Tag Archives: Italian Air Force

First F-35B Assembled Internationally And Destined To The Italian Air Force Has Completed Its First Short Take Off And Vertical Landing

The first Italian F-35B has performed its first STOVL test flight.

On Oct. 30, the first Italian F-35B, the first assembled outside the US, carried out its first flight in short-take and vertical landing mode (STOVL) from Cameri airfield, home of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility, in northwestern Italy.

According to an official LM release, during the flight, a Lockheed Martin test pilot performed perfectly all STOVL mode operations, including hovering on the runway, reaching another milestone for the F-35 program in Italy. The test pilots will perform other tests before the official BL-1 aircraft is delivered to the Italian Air Force: this is worth of note since a previous release stated that the first Italian F-35B would be taken on charge by the Italian Navy. Indeed, Italy plans to procure 90 F-35s, 60 F-35As for the Air Force and 30 F-35Bs for both the ItAF and Italian Navy. Therefore, the Italian Air Force will operate a fleet of CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) and STOVL stealth jet with the latter considered to be pivotal to operate in expeditionary scenarios: a decision that has long been debated, with some analysts considering the STOVL variant unnecessary for the ItAF given that the the F-35 CTOL features a longer range and a reduced logistic footprint than the F-35B, especially in the TDY scenarios.

The aircraft, designated BL-1, had successfully completed its maiden flight on Oct. 24.

After delivery to the Italian MoD, scheduled by the end of the year, the Air Force will transfer the aircraft to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, early 2018, to obtain the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification.

Image credit: Sergio Marzorati via LM

First F-35B Assembled Outside Of The U.S. Makes First Flight In Italy

“BL-01” is the first Italian F-35B STOVL jet.

On Oct. 24, the first F-35B, the Short Take-Off Vertical Landing variant of the the F-35 Lightning II, the first assembled internationally, flew its first sortie from Cameri airfield, home of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility, in northwestern Italy.

The aircraft, designated BL-1, is the first F-35B assembled internationally. The aircraft should be delivered to the Italian MoD soon. Then, after a series of “confidence flights” from Cameri, an Italian pilot will fly the first F-35B jet to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, to conduct required Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification. The next Italian F-35B aircraft is scheduled for delivery in November 2018.

Based on the previous LM releases, the aircraft should be destined to the Italian Navy. However, for the moment it was not given any specific unit markings.

The Italian F-35B was escorted by a Eurofighter Typhoon during its first flight on Oct. 24, 2017. (Image credit: Simone Bovi).

The Cameri FACO has the only F-35B production capability outside the United States. It will assemble the 60 Italian F-35As and 30 F-35Bs (for a total of 90 aircraft to be procured by the Italian Air Force and Navy), will build 29 F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and was selected in December 2014 as the European F-35 airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade center for the entire European region.

In spite of some initial internal criticism and threatened cuts, F-35s will replace the Italian Air Force ageing Tornado and AMX attack planes and the Italian Navy AV-8B aircraft.

Image credit: Simone Bovi

Italian Eurofighter Typhoon Crashes During Terracina Airshow Killing Test Pilot

An Italian Typhoon has crashed into the sea while performing its display during an airshow in Italy.

On Sunday Sept. 24, 2017, an Italian Air Force Eurofighter F-2000A Typhoon (most probably MM7278/RS-23) belonging to the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Test Wing) has crashed into the sea at Terracina, 76 kilometres south of Rome.

Based on the several videos that have already emerged on social media, the pilot Capt. Gabriele Orlandi, for unknown reasons, was unable to /did not recover the aircraft at the end of a looping and didn’t attempt to eject from the jet.

Here below you can find a few clips that have been posted on Youtube so far. Many more are being uploaded on Twitter and Instagram as well:

The causes of the crash are under investigation, the Italian Air Force said in a press statement.

The Typhoon of the RSV most probably involved in the crash MM7278/RS-23 taking off from Grosseto during the Marina di Grosseto airshow rehearsals, on Jun. 24, 2017.

The following composite image was created using Photoshop and images posted on repubblica.it:

Composite image created with Photoshop with the photos by Simone Grossi published on Repubblica.it.

This is the second deadly crash of a Typhoon in little less than two weeks: a RSAF Typhoon combat aircraft involved in a mission against Houthi fighters over Yemen crashed into a mountain in Al Wade’a district on Sept. 13, 2017.

