Tag Archives: General Atomics MQ-1 Predator

Italian Air Force aircraft take part in “Tende Scaglia” Special Operations exercise

We attended the tactical event that closed “Tende Scaglia 2016” exercise.

Taking place from Apr. 4 to 22, “Tende Scaglia 2016” (TS 16) was an exercise organized and managed by the 1^ Brigata Aerea Operazioni Speciali (1st Special Operations Air Brigade) of the Italian Air Force.

The MOB (Main Operating Base) of the TS 16 was Cervia airbase, on the Adriatic coast, that gathered 480 military belonging to 10 different units as well as several different assets: 2x HH-212, 2x HH-139, 1x EC-27J, 1x MC-27J and 1x HH-101.

Since the first HH-101A “Caesar” medium-lift helicopter was taken on charge by the ItAF in February 2016, the helicopter, a military variant of the AW.101 that will be used to perform personnel recovery and special forces missions, SAR (Search And Rescue) and CSAR missions, as well as medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) tasks did not actively take part in the exercise.

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The last phase of the multidimensional exercise included several attacks to the base, a water supply contamination and a MEDEVAC event that The Aviationist’s reporter Pierpaolo Maglio had the opportunity to attend on Apr. 21.

The latter took place in the Italian Army range at Foce del Reno, 10-minute flight time from Cervia and started with a (simulated) suicide attack against a convoy and the subsequent explosion of a loaded truck. Immediately after the explosion, 3 VTLM (Veicolo Tattico Leggero Multiruolo – Multirole Lightweight Tactical Vehicle) Lince (Lynx) secured the zone and closing all access to the landing area with the onboard machine guns.

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During this phase the MC-27J Praetorian gunship aircraft established a radio-link with the troops on the ground and called in the four MEDEVAC helicopters while an EC-27J Jedi prevented the attackers from using electronic devices to remotely detonate any Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

The MEDEVAC was carried out by 2x HH-139s from the 15° Stormo (Wing), and 2x HH-212s from the 9° Stormo followed by a last HH-139 that was first refueled on the field by the FARP (Forward Arming & Refueling Point) of the 3° Stormo and then took off again to carry the last light injured to a field hospital (Camp Giudecca).

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Along with the Special Ops C-27Js from the 46^ Brigata Aerea from Pisa, the exercise was supported by some “on-demand assets”: ItAF AMX tactical aircraft and Predator UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

Image credit: The Aviationist / Pierpaolo Maglio

Russian combat planes shadowed U.S. Predator drones over Syria three times last week

U.S. Predator drones “intercepted” by Russia’s jets, U.S. fighters rerouted for deconfliction: the airspace over Syria is becoming increasingly dangerous.

As already explained in our article about the close encounter between a flight of U.S. F-16s and one of Russian Air Force Su-34s, which came within 20 miles each other over northwestern Syria, according to Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, commander of the American air campaign in Iraq and Syria, the Russians have come even closer than that to American drones flying in the same areas.

Indeed, if you look at the screenshot published here you’ll easily find the track of some unmanned aerial vehicles (in green color) operating along the border between Turkey and Syria: until a real coordination is put into place between U.S. and Russia, there is some risk of jets and UAVs from both parties interfering with one another.

So, it’s not really surprising what Fox News unveiled today: Russian jets deployed to Latakia, Syria, shadowed U.S. Predator drones on at least three separate occasions since the start of Russia’s air campaign last week.

According to defense officials who talked to Fox News, the RuAF jets have (quite obviously) not attempted to shoot down the drones but flew “intercept tracks” to get closer to and shadow the unmanned aircraft.

It would be nice to know whether the Russians briefly used their own radars (exposing valuable data about the way their antennas work to ESM platform operating in the same area) to spot the Predators or just got in visual contact with them and maneuvered to “intercept” the drones.

In 2013, the U.S. Air Force started escorting its Predators flying off Iran, after the drones were harassed by Iranian fighter jets trying to shoot them down: during a famous close encounter over the Persian Gulf an F-22 Raptor pilot taunted two Iranian F-4Es that were trying to intercept an American MQ-1.

Interestingly, Russian planes forced a U.S. combat plane to slightly modify its route for proper deconfliction: “it changed the flight path a little bit” U.S. Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.

The situation could get even worse in the following days, considered that the Russian contingent is going to receive three more Su-30SM, as announced by the Russia’s MoD on social media.

Update: it looks like the above mentioned additional Su-30s are being deployed to Crimea.

In the last few days, the Turkish Air Force reported several violations of their airspace by a Russian Su-30SM and a Su-24; in at least two different incidents, TuAF F-16s were locked on by foreign fighter jets (a RuAF Flanker and a mysterious, “unidentified” Mig-29).

