Tag Archives: Italian Air Force

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.

Tiger!

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.

Summary

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

 

 

Italian Air Force Tornado ECR Jets Are Deployed To California To Test Their New AGM-88E Advanced Anti Radiation Guided Missile

The Italian “Tonkas” are currently deployed to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake along with four Eurofighter Typhoons and a C-27J Spartan.

A small contingent of nine Italian Air Force aircraft is currently deployed to California. Four Tornado ECR (EA-200B in accordance with the Italian MoD Mission Design Series), belonging to the 6° Stormo (Wing) from Ghedi; four Eurofighter Typhoon jets (F-2000A), belonging to the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo respectively from Grosseto, Gioia del Colle and Trapani; and one C-27J Spartan with the 46^ Brigata Aerea (Air Brigate) from Pisa, have been operating out of NAWS China Lake, California, since the end of February as part of an operation dubbed “Blazing Shield” that saw the aircraft cross the Pond via Lajes, Azores, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, accompanied by two KC-767A tankers of the 14° Stormo and a C-130J of the 46th Air Brigade that provided oceanic SAR support along the route.

The Tornado ECR jets of the 155° Gruppo (Squadron) at China Lake. The aircraft are ECR RET8 “IT Full MLU” (Credit: ItAF)

The main goal of “Blazing Shield” is the Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) of the Tornado ECR (a variant specialized in Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses missions) with the new AGM-88E AARGM (Advanced Anti Radiation Guided Missile) the a follow-on variant of the HARM (High Speed Anti Radiation Missile), the missile used for SEAD missions, developed under a US and Italian joint acquisition programme led by the US Navy. The AARGM features new software, improved ability to geo-locate and neutralize the threats thanks to a multi-mode seeker that embeds a passive radar and an active millimeter wave seekers.

The OE&T involves a joint team led by the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (RSV – Italian Air Force Test Wing) and includes two live fire events in the China Lake ranges.

As a side note, along with the AGM-88B and E, the Italian Tornado ECR can carry JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions)as part of the Tornado ECR RET8 “IT Full MLU” retrofit program. The 155° Gruppo (Squadron) has achieved the mission capability qualification with the new GBU-32 JDAMs (the same carried by the Tornado IDS), with a DEAD (Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) mission in 2016.

It’s the first time the Italian Typhoons deploy to China Lake. The Tornado ECR have been already deployed there during the first firing campaign with the AGM-88 HARM in 2002.

In addition to the activity with the “Echo”, the deployment provides an opportunity to validate and improve the self-protection capabilities of the Eurofighter, Tornado and C-27J platforms, in order to expand their ability to operate in all the theaters. During their stay in the U.S. the aircraft have also had an opportunity to perform low level sorties paying visit to the famous Jedi Transition (also known as the Star Wars canyon).

The Italian Spartan on the ramp at NAWS China Lake.

The aircraft are due to return to Italy towards the end of April.

Top image: file photo of a Tornado ECR (credit: Giovanni Maduli / The Aviationist)

Combat Aircraft from Israel, UAE, Greece, Italy, UK and U.S. Take Part in Ex. “INIOCHOS 2018”

From Greece with love.

Exercise “INIOCHOS” is a yearly medium-scale exercise hosted by the Hellenic Air Force at the facilities of the Air Tactics Center at Andravida Air Base, located in the Northwest Peloponnese, Greece.

The “layout” of the exercise is quite standard: two weeks in length (including deployment and re-deployment of the assets), the exercise scenario adopts a Single Base Concept with air operation launched from an MOB (Main Operating Base). It’s a so-called Invitex, meaning that the drills is organized and run by the HAF but also attended by invited nations aircraft as well. In order to make the training realistic, the participating units “are exposed to an intensive battle rhythm with realistic attrition rates and challenging scenarios that include multiple modern threats and real time live injects tailored to produce the fog of war and the friction effect (per Clausewitz) which is expected to dominate the modern battlefield and test both the physical and psychological endurance of the modern fighter.”

Israeli Air Force F-16C taking off during Iniochos 2018 media day.

The HFWS (Hellenic Fighter Weapons School) oversees the missions from scenario planning to debriefing and makes certain that they cover the full spectrum of missions currently performed by the HAF and allied nations, including

– Air operations versus Integrated Air Defense System (IADS)
– Offensive Counter Air / Airfield Attack
– Air Interdiction / Special Targets (bridges, power stations, vehicles, etc.).
– Anti Surface Warfare
– Slow Mover Protection (SLOMO)
– Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR).
– Dynamic Targeting (DT) / Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance (SCAR) / Close Air Support (CAS) / Time Sensitive Targets (TST).
– High Value Airborne Asset (HVAA) Protect/Attack

One of the Italian Air Force Tornado IDS from Ghedi.

This year’s edition of “Iniochos” was attended by a wide variety of combat aircraft from 6 nations (including Greece). Among them, 6x Mirage 2000-9EAD/DAD belonging to the 71 Sqn  of the UAE AF from Al Dhafra; 4x F-16C “Barak” with 117 Sqn Israeli AF from Ramat David; 5x Tornado from the 6th Stormo, Italian Air Force, based in Ghedi; 4x Typhoon FGR4 from 3 Sqn from RAF Coningsby; 13x F-15E Strike Eagle from 492FS from RAF Lakenheath as well as some +30x F-16, 4x F-4E, 4x Mirage 2000 and 1x EMB-145H AEW&C belonging to various squadrons of the HAF.

HAF Mirage 2000 during taking off at dusk.

In this post you can find some photographs taken at Andravida by The Aviationist’s contributors Claudio Tramontin and Simone Marcato.

RAF Typhoon FGR4

UAE AF Mirage 2000-9

Close-up view of a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle.

One of the four F-4E Phantom belonging to 338 Mira.

HA F-16D

Image credit: Claudio Tramontin, Simone Marcato