Tag Archives: Gioia del Colle

Italian Typhoons and Greek F-16s Take Over NATO Air Policing mission over Montenegro

With the symbolic intercept of a Montenegrin Government aircraft, Italian and Greek fighters have kicked off a new NATO Air Policing mission.

On Jun. 5, the day of the anniversary of Montenegro’s membership in NATO, the Italian and Hellenic Air Force have started protecting the airspace of Montenegro. The new NATO Air Policing mission kicked off with the simulated intercept of a Montenegrin government Learjet 45 (the aircraft registered 4O-MNE) by two Greek F-16s and two Italian Typhoons.

The Montenegrin Minister of Defence Predrag Boškovič, NATO’s representative, Brigadier General Roberto di Marco, Deputy Commander of NATO’s Depoyable Air Command and Control Centre, and the Italian Air Force representative, Major General Silvano Frigerio, watched the fighters flying up to Learjet, signal to the pilots and escort them to a safe landing to the military part of the Podgorica Airport.

An ItAF F-2000A escorts the Montenegrin Learjet 45 during Jun. 5 simulated intercept. Image credit: GOV.ME/S. Matić

The jets conducted a procedure in accordance with NATO’s QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) standard procedure: the Combined Air Operations Centre at Torrejon, Spain, commands the “scramble” (alert take-off) when the unidentified track flies close to or inside NATO Allies’ territories. This often happens when civilian aircraft lose two-way radio contact with civil ATC (Air Traffic Control) agencies or when flights lack the Diplo Clearance (diplomatic clearance) required to enter a nation’s airspace. Italian or Greek fighters will be launched to intercept, identify, escort and/or assist the corresponding aircraft.

Two HAF F-16s close on the LJ45 left wing. Image credit: GOV.ME/S. Matić

The Italian Air Force Typhoons that took part in the simulated intercept were launched from Gioia del Colle airbase, in southeastern Italy, home of the 36° Stormo (Wing) and its two squadrons: the X and XII Gruppo. Italy is the only NATO nation to support five interim Air Policing missions for nations that do not have an autonomous air defense capability: Slovenia, Albania, Iceland, Baltic States and Montenegro.

With four Italian F-2000 Typhoons deployed to Amari, Estonia, as part of the Enhanced Air Policing North Baltic Eagle, from January to April 2018, the Italian Air Force secured the airspaces of six nations [Italy, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia and Albania (on a rotational basis with effort shared with the Hellenic Air Force)]: a record among NATO allies.

Two Aeronautica Militare Eurofighter Typhoon jets took off from Gioia del Colle in southern Italy to simulate an intercept of a Montenegrin government plane marking the kick off for the NATO Air Policing over Montenegro. Photo: Aeronautica Militare,

Check Out The Four Italian Eurofighter Typhoons In New, Stunning Special Color Schemes

Four F-2000A Typhoon jets, each wearing a unique special livery, were unveiled on Jun. 24 at Grosseto airbase.

As already reported, on Saturday Jun. 24, Grosseto airbase hosted the event that celebrated the 100th anniversary of five Italian Air Force squadrons: the IX Gruppo (9th Squadron, using the Roman numerals), belonging to the 4° Stormo (Wing), based at Grosseto; the X and XII Gruppo (10th and 12th Squadron), both belonging to the 36° Stormo, Gioia del Colle; the XIII Gruppo (13th Squadron), with the 32° Stormo from Amendola; and the XVIII Gruppo (18th Squadron), belonging to the 37° Stormo, based at Trapani.

Along with the world’s first ever F-35A with special tail markings presented by the XIII Gruppo, the IX, X, XII and XVIII, that fly the Eurofighter Typhoon, unveiled their special colored F-2000A jets.

The IX Gruppo special, MM7340/4-9, was designed by Silvano Mainini and Andrea Scomparin (who are also behind many other famous paint jobs including the special liveries of the last Grosseto F-104 Starfighters back in 2003). It sports the squadron’s white rearing horse and “9” squadron number on the left hand side of the tail and the horse and IX numeral on the right one.

The IX Gruppo special landing at Grosseto on Jun. 25, 2017. (image credit: The Aviationist’s Alessandro Fucito)

The left hand side of the MM7340/4-9 (image credit: The Aviationist’s Alessandro Borsetti)

The X Gruppo special, MM7341/36-10 was designed by Lt. Giovanni D’Antonio and features Francesco Baracca’s black rearing horse along with a red “Picca” (pike – from the unit’s radio callsign).

The X Gruppo special: MM7341/36-10 (credit: Alessandro Fucito)

The “Picca Special” prepares to land on Sunday Jun. 25 after taking part with all the other specials, including the F-35, in the Marina di Grosseto airshow (credit: Alessandro Fucito)

MM7318/36-12, the XII Gruppo special jet was designed by our friend Ugo Crisponi and features the rearing horse on a sand background, along with the silhouettes of all the aircraft flown by the squadron since 1917.

The special 36-12 about to land in Grosseto (credit: Alessandro Fucito)

Another view of the MM7318/36-12. This photo was taken as the aircraft arrived in Grosseto on Friday Jun. 23, 2017 (image credit: The Aviationist’s Giovanni Maduli).