Top image credit: screenshots from Michele F. video

 

The Italian Air Force Bids Farewell To The Breguet BR-1150 Atlantic MPA (With A Special Color Aircraft), Welcomes The New Leonardo P-72A

The BR-1150 Atlantic is about to be retired and (partially) replaced by the Leonardo P-72A.

With a ceremony held at Sigonella airbase and attended by the Italian Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli, and Italian Navy Chief of Staff, Adm. Valter Girardelli, the 41° Stormo (Wing) of the ItAF bid farewell to the Breguet BR-1150 (P-1150A in accordance with the Italian Mission Design Series) Atlantic, a Maritime Patrol Aircraft with ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) capabilities that is about to be retired after 45 years of service and more than 250,000 flight hours.

BR-1150 MM40115/41-77 and P-72A MM62298/41-03 during the ceremony at Sigonella on Sept. 21, 2017.

The Atlantic, that operates a mixed Air Force/Navy crew of 13 people in missions lasting up to 12 hours (actually the record of the Italian BR-1150 is 19 hours and 20 minutes!), will continue to fly through November, even though its final operational flight is planned for October. Since the beginning of its service, the Italian Atlantic aircraft have carried out Maritime Patrol and ASW missions, Maritime SAR (Search And Rescue) support and have taken part in hundreds exercises: from Dawn Patrol back in 1973 to the recent Dynamic Manta, the BR-1150 have played a role in the Display Determination, Dog Fish, Vento Caldo, Daily Double, Mare Aperto, Tridente, Deterrent Force, Passex, Storm Two, Fleetex, Sharp Guard, Destined Glory, Tapoon and many more ones. The aircraft has flown to the North Pole in 1997, landed at all the major European airports, including Iceland, and reached India, Morocco, Canada, Egypt, Lebanon, UAE and the U.S.

Last year, the aircraft has also supported the very first F-35’s transatlantic flight taking off from Sigonella on Sept. 20, 2016 and landing at Portsmouth, U.S., after 8,000 miles and more than 30 flight hours.

During the ceremony at Sigonella, the 88° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 41° Stormo unveiled the final Atlantic special color (MM40118/41-03).

The final Atlantic special color (MM40118/41-03).

Since Nov. 25, 2016, the 41° Stormo has started transitioning to the new P-72A, a military variant of the ATR 72-600. The Italian Air Force has received the first two of four P-72A MPA ordered back in 2014; the delivery of the remaining two aircraft is planned by the end of the year.

The P-72A can undertake a variety of roles ranging from maritime patrol for the search and identification of surface vessels, SAR (search and rescue) missions, the prevention of narcotics trafficking, piracy, smuggling, territorial water security and monitoring and intervention in the event of environmental catastrophes. The P-72A is equipped with a communication suite that enables the aircraft to transmit or receive information in real-time to/from command and control centres either on the ground, in the air or at-sea, to ensure coordinated and effective operations. The aircraft is also equipped with a self-protection system. The aircraft is said to be able to fly missions lasting six and a half hours at ranges up to 200 nautical miles from its starting location.

Although it is a multirole Maritime Patrol, Electronic Surveillance and C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence) aircraft that shares many sensors and equipments which were developed for the ATR 72ASW developed by Leonardo for the Turkish Navy, the P-72A lacks an ASW (Anti-Sub Warfare) capability: for this reason it is considered a “gap filler” until the budget to procure a Long Range MPA with ASW capabilities will become available.

Meanwhile, the P-72A has already started flying operational sorties, as happened during the G7 meeting in Taormina, in May 2017, when the two brand new MPA of the 41° Stormo were used to perform intelligence gathering and electronic surveillance missions.

One of the two brand new Leonardo P-72A MPA of the 41° Stormo.

All photos: Author

“During A CSAR Mission We Integrated With Puma Helicopters and Su-25 Attack Planes”: A-10 Pilots Recount Their Warthog Experiences

A-10 Thunderbolt II Pilots Speak About The Warthog They Fly Over Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and Eastern Europe.

Dubbed Warthog, Hog or just Hawg, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the “airplane built around the GAU-8 Avenger 30-mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type cannon” to fight the Soviet tanks in the European battlefields during the Cold War, is considered one of the most durable and lethal combat plane in the CAS (Close Air Support) mission.

We have discussed the current capabilities of the Warthog with two 74th Fighter Squadron “Flying Tigers” pilots from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia: Lt. Col. Bryan T. France, Former Commander, and “Pinna” an Italian Air Force exchange pilot. Indeed, thanks to the Military Personnel Exchange Program, the U.S. Air Force has the opportunity to swap service members with an allied nation military: for this reason, whilst “Pinna”, from an AMX A-11A Ghibli experience with the 132° Gruppo (Squadron), flies with the 74th FS, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Joe “Slap” Goldsworthy, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with more than 2,700 flight hours of experience, is assigned to the 132° Gruppo and flies the Ghibli (even in combat).

