Tag Archives: Italian Air Force

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,

Exercise Joint Stars 2018 put Italian Armed Forces most advanced “hardware” to test

F-35, T-346, Typhoon, AV-8B, CAEW among the assets involved Italy’s largest exercise supported (for the first time) by the U.S. Marine Corps too.

From May 7 to 19, more than 2,000 military, 25 aircraft and helicopters, dozens of land, naval and amphibious vehicles belonging to the Italian Air Force, Navy, Army were involved in the first phase of Italy’s largest joint drills this year: Exercise Joint Stars 2018. The aim of JS18 is “to achieve the highest possible level of interoperability among the Armed Forces, with an intelligent use of all specialties, to achieve a common goal, thanks also to the development and integration of common procedures “.

Joint Stars 2018 was designed to train commands and forces on the various types of missions that could be required in future national, multinational and coalition operations and is “a valuable opportunity to achieve, through the joint training of the Italian Army, Navy and Air Force synergy and economies, as well as to share resources and maximize interoperability in the Defense field, refining the capacity for intervention with a joint force.” Unlike the previous editions, the scenario included operations conducted within an environment degraded by cybernetic and chemical-biological and radioactive threats (CBRN).

A KC-767 escorted by Typhoon, T-346, F-35, Tornado IDS, AMX and AV-8B overflies “Deci”.

The first phase of JS18 saw the integration of four “federated” exercises within a LIVEX (Live Exercise), an exercise made of actual assets. In particular, the LIVEX integrated Exercise “Vega 18” led by the Italian Air Force; “Mare Aperto 2018” led by the Italian Navy; “Golden Wings” led by the Italian Army; and “Ramstein Guard 6-2018” exercise conducted by NATO. For the very first time this year, the JS drills saw the participation of a contingent of the U.S. Marine Corps.

An Italian Navy Harrier breaks overhead for landing in Decimomannu.

Italian Army Chinook.

The MOB (Main Operating Base) of the exercise was Decimomannu, in Sardinia, that hosted most of the participating assets, including the Italian Navy AV-8B+ Harrier II and NH-90, the Italian Army CH-47 and A-129 Mangusta as well as the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor and KC-130J aircraft, that took part in the airdrop onto the airfield and in a large Joint Personnel Recovery mission.

The U.S. Marine Corps Super Hercules during the airdrop onto Decimomannu airfield, MOB of JS18.

Dealing with the Italian Air Force, JS18 saw the involvement of all the most advanced “hardware” currently in service.

F-35A, Predator drones, G550 CAEW but also Eurofighter, Tornado and AMX jets flew missions aimed at achieving “Information Superiority” on the battlefield: indeed, access to and control of information has always played a crucial role in military operations. The Italian Air Force responds to this challenge with the use of highly specialized aircraft assets such as Predator, CAEW and F-35 and high-tech systems, such as the “RecceLite” and “Litening III” pods on Eurofighter, Tornado and AMX.

The F-35A Lightning II also flew as Aggressors in complex missions against the Eurofighter Typhoons.

Noteworthy, the Italian F-35A were involved also as Aggressors, alongside the T-346 aircraft: for instance, an air defense mission saw four Typhoons supported by one CAEW (“Blue Air”) fly against two T-346 and two F-35s (“Red Air”) supported by a NATO Da-20 EW (Electronic Warfare), whose role was to degrade the effectiveness of the interceptors radar and radio systems by using radar jamming and deception methods.

The T-346A of the 212° Gruppo (Squadron) from 61° Stormo were part of the Red Air.

The MQ-1C (Predator “A +”) and MQ-9A (Predator “B”) UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) were tasked with ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) missions; the CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) aircraft, acted as AEW as well as “flying command post” proving particularly useful to support land, naval and air forces; the brand new F-35A Lightning II stealth aircraft made use of their high-end electronic intelligence gathering sensors combined with advanced sensor fusion capabilities to create a single integrated “picture” of the battlefield that could be shared in real-time with all the players.

MV-22, CH-47 NH-90 and a pair of A-129 involved in a PR (Personnel Recovery) mission.

Taking part in a Joint Stars exercise for the very first time were also the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 and KC-130J.

Typhoon, Tornado IDS and AMX jets performed tactical reconnaissance missions on terrestrial targets using “RecceLite” and “Litening III” pods, whereas HH-139, HH-101, HH-212 helicopters along with the Eurofighter jets undertook SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) missions against NH.500 helicopter and Siai 208 light aircraft that played the “slow mover” role.