Image credit: Russian MoD

U.S. drone crashed in Syria. Probably shot down by a Syrian SA-3 surface to air missile

An MQ-1 Predator crashed in Syria. According to Syria state media it was shot down by Syrian air defenses.

The U.S. lost contact with an unarmed MQ-1 Predator drone on Mar. 17.

Whilst Pentagon officials could not confirm whether the aircraft was shot down or crashed because of a failure, the Syrian SANA news agency reported that the unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down in the Latakia province by the Syrian air defenses.

Indeed, images of the wreckage of an aerial vehicle were later posted on social media: provided the photographs were really taken at the crash site, they show parts of the UAV (including a wheel of the landing gear) along with parts of what seems to be the body an S-125 Neva/Pechora (NATO reporting name SA-3 Goa) Soviet surface-to-air missile system: this may confirm the version of the Syrian State Media according to which the MQ-1, most probably operating out of Incirlik airbase, in Turkey, was shot down.

The event is interesting for several reasons:

1) it proves U.S. drones perform ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions in a region (on the western coast of Syria) currently not interested by the air strikes targeting the Islamic State. Monitoring jihadist activities in the area? Keeping an eye on the fightings between rebels and loyalist forces? Monitoring shipments that reach Syria via sea?

2) if the shot down is confirmed, it proves that Assad fires back and Syrian air defenses can pose a threat to manned and unmanned aircraft that operate inside the Syrian airspace.

3) the area where the drone was allegedly shot down is the same where a Turkish RF-4E jet was shot down by a coastal air defense battery.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

MQ-1C Predator footage of repatriation of Italian nationals from Libya

An Italian Air Force MQ-1C Predator A+ escorted the ships involved in the repatriation of Italian nationals from Libya.

On Feb. 15, Italy announced the closure of the Libya embassy and the orderly repatriation of nationals from the North African country as a consequence of the IS advance.

The 100 Italian citizens were ferried to the port of Augusta, in Sicily, by the Maltese ferryboat “San Gwann”, which was escorted by the Italian Navy “Carlo Bergamini” FREMM (European multipurpose frigate) and by a Predator A+ of the Italian Air Force.

Belonging to the 28th Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) based at Amendola, in southeastern Italy, the MQ-1C Predator A+ acted as “On Scene Eye” and filmed the entire operation, monitoring any suspect activity in the vicinity of the ships and near the convoy which brought the Italians to the Tripoli harbor.

Here’s the footage recorded by the Predator.

The Italian Air Force operates a mixed force of 6 MQ-9 Reaper and 6 MQ-1C Predator A+ both assigned to the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) at Amendola airbase.

The Italian drones have flown ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance missions) as well as MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), support to TIC (Troops In Contact), IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring and Convoy Escort in Iraq and Afghanistan; they have supported Operation Unified Protector in Libya, Mare Nostrum operation in the Mediterranean Sea near Lampedusa (where they have monitored the migratory flows and consequent tragic ship wreckage off the island) and they are also currently deployed in Kuwait (to support the US-led anti-ISIS operation in Syria and Iraq) and Djibouti, where they are used to monitor the seas off the coast of Somalia in anti-piracy missions.

Leveraging their persistence on the target area (up to 20 hours), the drones will now enable Police forces to monitor major events and support anti-crime and riot-control operations.

Top image and video credit: Italian Air Force

Italian Police Forces to use Air Force’s Predator drones

Italian Police and Military Police can use Italian Air Force Predator drones for a wide variety of missions.

On Nov. 26, the Polizia (Police), Carabinieri (Military Police) and the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) signed a deal for the use of the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) in various urban activities as well as to support relief operations in case of natural disasters.

The Italian Air Force operates a mixed force of 6 MQ-9 Reaper and 6 MQ-1C Predator A+ both assigned to the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) at Amendola airbase.

The Italian drones have flown ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance missions) as well as MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), support to TIC (Troops In Contact), IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring and Convoy Escort in Iraq and Afghanistan; they have supported Operation Unified Protector in Libya, Mare Nostrum operation in the Mediterranean Sea near Lampedusa (where they have monitored the migratory flows and consequent tragic ship wreckages off the island) and they are also currently deployed in Kuwait (to support the US-led anti-ISIS operation in Syria and Iraq) and Djibouti, where  they are used to monitor the seas off the coast of Somalia in anti-piracy missions.

Leveraging their persistence on the target area (up to 20 hours), the drones will now enable Police forces to monitor major events and support anti-crime and riot-control operations.

Italian Air Force Predators have already flown similar missions during the G8 summit in 2009 when they contributed to the event’s security; among all the other things, a Predator provided real-time imagery of the Obama motorcade from Pratica di Mare airbase (where the Air Force One had landed) to L’Aquila, the location chosen for the meetings.

Image credit: EUNAVFOR