Tag Archives: Italian Air Force

This is probably the last Italian Tornado ECR to wear the old fashioned camouflage color scheme

One of the last Italian tactical aircraft to wear a “camo” scheme is this Tornado ECR used by Leonardo for testing activities.

Taken by our contributor Alessandro Caglieri at Decimomannu airbase recently, the photo in this post shows a really rare aircraft: most probably (as there is someone who believes there might be another one, an IDS, not in airworthy conditions though) the only Italian Tornado still wearing a camouflage livery.

The aircraft, an ECR with serial MM7079, operated by Leonardo company, has deployed to “Deci”, where the Italian aerospace industry maintains a permanent detachment, to undertake some unknown tests on Mar. 15, 2017.

As almost all the NATO combat planes (special colors aside) have turned to overall grey low visibility color schemes, the cool, flamboyant and old fashioned camouflaged liveries have become a rarity…

Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri

 

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Here are the first photographs of the Italian Typhoons arriving in Iceland to provide NATO Air Policing duties

The Italian Typhoons have arrived in Keflavik.

On Mar. 17, supported by two KC-767A tanker of the 14° Stormo (Wing) from Pratica di Mare airbase, six Italian Air Force Typhoons have arrived in Iceland to undertake QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) and NATO Air Policing duties.

The Eurofighter F-2000A jets (this is the designation of the single-seaters in accordance with the Italian Mission Design Seies) belong to the three units that operate the Typhoon: the 4° Stormo, from Grosseto; the 36° Stormo, from Gioia del Colle; and the 37° Stormo, from Trapani.

A Typhoon of the 18° Gruppo sporting the typical checkered tail.

An F-2000A from the Gioia del Colle-based 36° Stormo. Two Gruppi depend from this Wing: the 10 and 12° Gruppo.

The aircraft will operate until mid-April as part of a Task Force where personnel and equipment are completely integrated and interchangeable thanks to fully standardized procedures and training.

The images in this post were taken by photographer Eggert Norðdahl as the Typhoons arrived at Keflavik airbase for their second tour of duty in Iceland: in June 2013, as part of Operation “Icy Skies”, six Italian Eurofighters securing the airspace on the ally in the “High North.”

One of the Typhoons of the 4° Stormo. The Italians deployed to Iceland with three drop tanks, one AIM-120 AMRAAM and one IRIS-T air-to-air missile.

Image credit: Eggert Norðdahl

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A fighter pilot joins The Aviationist’s team: welcome on board “Gonzo”!

We have a new writer. A Fighter Jock, an Instructor Pilot, an Aggressor, with 3,000 flying hours and actual combat experience. Be ready for some really cool stories.

I met Alessandro “Gonzo” Olivares for the first time two years ago, at Lecce airbase. He was the Commander of the 212° Gruppo (Squadron), the first Italian Air Force Squadron to receive the world’s most advanced jet trainer, and one of the very first and few IPs (Instructor Pilots) on the M-346 “Master” (T-346A according to the Italian designation).

I had the unbelievable opportunity to become the very first journalist to fly in an ItAF Master and “Gonzo” sit in the front seat during a memorable training mission during which I discovered how modern LIFT (Lead-In Fighter Training) prepares young pilots for 4+ and 5 gen. aircraft. During that mission, not only did Alessandro (or “Alex” as he’s often dubbed by his friends) demonstrate to own the skills needed to teach other pilots how to fly and fight in a modern combat plane but he also proved to have an outstanding ability to transfer knowledge to other aviation geeks. Needless to say, we became friends and I immediately thought he could be a perfect addition to our editorial team.

“Gonzo” has about 3,000 FH. He has taken part in real operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya flying the Tornado.

Alex has some 3,000 FH. He’s flown the Tornado in the fighter bomber role for more than a decade, becoming also a “Tonka” IP, taking part in several exercises such the Red Flag, the Alaskan Flag, the Joint Maritime Course, the Anatolian Eagle and the TLP (Tactical Leadership Programme) that he’s attended also as part of the Aggressors team with the T-346.

He has taken part in real operations as well, flying over Kosovo and Afghanistan, and over Libya during the 2011’s Air War.

“I was lucky enough to fly high-performance aircraft, to take part in real operations and, above all, to train other pilots on the Tornado as an OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) IP and, later in my career, on the futuristic T-346 trainer.”

Alex during a mock dogfight. Notice The Aviationist patch on his shoulder!

As you may imagine, with such a background, “Gonzo” brings some really unique know-how to this site.

“I was a long time reader of The Aviationist, one of the world’s most read and reputable military aviation blogs. But I didn’t think I would ever become part of the team! For sure, it all started once I met David at Lecce: I was struck by his competency  and, in a matter of a few hours, I forgot he was a journalist and talked to him as I did with my colleagues and soon discovered that we shared the same passion. And now I’m here to share my stories and experience with the readers of The Aviationist from all around the world.”