An AMX ACOL comes to landing in Decimomannu after a JS18 mission.

All the photographs in this article were taken by The Aviationist’s photographers Giovanni Maduli and Alessandro Caglieri.

NATO Tiger Meet 2018 and Poznan Air Show – Aviation Feast in Poland

We attended both Poznan Air Show and NATO Tiger Meet. And here’s a detailed report.

NATO Tiger Meet

This year’s edition of the NATO Tiger Meet exercise took place in Poland, at the 31st Tactical Air Base in Poznan-Krzesiny, between May 14 and May 25, with the media day being held on May 18.

We were given a chance to participate in the distinguished visitors and media day at the base to watch the operations undertaken by the Tiger squadrons gathered at Krzesiny that, throughout the course of the operation, has been responsible for planning, preparing and conducting, as well as managing the training operation. The base is a part of the 2nd Tactical Air Wing of the Polish Air Force.

Polish MiG-21 special.

The story of the Tiger Meets dates back to the year 1960. Back then USAF’s 79th Tactical Fighter Squadron and RAF’s 74th Squadron got themselves involved in a joint training operation, and then, one year later, a new tradition emerged to gather the squadrons that have a tiger in their emblem together within a single training event. The meetings were successful and Mike Dugan, who was the main initiator of the undertaking, has founded the NATO Tiger association.

Tiger Hornets taxing during NTM18.

6th Fighter Squadron is the Tiger squadron of the Polish Air Force. The unit is based in Poznan-Krzesiny and it flies the F-16 “Jastrząb” Block 52+ fighter aircraft. It made its debut during the NTM event back in 2011 – it was also a Tiger Meet that marked the NTA 50th Anniversary at Cambrai airbase, France. It did not take long for the Poles to succeed, as in 2014 they were voted the Best Flying Squadron, also becoming a full member of the NTA.

Polish Air Force F-16 “Jastrząb” Block 52+.

Within the structure of the Polish Air Force the unit is tasked with air-to-air and air-to-surface missions. It is interoperable with the NATO assets, and it has been proven, as the Polish officials suggest, during numerous international exercises, including: Red Flag Alaska, Frisian Flag (Netherlands), NATO Tiger Meets, Brilliant Arrow (Norway), Tactical Leadership Program (Albacete, Spain), Blue Flag (Israel), Eagle Talon, Cobra, Anakonda or Raróg.

The main objectives of the NTM18 training event included gaining more knowledge about combined air operations through active involvement in mission planning. Force integration is a result of the above – the participants learned to solve different problems throughout the course of the exercise. The event is also largely focused on conducting COMAOs (Combined Air Operations).

Italian Typhoon as seen from the back.

Indirectly, the training is aimed at improving and enhancing the skills of NATO cooperation, in line with the relevant procedures (SUPLAN M, SUPLAN D, 80-6). The fighter aircraft also had to work together with airlift and helicopter and missile and IADS (Integrated Air Defense System) assets, within the scope of COMAO scenarios. Land component was also involved in the exercise, for the sake of deepening the level of interoperational cooperation. Finally the training also involved FACs/TACs (Forward/Tactical Air Controllers) – within the scope of CAS (Close Air Support) sorties.

The training adopted a scenario of an international crisis set in a context of conventional and hybrid warfare settings. IADS, massive offensive strikes behind the enemy lines and short-term targeting were all a part of the missions flown, assuming that air support would be provided to the land assets.

Eurofighter Typhoon “Bavarian Tigers”.

The training involved defending of a designated area or border defense. The aircraft were also used for protection of high value assets, and the operations between IADS and airborne assets were closely coordinated to gain and maintain air superiority and protect own forces. Strike missions involved destruction of the critical infrastructure and SEAD/DEAD (surpression/destruction of the enemy air defense) sorties. Time-sensitive targets were also involved in the scenarios with pilots also tasked with self-searching the targets and working together weith JTACs. Finally, the operation also involved some scenarios in which the fighter aircraft were supporting untrained personnel.

NTM 18 involved around 2000 persons, hailing from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Spain and Turkey, as well as Switzerland that plays a role of the partner nation. The formations have carried out 8 COMAO sorties (integrated ones) and more than 50 training missions as a part of shadow waves.


