Tag Archives: Italian Air Force

M-346 advanced combat trainer flying with a pair of Sidewinder air-to-air missiles

Taken at Decimomannu airbase last week, the following picture shows an M-346 “Master” advanced combat trainer with two dummy AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles at the wing tip launchers.

Serialled CP X617, the first IPA (Initial Production Aircraft) is involved in a testing campaign which follows the one conducted last April at Decimomannu airbase when the aircraft flew with BRD (Bombs and Rocket Dispencer) for Mk-106s thin-cased cylindrical bombs used to simulate the high-drag (retarded) Mk-82 Snakeye bombs.

The M-346 has been selected by the Italian Air Force, the Republic of Singapore Air Force and  the Israeli Air Force that will use the “Master” to replace the A-4 Skyhawks.

[Read also: Here’s the M-346 in Israeli Air Force colors]

Image credit: Gianni Maduli

New Eurofighter Typhoon Squadron activated at Trapani airbase, Italy

Although it has not (officially) received its first plane yet, the 18° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 37° Stormo (Wing) at Trapani airbase, in Sicily, is the more recent Italian Air Force unit to operate the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Last Squadron to operate the leased U.S. F-16 ADF fighter jets, returned last summer to the AMARG, the 18° Gruppo was initially destined to be disbanded, with Trapani planed to be “downgraded” to DOB (Deployment Operating Base) of the Typhoon fleet: in other words although not permanently hosting any active F-2000 squadron it would maintain trained personnel and equipments to support and handle cells of temporarily deployed Eurofighters.

However, the renewed role of Trapani airbase, strategically located in Sicily, few minutes flight time from North Africa, and a significant amount of available planes (96 between operative and on order ones) persuaded the Air Force to keep the 37° Stormo alive rendering its 18° Gruppo, the fifth Typhoon squadron of the Aeronautica Militare.

Filmed in the month of October, the following video shows the pilots of the 18° Gruppo closely working with the crews and IPs of the 4° Stormo, based at Grosseto, whose 20° Gruppo is the type’s Operational Conversion Unit, to convert to the new Gen. 4+ fighter plane.

The 18° Gruppo should officially be delivered its first plane on Oct. 18, 2012.

Israel buys M-346 combat trainers from Italy. Italy buys G550 Airborne Early Warning planes from Israel.

On Jul. 19, Finmeccanica group company’s Alenia Aermacchi signed a contract worth 1 billion USD, with Israeli Ministry of Defence to supply 30 M-346 advanced combat trainers to replace the Israeli Air Force’s aging fleet of A-4 Skyhawks.

On Jul. 20 (the following day), it was announced that Israel’s IAI will supply the Italian Air Force with  two Gulfstream G550 Eitam conformal airborne early warning (CAEW) aircraft (as well as ground support equipment and logistical support services) under a deal worth 750 million USD  that is 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.”

Indeed, under an additional agreement worth 182 million USD, IAI will also develop, manufacture and supply an observation satellite to Italy’s Telespazio.

The official announcements didn’t come unexpected: the M-346 had been selected by the Israeli MoD in February 2012, whereas the long-awaited mini-AWACS had been on the Italian Air Force’s “wish list” since it took part to the 2010 and 2011 edition of the Vega multinational exercise in Decimomannu, in Sardinia.

What’s curious is that, with the recent sales, both the Italian Air Force, the Republic of Singapore Air Force and the Israeli Air Force will soon be (at least momentarily) the only operators of both the M-346 and the G550 planes.

[Read also: Here’s the M-346 in Israeli Air Force colors]

Anyway, maybe it’s time to add Israel’s flag to the following M-346 on static display at the Finmeccanica park at Farnborough International Airshow 2012).

Inside a modern (combat) helicopter: the AgustaWestland HH-139A glass cockpit

The following picture, taken at Farnborough International Airshow, gives a hint of what you might expect to find inside a modern (combat) helicopter.

The HH-139A is the military variant of the AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter operating with the Italian Air Force.

The multipurpose chopper, is equipped, among all the other things, with an integrated NVG-compatible glass cockpit featuring 8in×10in active matrix liquid crystal displays with advanced graphics generation capabilites and cursor control devices.

The cockpit features also 4-axis digital Digital AFCS (automatic flight control system) with SAR modes & FMS SAR patterns, weather/search radar, TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) II, FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red), Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS), Digital video recorder, Video downlink, Moving map on flat display, Auto-Deployable ELT (ADELT) and Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS).

Image credit: Giovanni Maduli

Of course, you don’t need to be a computer freak to be a HH-139A helicopter pilot. But you’ll feel much more comfortable in such an advanced cockpit if you have some basic System Administrator’s skills.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Los Angeles Fire Department, New Jersey State Police, Maryland State Police Aviation Command, and other major aero medical and search and rescue operators in North America are equipped with AW139 medium twin helicopters for emergency medical, search and rescue, law enforcement and homeland security missions.

Farnborough 2012: A flight with the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 simulator. Including a taste of the Master’s Helmet Mounted Display

Among the most interesting things you might happen to do at Farnborough International Airshow, there’s a ride in a combat plane simulator.

During the Day 2 of FIA12 (#FIA12 or #FARN12 for the Tweeps), I had the opportunity to try the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 simulator, one of the two hosted inside the large Finmeccanica Pavilion.

Although simplified a little bit in terms of consoles and instruments, the Master’s simulator is absolutely realistic in terms of flight model and mission systems thus giving the “pilot” (a journalist in this case…) the opportunity to test the aircraft’s handling capabilities, performances and systems.

The simulator runs the OFP7 software release, the one currently installed on the six Italian Air Force M-346s.

The demo started on Farnborough runway, with the aircraft lined up and ready for take off, after a very detailed briefing by Gabriele Sgarbi, an engineer at Alenia Aermacchi’s Integrated Training System department.

I slammed the throttle to the maximum thrust to begin the take off roll. The aircraft accelerated quickly and I had only to use a bit of rudder to keep the nose aligned with the runway centerline.

At 100 knots I pulled the stick for a steep climb. The aircraft continued to accelerate and I had to be quite fast to retract the landing gear and the flaps. General handling of the jet is quite easy and you can find all the information you need on the three large MFD (Multi-Function Displays) that showed the Flight Director, the ADI and engine parameters.

Obviously, the Head Up Display provides all the required data through the typical HUD symbology.

After a couple of turns I used to get used with the HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) cockpit, at an altitude of 3,000 feet and just above 300 knots, I started a looping that I ended at the same altitude, after pulling 4.5 Gs.

After few more aerobatics, Gabriele suggested me to set the throttle to Idle and keep the nose high to see how the aircraft handles at High AOA (Angle Of Attack). Once again, the M-346 behaved just like the most modern combat planes, reaching 25° AOA and keeping a significant flight controls’ authority.

After flying around Farnborough for a few more minutes I headed back to the airport for a touch and go. I throttled back to Idle and extracted the air brakes using one of the switches on the throttle.

As I reached 250 knots, I extended the landing gear and as the air speed went below 240 I selected the Take Off flaps.

I selected full flaps on the downwind leg, flew the final approach at 130 knots and, with a gentle flare, I touched the runway. As soon as the nose gear went down, I once again throttled to the maximum thrust and took the air again, for the second part of the demo.

Gabriele showed me [at the simulator what can be actually done on the real M-346]: the aircraft can be quickly reconfigured to simulate different payload configurations, both air-to-air and air-to-ground, to be used to train student pilots.

Since all the aircraft can be connected through the use of data link, simulated scenarios can involve both real planes and virtual ones. For instance, an Instructor pilot on the ground can generate simulated aerial and ground threats and targets as his student pilot is flying a sortie.

After playing a bit with virtual AIM-9 and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles I was given the opportunity to give the new Targo HMD a try.

Designed by the VSI, the same firm that produces the JHMCS and F-35’s HMDS Gen. II, the Targo is a lightweight helmet built around the HGU-55P. It has a night module, designed to be fitted to the standard NVG eyepiece kit that works by overlaying the HMD symbology to that of the NVG imagery.

It was my first experience with an HMD and I found it really interesting. The projected symbology was sharp and clearly visible, thus increasing situational awareness of the pilot, improving safety too.

A really interesting and advanced tool for a combat trainer!