Tag Archives: Israeli Air Force

Italy to provide Israeli Air Force with the M-346, an advanced training plane that "already looks on to the F-35".

On Feb. 16, Israel’s Ministry of Defense has announced the selection of the Italian M-346 Master as replacement of the aging Air Force’s fleet of A-4 Skyhawks, used as advanced trainers for combat pilots designated for fighter jets.

A deal worth 1 billion USD for 30 M-346s to be delivered from 2014.

As pointed out by the Jerusalem Post the deal is much more complex as, in return, Italy will commit to purchase just over $1 billion of military platforms from Israeli defense companies, including those airborne warning and control system (AWACS) G550 Eitam that took part to the 2010 and 2011 edition of the Vega multinational exercise in Decimomannu, in Sardinia.

The selection of the M-346 could jeopardise Israel and South Korea defense deals with Seoul (which offered the T-50 trainer along with a package of reciprocal acquisition) complaining that the A-4 replacement tender was not conducted in compliance with the international standards.

However, the Head of the Instructional Division, Colonel C’, has explained on the IAF on the official website the reason of the choice (highlight mine):

“I flew the Korean plane and it’s a lot like the F-16. In that aspect it has many advantages, seeing as it is easy to get used to the plane and continue from it directly to the F-16. Of course, it is a little smaller and less powerful, but it is similar to the F-16 in its operation.
The Italian plane is a combination. It integrates the F-16, the F-15 and the Eurofighter. It’s a dual-engine aircraft while the Korean plane has one engine, which is an important security aspect, but has less experience than the Korean aircraft which is already serving as an instructional plane.

We weighed each pro and con: in suitability, capabilities, security, instruction and readiness and arrived at the conclusion that in spite of the lack of experience, the Italian plane is preferable. It already looks on to the F-35 and can be compatible with training for it. It prepares us better for the future, and that was also a consideration”.

The M-346, is one of the most advanced trainer aircraft available on the market today with an avionics system modelled on those
used in new-generation fighter aircraft, such as Eurofighter, Gripen, Rafale, F-16, F-18, F-22 and the F-35.

In 2010, 12 M-346s were also purchased by the Republic of Singapore Air Force, once again to replace ageing A-4 Skyhawks.

On Nov. 18, 2011, the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 CP-X615 crashed in Dubai shorthly after take off. The captain and the passenger successfully ejected and were recovered with minor injuries. The aircraft was returning in Italy after attending the local air show.

On Feb. 6 the Italian Air Force has received its second M-346, designed T-346, that flew from Venegono to Pratica di Mare, where the Experimental Flying Wing (RSV – Reparto Sperimentale Volo) will conduct a test campaign prior to its operational deployment. Once the evaluation is complete, the first two T-346As will be taken on charge by the 61° Stormo at Lecce which will also take delivery of the other four aircraft purchased by the ItAF.

Image credit: Alenia Aermacchi

Typhoons over the Negev: the Italian Air Force and the Israeli Air Force in Exercise "Desert Dusk"

Updated Dec. 25 10.30 GMT

From Dec. 5 to 15, Tornado ECR of the 50° Stormo and Eurofighter F-2000A Typhoon of the 4° and 36° Stormo of the Italian Air Force deployed to Uvda airbase, in Israel, for the Exercise “Desert Dusk”, a small-scale joint exercise with the Israeli Air Force involving 25 planes.

During their 2-week stay, the Italian fighters that have taken part to the Operation Unified Protector in Libya (the ECR as a SEAD asset, the Typhoon flying both in the air defense and in the air-to-surface role – the latter flown only by RAF planes), accompanied by 150 military, launched 100 sorties, including some COMAOs (Composite Air Operations), that gave the Italian pilots (and for the very first time, the Typhoon fleet, that had not taken part to the first deployment in Israel in 2010) to train in high-lethality scenarios, testing the capabilities of the squadrons to deploy “out-of-area” with the support of the KC-767A and the C-130J.

These exercises allow crews to refine procedures and techniques and develop procedural standards that are extremely important to operate in Crisis Support Operations launched in an international cooperation framework.

According to the news release published on the IAF website, during the first week, the Italian flew an exercise with the 115 Sqn “Flying Dragon”, equipped with F-16A “Netz” which specializes in enemy simulation and in the second, they were joined by the 69 Sqn “Hammers”  from “Hatzerim” airbase equipped with F-15I “Ra’am” and the110 Sqn “Knights of the North” from “Ramat-David” airbase flying the F-16C “Barak”.