Here below you can find an excerpt of the interviews both pilots gave to The Aviationist during the preparation of “BRRTTTT….deployments, war chronicles and stories of the last A-10 Warthogs” an ebook that we have just released (for details and how to buy at a very special price click here; BTW, we have also released a paperback version here).

Italian exchange pilot Roberto Manzo, 74th Fighter Squadron training assistant, prepares to taxi to the runway, Aug. 25, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Manzo is working to master flying the A-10C Thunderbolt II in hopes of returning to Italy as an instructor pilot for the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

Lt. Col. Bryan T. France, Former Commander, 74th Fighter Squadron

Can you provide some details about the 74th FS?

The 74th Fighter Squadron is a combat-coded A-10C unit ready to support our operations with the best Close Air Support, Forward Air Control (Airborne), and Combat Search and Rescue on the planet.

Where have you been deployed with the A-10? Can you recall the most interesting missions you took part with the Hog?

I’ve had experiences around the world including Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and Eastern Europe. One of my most memorable experiences was landing A-10s on austere runways previously used by the Soviet Union 25 years ago. It took a true team effort including high-level coordination with our European allies. We were able to demonstrate a great capability that is unique to the Hog as a fighter aircraft.

Even though the aircraft has undertaken several upgrade programs since it was introduced in the 1970s, and the A-10C is much different from the “original” A-10A, the airframe has not changed too much in the last 40 years. Does this affect you has a pilot and commander of a Warthog squadron?

If I were to sit down to design a heavy attack platform, it would look just like the A-10. Our airframe was built to extend loiter times over the battlefield, deliver a substantial amount of ordnance, and survive significant battle damage. It does these things exceptionally well and, with the advent of the C-model precision guidance upgrades, integrates as well as any aircraft with data and sensor management.

What’s the typical payload to carry out the above-mentioned missions?

We have a large variety of weaponeering options available to us. The starting point is, of course, the mighty GAU-8 Avenger Gatling-type cannon. It’s a highly-accurate point-and-shoot weapon that grants our pilots superior firepower and flexibility in a close-combat ground fight. Additionally, we carry many other capable munitions including GPS-guided, laser-guided, and unguided bombs. Based on the flexibility this gives us, our payloads vary greatly from mission to mission.

30 mm gun aside, what’s the most flexible weapon you have on the A-10?

Second to the gun, I think the Maverick provides the most flexibility in weaponeering. We can employ it from medium or low altitudes against a large variety of target types. It’s a difficult weapon to master, but indispensable in a CAS fight.

Italian exchange pilot Roberto Manzo, 74th Fighter Squadron training assistant, poses for a photo before flying, Aug. 25, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Manzo was raised in Rome, Italy and developed a desire to become a pilot after seeing jets fly for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

Italian Air Force exchange pilot “Pinna”

Tell us something about you. Who is “Pinna” and what about his experience?

I was born and raised in Ostia, near Rome.

I started my adventure in the Italian Air Force Academy, in 2003, with the Drago V course. Upon graduation, I attended the pilot courses with the Euro NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT), at Sheppard, Texas, TX, between 2007 and 2008, flying the Cessna T-37B Tweet and Northrop T-38C Talon. Back in Italy, I was assigned to the A-11B AMX “Ghibli” and attended the first LIFT (Lead in Fighter Training) course with the 61º Stormo (Wing) at Lecce-Galatina airbase, in 2009, flying the MB-339CD and then the OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) course, with the 32º Stormo, at Amendola, on the AMX and AMX-T, between 2010 and 2011.

Once I arrived to my unit, the 51º Stormo, based at Istrana in northeastern Italy, I was assigned to the glorious 132º Gruppo (Squadron) FBR (Fighter Bomber Reconnaissance) “C. E. Buscaglia,” flying the “Ghibli” until my recent departure for the United States.

In addition to my personal and professional growth, during my time with the 132º I also earned my callsign, “Pinna” (Italian for “Fin”), which I’ve carried for several years now.

How did you get the opportunity to become an exchange pilot with the U.S. Air Force A-10?

