItAF is extremely upset about the programme and Boeing offered the Aeronautica Militare the availability of an unspecified tanker asset for the US deployment scheduled for summer 2009.

The KC-767 cutaway (www.flightglobal.com)

The M-346 Master for UAE

On Feb 25, during IDEX 2009 (International Defence Exhibition Conference) in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates Government announced the acquisition of 48 M-346 “Master” advanced lead-in fighter trainer.

The agreement includes the creation of a joint venture in the UAE between Alenia Aermacchi and the Mubadala Development Company for the establishment of a final assembly line for the M-346 as the result of close collaboration between the Italian Government and the defence industry, which have worked together to capitalise on Italian excellence in the aeronautics high-tech sector.

Alenia Aeronautica’s CEO Giovanni Bertolone commented: “The selection of the M-346, one of the Italian aeronautical technology’s flagship, of our subsidiary Alenia Aermacchi, by the United Arab Emirates Air Force – one of the most qualified in the world – represents a fundamental success that strengthens the presence of Finmeccanica’s proprietary aeronautical products in the international scenario. I wish to underline the role played by the Italian Air Force, starting from the definition of the requirements which have led to the M-346 project”.

The M-346 “Master”, of the Italian Alenia, a Finmeccanica Group company, is the only new generation advanced lead-in fighter trainer currently under development in Europe. The twin engine M-346 was created to train pilots in such a way to prepare them to fly future combat aircraft. The aircraft, can be employed in both advanced and pre-operational training, reducing the need flown on more expensive front-line aircraft. In order to optimise training effectiveness and operating costs, the M-346 embodies the latest concepts of “design-to-cost”, supportability and production optimisation, with an high level of performances and a human-machine interface representative of new generation combat aircraft such as the European Eurofighter, the Rafale, the Gripen and the American F-22 and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. With the support of the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo), the Evaluation and Testing unit of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF), in Jan 2008, the second M-346 prototype successfully completed the air-to-air refueling from a Tornado equipped with a refueling pod in a typical buddy-buddy AAR mission.

In April 2007 the M-346 undertook an initial three-week assessment by the RSV at Pratica di Mare, obtaining higher appreciation by the Italian Air Force Pilots. The industrial base line M-346 (LRIP00) was rolled out at the beginning of April 2008 and made its official first flight in December 2008. In the same month, the first prototype of M-346 performed its first supersonic flight, reaching Mach 1.15 in the ‘Supersonic corridor’ off the Italian Riviera coast. That was the first time in 52 years than an aircraft designed and built entirely in Italy broke the sound barrier.

The first Italian aircraft to fly faster than sound was the Aerfer Sagittario II piloted by Lt.Col. Giovanni Franchini of the RSV which on Dec 4, 1956 achieved Mach 1.1 at the end of a dive at Pratica di Mare.

The design effort for the baseline industrial configuration aircraft has concentrated on structural optimisation, with additional benefits in terms of improved maintenance. The goal has been achieved by rationalizing the distribution of wing spars and fuselage frames, together with a more widespread use of composite and titanium parts. The integration of the new main landing gear (different from the previous AM-X one) and the standardization of general mission systems, has brought a considerable reduction in the empty weight, in the order of about 700 kilograms. The M-346 features innovative design solutions. Vortex lift aerodynamics, along with the full authority quadruplex Fly-by-Wire control system, allow the aircraft to remain fully controllable at angles of attack over 35° degrees. With this technological achievement, Alenia confirms it can autonomously design and manufacture advanced aircraft with Fly-by-Wire controls. The M-346 also integrates digital avionics with the ability to simulate sensors and threats in flight.

Dealing with the internationalization of the M-346 programme, Alenia Aermacchi recently signed an important agreement with Boeing, through the Support Systems Division of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. The two companies will cooperate on marketing, sales, training and product support activities in international markets for the M-346 next-generation Advanced and Lead-in Fighter Trainer and the M-311 basic-advanced trainer, both designed and manufactured by Alenia Aermacchi.
In addition to the Italian Air Force – which has expressed interest in acquiring 15 M-346 trainers and should sign the contract soon – interesting opportunities exist on leading markets such as Singapore (where the M-346 is included in “Short List”), Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Ecuador, Qatar, Greece and Chile.

The following images, courtesy of Alenia Aeronautica press office.