The “Desert Dusk” came few weeks after the Israeli Air Force F-16s deployed to Decimomannu, in Sardinia, for the Exercise Vega 2011, and in a period of growing tension in the area, caused by the capture in Iran of a U.S. stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drone involved in a spy mission on the Iranian nuke program.

Actually, the news of the first Typhoon deployment in Israel came in the same days Eurofigher lost the F-X competition in Japan where the MoD announced the decision to purchase the much troubled and costly Lockheed Martin F-35 as next generation fighter plane for the JASDF. Once again (as in Swiss fighter competition won by the Gripen), a political choice rather than a decision based on merit /capability to meet requirements.

Below you can find some images of the exercise published on the IAF website. Many more interesting pictures can be found here.

Image credit: Israeli Air Force website

Computer viruses, mysterious bomb blasts, assassinations and PSYOPS: Israel's stealth war on Iran already begun?

When writing about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, many analysts and journalists seem to forget that, although not of the type one might expect, the attack against Tehran nuke sites has already kicked off. Many still believe that a conventional military action against Iran is a future possibility forgetting that a long lasting hi-tech war in the region is (most probably) already in progress.

Last October, about 20 military personnel were killed in a blast at a Revolutionary Guards annunition depot. On Nov. 12, an explosion at Bid Ganeh, a military base located in the outskirs of Tehran killed General Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam, head of Iran’s missile defense program along with 30 other people. Few days ago, another blast in Isfahan, Iran’s third-largest city, could have hit a uranium conversion site.

Israel is also widely held as responsible for using the Stuxnet virus to target Iran’s nuclear plants.

There also have been many other mysterious episodes: home and abroad assassinations and plane accidents as the one involving the Tupolev 134 that crashed near Petrozavodsk on June 21 while carrying five Russian scientists who assisted in the design of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Even if some of these incidents have been denied by the ayatollahs’ regime, their frequency and effectiveness is causing frustration among Iranians, appearantly unable to react to an invisible, unknown and sophisticated multi-directional and multi-dimensional attack. Hence, the new kind of war is also having the same psychological effects of a complex PSYOPS mission.

Israel has never confirmed its direct involvement in it but it is quite likely that the hi-tech stealth war is the only way to sabotage Ahmadinejad’s program preventing Iran’s “fierce, protracted and multi-pronged” retaliation.

Still, what tech was used to attack the nuclear plants remains an unanswered question. An intriguing theory (no more than that, please!) that was inspired by a talk with Giuliano Ranieri is that some killer Micro Air Vehicles, or MAVs, known to be under development by Israel for counter-terrorism activities could have been developed and used against the Iranian sites, even if such drones are not be capable to perform long range missions and could not be used for this kind of covert ops unless they are launched from the vicinity of the target or from a sort of “mothership” (another larger drone). By the way, did you know that Israeli UAVs can be remotely controlled by flying F-15s or AH-64 Apaches?

It is also possible that the recent attacks involved one or more Dolphin Class submarines in the Red Sea (or Persian Gulf) capable of launching Popeye Turbo cruise missiles at 1,500 km from underwater.

Anyway the use of Israeli combat planes, “normal” drones and so on,  is probably a “last resort” option, not only because it would cause an almost certain retaliatory attack using medium-range ballistic missiles, possibly armed with chemical, biological or radiological warheads, but also because it would be an extremely complex operation to plan and execute, even for a combat proven air force, with past experience on long range raids.

Too many combat aircraft, too many air-to-air refueling planes and support planes to go unnoticed.

And what about the route? Even if the US withdrawal from Iraq would give clearance to a raid on that direction, it’s hard to believe that a strike package would pass undetected by an air defense on a heightned readiness status during ingress and egress from their targets. Unless the Israeli have improved their already effective EW capabilities, the same that during Operation Orchard, on Sept. 6, 2007, let the 10 F-15Is attack a nuclear facility being built in Syria completely undetected.

An attack that Israel has never publicly confirmed.

Israeli Air Force "long range training": getting ready for Iran?

As happened in 2010, once again Decimomannu airbase hosted the “Vega” (VEX), a small-scale multinational exercise that this year was attended by 20 aircraft belonging to the Italian, Israeli and German Air Force.

Even if the news that Decimomannu was expected to host Israeli Air Force (IAF) fighter planes was widely advertised on websites around the world, specific details about their activities were surrounded by a veil of secrecy, as happens each time the Heyl Ha’ Havir attends an exercise outside Israel.

However, the presence in European airports of IAF planes always attracts the interest of aircraft enthusiasts, spotters as well as journalists or analysts who can not miss the opportunity to see up close some of the most advanced and rare Israeli “hardware” at work.