The possibility of flying the legendary A-10 emerged in 2009 as a consequence of a bilateral agreement between the Italian and the U.S. Air Force. Several factors contribute in selecting the pilot destined to the Hog, including the flight experience, the achieved qualifications and currencies and, of course, the fluency with the English language (as no specific training is foreseen to improve with it before leaving for the U.S.). Although I already had a significant experience in the Close Air Support role with the AMX, I started to focus even more on this kind of mission once I learned that I would be assigned to the A-10. “Ponch”, my ItAF predecessor as an exchange pilot on the A-10 was extremely helpful during my transition from the AMX to the Warthog: he managed my induction in the American “system,” that is no easy task considered that there is very little time before things start to get serious.

Do you like the Warthog? If so, why?

The A-10C is an amazing aircraft: reliable, durable and lethal. It is a one of a kind combat plane: every single part of the Warthog is designed for Close Air Support. It is simple to handle and “forgiving”; its flight envelope makes it extremely maneuverable at low speeds and able to turn in tight spaces: this means it can circle over restricted areas and provide better support to the troops on the ground. Obviously, it’s not too fast but speed is not a mandatory feature when your main need is to remain “on station” as long as possible.

Everything in the airplane is duplicated, so as to make it as durable as possible: there are two tails, two hydraulic systems, two engines which are positioned on the outer side of the fuselage so as to minimize the risk of fire in case one of the two turbofan engines is hit. What’s more, the pilot sits in a titanium aircraft armor, referred to as a “bathtub,” which protects the cockpit from rounds fired from below.

Whilst externally the aircraft is almost identical, the avionics of the current A-10C has virtually nothing to do with the old “Hawg” that became particularly famous as the “Tank-buster” during the first Gulf War 25 years. The aircraft features an advanced data link system, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, three radios, a latest generation Targeting Pod, and also a sophisticated HMCS (Helmet Mounted Cueing System), that alongside the rest of the aircraft’s sensors, allows the pilot to effectively employ the weapon in a matter of seconds.

What are the main differences between the A-10 and the AMX? What part of your experience with the 132° Gruppo in Italy has been important with the Thunderbolt?

The A-10C and the AMX are much different aircraft. Both share a certain ease in handling, and it is no secret that the pilots of both aircraft would appreciate a bit more thrust from the engine. Furthermore, the Warthog is more maneuverable at low speeds while the AMX, with its aerodynamic design, is faster than the A-10. There are some differences in terms of missions flown by the two aircraft, though: throughout the years, an AMX pilot learns to fly several different mission profiles, spanning from reconnaissance to light attack, from CSAR (Combat SAR) to Close Air Support; the U.S. Air Force squadrons equipped with the A-10C, focus in these last two missions. My time with the 132° Gruppo, especially the tour in Afghanistan as a member of the Task Group Black Cats, has been extremely important in developing those skills required to keep up with colleagues who excel in CAS and CSAR execution. 

Two Italian Air Force A-11 Ghiblis arrive to receive fuel from a KC-10 Extender during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Aug. 7, 2017. Italy plays a key role supporting Coalition’s military operations through air capabilities based in Kuwait: one KC-767 aerial refueling aircraft, one unmanned Predator surveillance aircrafts, four AMX aircrafts for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations and an intergraded multi-sensory exploitation cell. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

Any particular experience you’ve lived with the “Flying Tigers” you want to share with The Aviationist’s readers?

At the beginning of 2016 I’ve also had the chance to take part in a deployment to Europe as part of the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. It was impressive to see in what conditions the A-10C was able to operate: in Estonia, every morning, a dedicated team had to defrost the aircraft; then we taxied between pile-ups of snow surrounding the taxiways! In Bulgaria we had the opportunity to conduct air-to-air training with the MiG-29 and to fly at low altitude through the mountains before reaching the firing range; I was also fortune to participate in a CSAR training where we have managed to integrate Puma helicopters and Su-25 attack planes… something you don’t see every day!

In Germany, I had the pleasure of flying a CAS mission during which I was assigned an Italian JTAC: I still remember his surprise hearing an Italian voice coming from an American A-10.

I think the most complicated exercises are those in which we simulate the “contact” between friendly troops and the enemy on the ground: learning how to safely use the weapons in such [TIC – Troops In Contact] situations is as complex as vital, and requires extremely accurate planning on the ground and fine execution in flight…

You can read the rest of the interviews (and much more) in “BRRTTTT….deployments, war chronicles and stories of the last A-10 Warthogs” (for details and how to buy at a very special price click here. For the paperback version click here).

The cover of our recently released ebook (141 pages, 31 Articles,129 Pics and 6 Aircraft profiles) where you can find the rest of the interviews. Click here for more details! A paperback version will be available soon.

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