As NTM is an integrated operation it, alongside the air force, also involves land and airborne assets, special forces, artillery, IADS, ground recon assets, unmanned systems, logisticians, liaison personnel, medics, civil-military cooperation group as well as a PsyOps component.

Finally, it shall be noted that NTM took place at several Polish bases, with the Krzesiny airbase acting as the main hub for the fighter assets. Other locations involved include Powidz, Mirosławiec, Świdwin and Malbork. Drawsko, Ustka, Nadarzyce, Żagań and Biedrusko field training ranges act as the operational areas, along with other airspace sections dedicated for the training operation.

Alongside jet aircraft (mainly Typhoons and F-16s), Gazelle, Merlin, Super Puma and AB212 helicopters provided CSAR support for the exercise. A GFD Learjet was another interesting asset that simulated the Electronic Warfare aircraft during the operational activities. NATO AWACS platform, also supporting the exercise, were deployed to the Poznan International Airport, not at Krzesiny, which posed an interesting challenge within the scope of civil-military cooperation.

Unfortunately and sadly, organization-wise, both the media day and the spotters day were less than ideal.

When it comes to the spotters day, numerous mixed opinions emerged, especially in case of the foreign attendees, complaining about the logistics (transport operation – spotters were transported via buses to the base, from the M1 mall car park in Poznan – the procedures were too slow, too little buses and too little personnel were assigned to handle the transport of around 1200 people to the base), position for the photographers (heavily backlit one, near the old MiG-21 hangars), shooting space (too short span along the runway) or security guards who entered the field of view of the photographers. Also, it was impossible to include the undercarriage in the shots at some spots in that position. Finally, the place where the spotters were located made it impossible for them to capture the essence of the NATO Tiger Meet open days – taxing jets and the pilots assuming tiger poses in their cockpits. Tiger spirit also could not have been felt in the spotters’ area, at least not to a usual extent associated with the NTM.

Tiger-painted Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Sight.

It is also unclear as to who has been responsible for the chaos, as the event was organized jointly by the MTP (Poznan International Fair) and by the Polish military. Last, but not least, the spotter day ticket confirmations were sent out late due to the military counterintelligence verification required to access the base. This has been a major stumbling block for foreigners who could not have planned their trips to Poznan in advance. The question that may be raised is why the verification process took so long? Media communications pertaining to the event could have been better globally, and this is undoubtedly a domain where there is a lot of room for improvement, given the reputation the NATO Tiger Meet brand entails.

Poznan Air Show – Tigers saving the day!

Notably (and unusually as well) the NATO Tiger Meet exercise was coordinated in time with the Poznan Air Show event (formerly known as Aerofestival), organized at the Henryk Wieniawski Ławica International Airport in Poznan. The Aviationist has been attending the said event since its very inception, and we were, with a major satisfaction, observing the two editions grow and get better. After the first two editions (2015 and 2016), a gap year occurred, with the rebranded show coming back into existence this year.

According to the official press release issued by the organizers, the show grounds were visited by almost 70K people, with 80 aircraft being showcased in the air and on the ground – 720 minutes of dynamic displays could be watched by the audience. The dynamic display portion of the show was divided into three thematic blocks: 100th Anniversary of Poland’s Independence, 100th Anniversary of the Greater Poland Uprising and 100 Years of the Polish Military Aviation, as well as a NATO Tiger Meet section of the show.

Polish F-16 solo display.

Within the static display, decisively, the AWACS was one of the highlights, alongside numerous NATO Tiger Meet fighter aircraft wearing the tiger liveries.

Meanwhile, the dynamic displays were varied, yet undoubtedly the program was not as rich as the one back in 2016. Several warbirds performed their displays in the air – CAC13 Boomerang was the most unique one. Also, Artur Kielak, one of the best known Polish aerobatic pilots, besides performing his own crazy display, also flew a duo with the Yak-3U replica. Another highlight was the “Pterodactyl Flight” WWI reenactment group, whose display was, even though less dynamic, quite interesting, as it featured, for instance, the famous Fokker Triplane replica.

The NATO Tiger Meet themed section of the show featured a dynamic Spanish Eurofighter demo and two Gripen displays (Czech and Hungarian ones), as well as a demo display of the Austrian Saab. The French Navy sent its Rafale role demo team to the Poznan air show and, undoubtedly, this was a highlight of the NTM portion of the show. The jets made a simulated carrier approach with their landing hooks down at Ławica, which was an interesting sight to see. Finally, the Czech Air Force Mi-24 Hind demo closed the NTM themed part – unfortunately, the Alien-painted Mi-24 was presented on the static display, not in the air.