The XVIII Gruppo special colored Typhoon MM7293/37-18, once again made by Mainini and Scomparin, has a different scheme on the right and left side of the tail: the right one shows the “Vespa Arrabbiata” (Italian for Angry Wasp) of the 3° Stormo to which the squadron belonged during WWII; the left side shows the XVIII numeral superimposed to the typical green and black checkerboard.

The MM7293/37-18 on the ground at Grosseto during the centenary celebrations (credit: Alessandro Borsetti)

This photo of the 37-18 shows the livery on the right hand side of the aircraft (credit: Alessandro Fucito)

As the photos in the post show, all the aircraft had the airbrake and canards painted as well.

In a world of military aviation dominated by overall grey paint schemes, some colour is much appreciated by enthusiasts, photographers and spotters!

 

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Here’s how the Italian Air Force has restructured to enhance its ability to face modern, terrorist threats

A QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) cell deployed to an airbase in the northwest; fighters flying with live weapons during training flights: this is how the Italian Air Force deals with modern threats and shrinking budgets.

Italian Air Force 4.0: this is how it’s been unofficially dubbed. It’s the outcome of a restructuring phase that will enhance the effectiveness of the Air Power by leveraging joint, inter-agency cooperation and a more efficient use of the currently available assets.

In a long interview with Air Press, the Chief of Staff of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) Lt. Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli, provided many interesting details about the way the service is changing to face the most modern threats in an age of financial crisis, and with a plan to reduce its size (in terms of personnel) by about 25%.

The most interesting changes deal with the Italian Air Force’s primary mission: Air Defense.

After closing several airbases to concentrate its interceptors in just two MOBs (Main Operating Bases), Grosseto and Gioia del Colle, and one DOB (Deployment Operating Base), Trapani, the flying branch has realized that the current set up is strongly unbalanced: most of northern Italy is almost uncovered against the asymmetrical threat posed by ultralight aircraft or drones in the hands of terrorists.

For this reason, beginning on Sept. 1, 2016, a couple of Typhoons have started providing QRA duties from Cameri (in northwestern Italy), once the base of a Stormo (Wing) equipped with the F-104 Starfighter. From there, the Italian F-2000As (that’s how the Eurofighter jet fighters are designated in Italy) will be able to engage “renegade” planes much earlier than they would have done taking off from Grosseto (the airbase on H24 alert to provide air policing for all central and northern Italy and Slovenia.)

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Although air superiority remains the Italian Typhoons primary mission, last year the ItAF has started the Operational Testing and Evaluation in the air-to-ground. A team of experienced pilots are already swing role-qualified but, for the moment, the Italians consider the air-to-surface capabilities useful in some niche scenarios and to support the platform’s export opportunities. (Author)

Even more noteworthy is the fact that, in order to be able to engage any aerial threat in the shortest possible time, nowadays all the fighter aircraft flying training missions, including the attack planes, carry live air-to-air weaponry so that the whole ItAF fleet of tactical assets contribute to the airspace surveillance duties: in spite of a bit of overhead required to service and manage many more aircraft carrying actual missiles, the new procedures enable a more efficient way to manage the fleet in accordance with the “train as you fight, fight as you train” motto.

Actually, even the SAR (Search And Rescue) helicopters, that ensure a round-the-clock operational readiness across the country, have been included in the air policing tasks in order to exploit their SMI (Slow Mover Interceptor) capability.

According to Vecciarelli, the restructing of the Air Defense and a more appropriate distribution on the territory allowed the Aeronautica Militare to quadruple the air defense capabilities at a very low-cost.

Whilst daily training sorties are carried out with two drop tanks, QRA aircraft are usually armed with 1 AIM-9L/M and 1 AIM-120B/C air-to-air missiles, cannon with 150 rounds and a single 1,000 kg centerline drop tank, are ready to launch from the shelters in the northern part of Grosseto airbase to cover the wing’s AOR (Area Of Responsibility): a circle of 450 NM radius centered in Grosseto and covering central and northern Italy, and Slovenia

Whilst daily training sorties are carried out with two drop tanks, QRA aircraft are usually armed with 1 AIM-9L/M and 1 AIM-120B/C air-to-air missiles, cannon with 150 rounds and a single 1,000 kg centerline drop tank, are ready to launch from the shelters in the northern part of Grosseto airbase to cover the wing’s AOR (Area Of Responsibility): a circle of 450 NM radius centered in Grosseto and covering central and northern Italy, and Slovenia. (Author)

Furthermore, the Israel’s IAI will soon deliver the first of two Gulfstream G550 Eitam conformal airborne early warning (CAEW) aircraft (as well as ground support equipment and logistical support services) under the terms of a deal worth 750 million USD that was signed in 2012 as part of “a larger larger Government-to-Government agreement between Israel and Italy that includes aircraft, engines, maintenance, logistics, simulators and training, provided also by other Israeli and international companies.”

Although reinforced by several non-standard air defense assets (including the first multirole F-35s, that are expected to be delivered to Amendola airbase, to be taken on charge by the local-based 32° Stormo in the coming weeks), the Italian Air Defense’s main asset remains the Typhoon.

The Euro-canard has been providing air policing tasks since Dec. 16, 2005, when the 4° Stormo (Wing), first among all the partner nations, undertook the first QRA alert duty with the F-2000A from Grosseto.

Since then, the Italian Air Force has become the first to achieve the NATO Quick Response Force certification, has flown hundred alert scrambles, has supported NATO operations in Iceland, and enforced NFZs (No Fly Zones) during several highly-sensitive events, including the Turin 2006 Winter Games and Davos World Economic Forums, and has also taken part to Operation Unified Protector, flying sweep and escort missions over Libya.

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 logged about 900 flying hours, 40 A-Scrambles (Alert Scrambles) and more than 160 T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles) in support of NATO BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) mission.

“Our involvement in the BAP mission is just the latest of several real operations we have taken part in the last years. […] We have the required know-how and a much mature aircraft,” told Col. Enrico Pederzolli, commander of the 4° Stormo, at Grosseto, in an interview to The Aviationist earlier this year.

 

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Have you ever seen a Tornado-like spinning vortex on a Typhoon? Just phase transition thermodynamics

I’m pretty sure many of this weblog’s readers have already seen this phenomenon generated at the air intake of an F-16. There is also a quite famous image of a C-17 engine, generating this tornado-like spinning vortex. However, the following picture is the first I’ve seen so far showing the vortex generated by an Italian Eurofighter Typhoon (F-2000A according to the Mission Design Series).

The picture was taken in May 2011, by Nicola Ruffino and shows a Typhoon of the 36° Stormo, based at Gioia del Colle, generating a vortex on the apron before taxiing for night sortie.

The principle is quite simple: the air is sucked into the intake generating a depression. As the pressure lowers, the air cools and the water vapor contained in it condesates and becomes visible. The process is the same I’ve explained when I discussed sonic booms and condensation clouds) and it is frequent in high humidity or wet weather conditions.

Noteworthy, if temperature is particularly low the water vapor contained in the air changes directly to ice (without first becoming a liquid). Known as “deposition”, this phase transition can cause some problem to the aircraft, in the form of engine Ice FOD (Foreign Object Damage) and intake ice build-up.

RAF Tornados firing 900K Euro missiles in 8-hour round-trip mission from the UK: is the war in Libya a marketing campaign?

Looks like the UK’s Royal Air Force is particularly proud of announcing a Long-Range Libya mission involving six Tornados carrying state-of-the-art (and costly) Storm Shadow missiles.

According to the article published today on the Service’s website, on Aug. 10 night, six GR4s armed with stand-off missiles, conducted a round-trip mission over Libya “to target elements of Colonel Qadhafi’s military command and control facilities and air defence infrastructure.” This means that the aircraft flew long range sorties from RAF Marham and RAF Lossiemouth carrying 2 Storm Shadows each, for a total of 12 missiles.

There are many things that seem a bit weird.

First of all, that this kind of weapon is still needed in Libya after more than 100 days of air campaign, after the enemy’s air defenses both manned and unmanned (missiles) have been completely wiped out (or are unable to pose a threat to the allied planes).  The Storm Shadow provide the unique capability for precision strike against high value hardened targets without exposing aircraft and crews to high threat levels. Since each missile has a unit price of about 900.000 Euro (£790,000 = 1.3 Milion USD), I wonder if it the residual risk was worth the expense of 1 or more stand-off missiles.

Second, with 4 more Tornado GR4s deployed to Gioia del Colle, bringing the total to 16 was there the need to conduct a long range mission from the UK? Perhaps the RAF contingent in Italy was not supplied with the Storm Shadow, stored in the UK, but the cost of performing such long range missions (considered the hourly cost of a RAF Tonka: 38K Euro = 33K GBP = 54K USD) could be partly abated deploying some of them in southeastern Italy.

Now the question is: what did the RAF need to strike with such an expensive weapon?

And also: how many Storm Shadows did the RAF Tonkas fire?

NATO’s Aug. 10 Operational Media Update on Operation Unified Protector doesn’t list so many High Value targets worth some Storm Shadows. Most probably, the Tornados conduced air strikes in the Sebha area, where “1 Militairy Facility, 1 Bunker, 1 Command and Control Node, 1 Radar Site” were hit.

The Military facility could be the local airbase that was hit also in the past (raising another question: why is there still something to be hit over there?), and the bunker, that could be a target of a stand-off missile.

We don’t know how many aircraft were actually involved in the strike, since two were probably used as spares, and how many fired their missiles, but, with details disclosed so far, the entire operation resembles a sort of live exercise aimed to advertise the RAF’s adaptability and capability to strike at long range. An expensive marketing operation spurred by the desire of visibility rather than a war mission needed to achieve a military objective, like many others we have witnessed in Libya so far.

Photo credit: RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2011
PS: for some reason, Italian newspapers have given different Storm Shadow’s unit price in the last weeks: 300K Euro.