This year, along with the Gulfstream G550 Eitam CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning), that last year I described as

a sort of mini-AWACS equipped with 2 L-band antennas, on both sides of the fuselage, and 2 S-band antennas, on the nose and tail of the aircraft. The antennas are part of a EL/W-2085, a Phalcon and Green Pine (used for the Arrow Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile Missile, ATBMM) derivative. Another G550 variant (that did not take part in the exercise) is the Shavit, the SEMA (Special Electronic Mission Aircraft) the SIGINT platform equipped with the EL/I-3001 Airborne Integrated Signal Intelligence System.

the IAF brought to Decimomannu the F-16C and D “Barak”, which differs from other C versions because of the extensive local modifications and a dorsal spine believed to accomodate Electronic Warfare equipment and various electronic systems.

Once again the Israli left at home one of the most advanced weapon system in their orbat, the F-16I “Sufa” a multi-role plane equipped with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT) which increase the internal fuel capacity by 50%; the APG-68(V)X SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar), that provides day and night, all weather, automatic target tracking; Israeli-made Helmet Mounted Cueing System; Dorsal spine Avionics Compartment, hosting “advanced electronic warfare systems developed in Israel”, and Satellite Communication suite.

Commonly, the only available reliable information are those officially disclosed by IAF/IDF spokepersons. Indeed, even if some pictures of the VEX11 had been published on some websites, Internet forums, Facebook and Flickr pages, the first interesting details about the detachment were published by the IAF and by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that suggested that the IAF planes were involved in a long-range attack exercise in the article “Israel Air Force conducts drills for long-range attacks” : “The drill included most of the aviation components that are likely to take part in future long-range attacking missions: combat squadrons, aerial refueling and air monitoring stations.”

Even if those assets could be used in a long-range strike mission, the type of activity that they performed in Italy has little to do with long range bombing. According to the information released by the Israeli Air Force in the video below, the HHA pilots have begun using the Sardinian base because it offers training areas above the sea or unpopulated areas that are not available in Israel and . Furthermore, exercises as the VEX11 give the combat proven IAF the opportunity to improve cooperation by sharing experiences, procedures and tactics with NATO units equipped with different weapon systems, as the Typhoon or the Tornado.

Even if some Israeli media ignited the spreading of theories which suggested that the recent Israeli drills have been conducted in anticipation of a possible long range attack on Iran, I rule out this possibility. The VEX11 was planned many months ago – the deployment of Israeli fighters in Sardinia was advertised by some websites from more than 12 weeks – and it’s goal was mostly to put the IAF strike force’s deployability and capability to operate from a FOB (Forward Operating Base), rather than its ability to destroy distant targets, under test.

Finally, I think the IAF has been preparing for an Iran strike for years….

The following pictures were taken at Decimomannu by Giovanni Maduli during VEX11.

Exclusive photos: IAF F-15D performing 360° roll after take off

In a previous post, published on this site on Feb. 9, 2011, titled Israeli F-15 pilot jailed after performing dangerous maneuvers at Decimomannu I explained that a pilot and a navigator of the 106 Sqn of the Israeli Air Force, based at Tel Nof, were sent to prison for 7 days and suspended from flight activities for one year, after performing a 360° roll after take off from Decimomannu airbase, in Sardinia, where the aircraft was detached for Exercise Vega 2010. After reading my article, Tony Lovelock, a British journalist and photographer, sent me a message to tell me that he was there when the IAF pilot made the 360° roll and that he had taken pictures of the entire maneuver. Below you can find the entire, unbelievable sequence of pictures Tony was able to shot to the F-15D 90-0275/733 at Decimomannu on Nov. 19, 2010; 8 shots taken in about 4 seconds. According to the Exif of the photos, the whole sequence of shots took place between 10.23.37LT and 10.23.44LT while the time between the third shot, as he started the roll, and the last, being 4 seconds: 10.23.40LT – 10.23.44LT. Here’s how Tony commented his own pictures: “Sadly, not all the shots are as sharp as I would have liked, but from the position I was shooting from, there is a tall tree close to my left; as he passed this, I stopped following him, the next second he was into his party act, and I had to catch up with him again. This was not as easy as it would seem, as he appeared to be going in all conceivable directions at the same time, and getting increasingly further away with each second”. Even if some images might be not as sharp as Tony would have liked, they are the only documentary evidence of the unusual maneuver that cost so much to the Israeli pilot.

Click below to open the file with the entire sequence of 8 pictures (from right to left) taken by Tony Lovelock at Decimomannu on Nov. 19, 2010.