The F-2000s of the 12° Gruppo begin the alert service duty

On Jan 5, at 12.00 LT, the 12° Gruppo belonging to the 36° Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF), based in Gioia del Colle, will undertake its first QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duty with the Eurofighter F-2000 Typhoon since 5 years (the last QRA was undertaken with the Tornado F.3s leased by the RAF. For more background information about the last days of the ADV in ItAF service read also the following article: Il 36° Stormo). The Squadron received its first Eurofighter Typhoon on Oct 1, 2007, immediately starting the training required to achieve the operational capabilities needed to be employed in the air policing role. On Dec 1, 2008, the Squadron has achieved its first 1.000 flight hours on the type, a significant event that was celebrated with a flypast of a 5 ships formation on Gioia airbase. Beginning on Jan 5, 2009 the “Strali” (Strale is the Sqn’s radio callsign), will be again part of the SSSA (Servizio Sorveglianza Spazio Aereo, Airspace Surveillance Service) providing the Air Defense of the Italian airspace along with the F-2000s belonging to the 9° Gruppo of the 4° Stormo, based in Grosseto and the F-16s of the 10° and 18° Gruppo, both belonging to the 37° Stormo, based in Trapani, and of the 23° Gruppo (5° Stormo, Cervia). The involvement of another Italian Eurofighter Squadron in the Air Defense of the Southern Flank (Gioia del Colle is located in SE Italy), comes in a period of particularly intense Russian activity in the E. Mediterranean Sea. The Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier has already sailed in the Ionian Sea and it is expected to conduct air operations within the Athens FIR in the next weeks. Russian Sukhoi 25 and Su-33 aircraft, along with Kamov helicopters would take part in the operations.
The Londondailynews.com website published the following interesting article on the topic:

Greeks give “Green light” to Russian war games in Med

International Desk
A Russian war frigate has for the first time since the Cold War commenced a military exercise in NATO airspace, with the Greek government granting permission for Russian jets and naval ships to undertake war games from today 2 January upto 11 January.
Speaking to Reuters the Russian Government said:

“The Kuznetsov, which is sailing in the southeast Mediterranean, asked Greece’s civil aviation authority to operate within the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR),” the ministry said in a statement. “The request was granted. Greek defence officials said that Russian Sukhoi 25 and Sukhoi 33 fighter aircraft would take part in the operations, as well as Kamov helicopters. The Greek Civil Aviation Authority and Ports Authority have permitted Russian military to carry out according to military analysts in Athens a “full scale military war game” at the time when the Israelis are about to launch a ground offensive against the Palestinians.
Foreign embassies in Athens have requested clarification from the Greek Government over the Russian war games, with the US Embassy particularly concerned. The geographical area being used by the Russian military is south of Attalia of Turkey and east of Tarsou of Syria, and is a particularly sensitive hot-point, as the area is disputed by the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey over who has rights to exploit oil in the area.
Analysts in the region are saying that Russia is flexing her muscles to show the United States that she is prepared to act in areas where her “national interests” are threatened. The “near East” as the East Mediterranean has been known is particularly important for Russia, and the Greek government has played a strategic part with the Russian’s, following several high level agreements over economic co-operation.
Russian military ambitions have extended to a programme of a new nuclear powered aircraft carrier with intelligence reports stating that: “The program of building new aircraft carrying cruiser ships that Russia is
adopting after President Medvedev’s announcement was not born recently. The first Russian cruiser ships with aircraft carrying capability were built in the 1980s and 1990s. However, a lack of money prevented this programme from its natural course and finally it was abandoned, only to be restored in full and with a vengeance in 2008. It is due to be completed in 2015. A US aircraft carrier is a floating flight deck with hangars for the aircraft and barracks for pilots and marines. A Russian aircraft-carrying cruiser is a slightly smaller ship with fewer aircraft on board but heavily armed with missiles, both operational and tactical, plus a strong anti-aircraft capability. The result is that a US carrier cannot travel without its support group, while a Russian cruiser is capable of conducting combat operations alone. “

During the Cold War, close encounters of Soviet bombers and reconnaissance aircraft transiting through the Southern Adriatic Sea with the F-104 interceptors of the 12° Gruppo were frequent (read: Memories of a fighter pilot, pictures here: Zombies). With the incresed Russian air and naval activities in the Med., it is possible that, in the next months, the Gioia del Colle F-2000s will be asked to intercept some aircraft wearing the famous Red Star as the RAF Typhoons have been doing quite often from more than 1 year.

The following pictures are courtesy of the 12° Gruppo and Troupe Azzurra/Aeronautica Militare