The last portion of the show that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Polish military aviation included Spitfire display – referring to the famous RAF Squadron 303, and Polish TS-11 Iskra. The displays also included a MiG-29 solo display and F-16 Tiger Demo – nicely outlining the history of the Polish military aviation.

Swiss Air Force Hornet late afternoon take off.

Overall, the NTM section saved the show. Had it not been for the military jets hailing from the Tiger squadrons the Poznan Air Show event would have been less than impressive. Let’s hope that next year the organization is going to be better and the flying programme – more interesting. The event bears some significant potential and this potential has not been used fully during this year’s edition of the air show.


Summing it up, last weekend in Poznan, or in fact, last two weeks, have been quite intense for any avid fan of the military aviation. It was also a good way to start the air show season this year. We hope that the main centenary event that is going to be held in Radom in August will be even more impressive, display- and organization-wise.

All images: Jacek Siminski

More NTM18 Images can be found here, more Poznan Air Show images can be found here.

Here’s Italy’s First Two-Seat Eurofighter Typhoon In Special Color Scheme

The TF-2000A’s special livery was prepared to celebrate the 20th Gruppo’s 100th anniversary.

The Italian Air Force celebrated the 100th anniversary of four of its squadrons (20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd Gruppo) at Istrana airbase, in northeastern Italy, on May 11, 2018.

The 20th Gruppo, the Typhoon OCU (Operational Conversion Unit), based at Grosseto and in charge of the training of all the Italian pilots destined to the Eurofighter fleet, presented a special colored two-seat Typhoon: designed by Silvano Mainini and Andrea Scomparin (who are also behind many other famous special colors including two of those presented last year) the TF-2000A MM55168/4-37″ sports the squadron’s black and yellow Lion on a blue background on the right hand side of the tail, the black cat chasing three green mice on a white background (typical of the 51° Stormo) on the left hand side. The aircraft ‘s upper side of the fuselage, the air brake and the canards are painted as well.

The Typhoon MM55168/4-37 left hand side. (Image: Alfonso Mino).

This two-seat Typhoon represents the very first Italian Typhoon trainer painted with a special color scheme since the type was introduced back in 2004.

The images of the aircraft in this post were taken by photographer Alfonso Mino.





Italian Air Force F-35A Lightning II Aircraft Have Completed Their First Deployment To “Deci”

Four ItAF stealth jets have completed their first training campaign in Sardinia.

Last month, four F-35A aircraft with the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) from Amendola, in southeastern Italy, have deployed to Decimomannu airbase, in Sardinia, to undertake training activities that have lasted about two weeks.

According to what local photographers and spotters observed, the aircraft arrived on Mar. 7 and departed to return to Amendola between Mar. 22 and 23. During the same period, the local-based RSSTA (Reparto Sperimentale e di Standardizzazione Tiro Aereo – the Air Gunnery Standardization and Experimentation Unit) hosted also T-339 (MB.339), T-346 (M-346) and A-11 (AMX) jets belonging to the ItAF units involved in the periodical firing activities in the Sardinian range.

As usual when it deals with the Italy’s Joint Strike Fighter, little is known about the deployment except that the aircraft, invisible to radars but not to the eyes of locals, were there in those days. As a consequence, the type of activity conducted by the F-35s is unknown; however, since the Italian Air Force F-35 CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) stealth jets have already been declared operational in the air-to-air role lately, it’s quite likely that the JSF mainly focused in activities required to achieve the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in the air-to-ground role. “The weapon system is operating in accordance with the schedule and within the envisaged scenarios” an official source said.

One of the F-35s deployed to Deci in March 2018 about to land after a mission.

Noteworthy, whilst it was the first full-fledged F-35 deployment to “Deci”, the deployment did not mark the first landing in Deci: on Oct. 26, 2017, two F-35A Lightning II of the 13° Gruppo supported Capo Teulada’s amphibious landing (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.

A flight of two JSFs at the break for landing.

The photos you can find in this post were taken during the deployment by aviation photographer Alessandro Caglieri.

They might be invisible to radars, but not the eyes and lens of local aviation enthusiasts and photographers.

Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri