Pratica di Mare airbase, home of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) hosted on May 29, 2010, the Finmeccanica seniores 2010, the annual event that Finmeccanica holds each year to give a prize to all its workers with 30, 40 and 45 years of experience in the company. Traditionally, a small open day with the air display of some of the most interesting aircraft is organised. The 2010 edition saw the M-346, the C-27J, the F-2000 and the Frecce Tricolori performing during the day as the following pictures taken by Giovanni Maduli show.
July 2010 will be remembered for being a month full of news for the Italian Typhoon fleet. First of all, on Jul. 1, the 10° Gruppo, equipped with the leased F-16 ADF, moved from the Trapani-based 37° Stormo, to Gioia del Colle, to join another Typhoon unit, the 12° Gruppo, within the 36° Stormo.
As I had already explained in my article published on April 2010 issue of Air Forces Monthly: “With the activation of the fourth Typhoon squadron at Gioia, the ItAF will achieve the following “configuration”: 4 Gruppi (comprising 1 OCU) equipped with the F-2000 based in 2 MOBs, one in Northern Italy and one in Southern Italy, respectively home of the so-called “QRA Nord” and “QRA Sud”. The original plan foresaw the conversion to the Typhoon of a fifth squadron, the 18° Gruppo, that was intended to fly the Typhoon along with 10° Gruppo from Trapani airbase. However, the uncertainty surrounding the Tranche 3 deal and the new trend of concentrating all the front line assets on a few dedicated airports to reduce the force’s dispersal and the overall management costs, persuaded the AM in 2007 to review the initial project; as a consequence, both the 18° Gruppo and its parent unit, the 37° Stormo, will be disbanded as last F-16s return to the US and Trapani will become a DOBs (Deployment Operating Bases) of the Typhoon fleet, meaning that, although it will not permanently host any active F-2000 squadrons, for the entire duration of the programme, it will maintain trained personnel and equipments to support and handle cells of temporarily deployed Eurofighters. The other DOBs of the fleet will be Grazzanise and Cervia, where the locally based 23° Gruppo of the 5° Stormo will be disbanded in 2010”.
As I explained, a few months ago, there were much doubts about the possibility that the Aeronautica Militare could ever get the last batch of 25 F-2000s of the Tranche 3B. Under Tranche 3A, by 2013, Italy will receive 21 Typhoons bringing the total to 95 (comprising 27 Trance 1 and 47 Tranche 2 examples). On Jul 21, the Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said at Farnborough, that Italy will cut its order by 25 examples (Tranche 3B) with an expected saving of 2 billion Euro. Many did not understand the choice, but I think that 95 aircraft are more than enough to equip the 4 interceptor squadrons as decided by the ItAF in 2007. For sure, at least another Air Defence squadron would ensure a better coverage of the peninsula but, with ever shrinking budgets and the need to relocate all the assets on a few bases, Tranche 3B was most probably useless. Furthermore, it must be considered that unlike other partners, that will employ the aircraft in the air-to-ground role, as I wrote in the above mentioned article: “the Italian aircraft will be only used in the air superiority role, as Italy, due to the cost associated with the envisaged upgrades required by the integration of the air-to-ground weapons, has always been skeptical about a multi-role Eurofighter. At the end of 2008, answering some questions about the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter), Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, former ItAF Chief of Staff, current Defence Chief of Staff, affirmed that: “There’s no competition or conflict between the JSF and the Eurofighter. The Eurofighter was designed for the Air Defence, a role that the aircraft is perfectly able to fulfil, but it can’t perform the attack role in an economically sustainable manner”. That vision hasn’t changed with the Tranche 3 contract signed in July 2009. In a recent interview, Gen. Giuseppe Bernardis, Air Force Chief of Staff, said that Italy did not completely rule out the use of Eurofighters for air-to-ground missions, since both T2 and T3 aircraft will have the ability to carry Paveway and JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) that are already used by the Tornado and the AMX, and will be carried in the future by the F-35s (that Italy plans to acquire in 109 examples: 69 conventional take-off and landing F-35As and 40 short take-off and vertical landing F-35Bs). Hence, the air-to-ground mission is viewed as secondary for the Typhoon; provided their ability to use the ordnance in inventory for other aircraft, the Eurofighter will be possibly be used as “back up” attack platforms until 2040“.
All the following pictures are from the Author or ItAF via Author
The Italian Air Force’s C-27J Spartans, belonging to the 46^ Brigata Aerea di Pisa, reached the 10,000 flight hours milestone in July. The 12 new aircraft serving with the Aeronautica Militare were designed and manufactured by Alenia Aeronautica and delivered to the Air Brigade between 2007 and 2009 and have shown a high operational efficiency, providing the Air Force the ability to carry out numerous missions: since 2008, the ItAF C-27Js have been used in operations in the Afghanistan theatre of operations, where they have shown high reliability and flexibility, successfully accomplishing their missions in a demanding environment. Alenia Aeronautica guarantees the logistic support to the entire C-27J fleet in service with the Italian Air Force and has also installed a Full-Motion-type Flight Simulator at the Crews Training Centre of Pisa airbase. The Full-Motion Simulator, made by Alenia Aeronautica, has already been tested by the AMI pilots who operate the C-27J with positive results. The Simulator will soon be officially delivered to the Armed Force; they will be the first in Europe to be able to use a system of this kind.
An airshow was held in Frosinone on May 28, 2010, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the ItAF helicopter school. For more information about the 72° Stormo, read the article I wrote for the June 2006 issue of Air Forces Monthly here. The airshow, that was attended by a few interesting visitors from the Armed Forces and Air Corps whose crews are trained at the Frosinone school, was also the season premiere for the Frecce Tricolori display team (as the usual May 1 display at Rivolto was not open to the public this year, since the team will celebrate there the 50th Anniversary on Sept. 11 and 12, 2010). A mini-special colour on the NH-500E MM81311/”72-48″ was also exhibited. Giovanni Maduli took the following interesting pictures.
The IMAM Ro.37 Lince (Italian for “Lynx”) was a two-seat Italian reconnaissance and close air support biplane, purchased as part of the programme launched by the Regia Aeronautica (Royal Italian Air Force) in the early 1930s to reinforce its fleet of aircraft and to replace the Ro.1, designed by Galasso and produced by Industrie Aeronautiche Romeo, later renamed Industrie Mecchaniche Aeronautiche Meridionali (IMAM). The “Lince” entered into service in 1935 and its first deployment was in Spain in 1936 with the Air Legion. During the Second World War it was the standard armed reconnaissance aircraft used by the Auxiliary Air Arm of the Army, remaining in active service up until June 1943. The “Lince” was also exported and sold to Afghanistan, Austria, Ecuador, Hungary, Spain and Uruguay. The aircraft was produced until 1939 with a total of 569 (237 + 332bis) produced.
Of the 16 Ro.37bis sold to Afghanistan in 1938, 6 relics were recovered by an Italian / US team to the North East of Kabul and one of them is exhibited at Vigna di Valle Museum waiting to be completely restored.
Tom Martin, LTC (Ret) of the US Army, recently sent me the following interesting pictures of the recovery of the Ro.37 with the following explaination:
I was the garrison commander at the Kabul Military Training Center and “neighbor” to the Italian garrison at Camp Invicta. Their garrison commander, LTC Mauro D’ Ubaldi, and I became friends through mutual security needs and engineer projects. He approached me and asked if I would help his team come onto our site and remove from the boneyard the flight of planes where this plane came from (another photo shows how it was in the boneyard and a detail of a data plate).
We also recovered wings and there were scraps of material with paint on some of the parts which showed the material and colors.