In his spare time, Alex loves skiing, mountain bike riding, scuba diving, sailing and cooking.

Please join me in welcoming Alessandro “Gonzo” Olivares to The Aviationist and wishing him every success in his new role as a writer.

The Author and Alessandro Olivares after the flight aboard the T-346 Master in April 2015.

 

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Six Italian Typhoons are deploying to Keflavik to support NATO’s Iceland Air Policing Mission

The Italian Eurofighter Typhoons are deploying to Iceland to provide Iceland’s air defense duties.

From Mar. 16 to mid-April 2017, a detachment of six Eurofighter Typhoons belonging to all the Italian Air Force units that operate the Euro-canard aircraft will be based at Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, to support NATO’s mission that provide Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities to meet the Northern European country’s Peacetime Preparedness Needs.

NATO has rotated fighter jets to Iceland since 2008, in an effort to provide QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duties while strengthening cooperation between allied air arms with Iceland’s air surveillance integrated into NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence System. Three times a year, allied combat planes operate over Iceland for several weeks “to ensure the Alliance can conduct full-scale peacetime air policing with minimum delay if required by real world events.”

This is the second time the Italian Air Force sends its Typhoons to Iceland: in June 2013, as part of Operation “Icy Skies”, Italian Eurofighters with 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (Wings) deployed to Keflavik along with support personnel as well as air defense controllers from GRCDA (Air Surveillance Squadron), 21st and 22nd Radar Squadron, respectively, based in Poggio Renatico (Ferrara), Poggio Ballone (Grosseto)  e Licola (Naples), that provided reporting and control services and airspace surveillance services within the Iceland AOR (Area Of Responsibility).

“We operate in many areas to mitigate threats and prevent risks,” said the Italian MoD Roberta Pinotti, in a statement on Rome’s participation in international missions. “We have to provide our contribution to make this world more peaceful.”

The Italian Air Force, provides air policing of Slovenia and Albania airspaces, and has supported BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) mission in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the first half of 2015.

Image credit: Iolanda Frisina

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First hand account: Flying the Eurofighter Typhoon in the Aggressor role during supersonic air combat training

We have had the opportunity to fly in one of the world’s most advanced fighters to experience the thrills and complexity of a 4 vs 3 supersonic aerial combat training exercise.

Much has been said about the Eurofighter Typhoon and its air dominance capabilities.

Its superb engine-airframe matching and maneuverability, in combination with its High Off-Bore-Sight armament supported by Helmet Cueing “has already and consistently proven winning against any agile fighter.” Indeed, we have also widely reported about the outcome of some mock air combat engagements between the Euro-canard and the U.S. F-22 Raptor in a past Red Flag-Alaska during which the Eurofighters managed to score several kills (in a Within Visual Range scenario whose Rules Of Engagement are mostly unknown – please read the story we posted back then to put this in the right context.)

Anyway, since simulated kills and HUD captures scored during air superiority training say little about the way a 4.5 Gen fighter plane fights (unless we have an in-depth knowledge of the actual ROE) we visited the 4° Stormo (Wing), the most experienced Eurofighter wing in the ItAF and one of the units of reference at international level among the Typhoon partner nations as well as a recognized leader in the process of optimizing the weapon system, to fly in a Eurofighter Typhoon (or F-2000 as the aircraft is designated by the Italians) during a complex air-to-air training mission.

And here’s the first hand account of what it looks like to fly and fight in the Typhoon.

Dardo 03

I’m attending the briefing of “Dardo 02-03”, the mission that I will have the opportunity to “observe” from the backseat of the TF-2000A (Italian’s two-seater designation) serialled MM55132/“4-35” and belonging to the 9th Gruppo (Squadron).

The mission is the final FCR (Full Combat Readiness) check for two pilots of the Squadron responsible for the air policing of all central and northern Italy, and Slovenia. For this reason, it’s going to be long, difficult and “crowded”, as it will involve as many as 7 Typhoons, in a 4 vs 3 scenario.

“This is the apex of the training carried out at the Squadron,” says Federico, 9th Gruppo Commander and pilot of the only two-seater in today’s mission. “No other training sortie is as complex as the one required to determine whether a LCR (Limited Combat Readiness) pilot is ready for combat: it includes multiple real-life scenarios that require the two examinees to successfully conduct BVR (Beyond Visual Range) intercepts, visual identifications on the “bogeys” as well as WVR (Within Visual Range) air combat against three Typhoons that will emulate the flying characteristics and tactics of the “super-maneuverable” Su-30 Flanker.”

We will play the role of one of those Flankers as part of the Red Air (“Dardo 03”) whereas the examinees will fly as wingmen (#2 and #4) to two experienced pilots in the 4-ship Blue Air (“Dardo 02”). Noteworthy, the “good guys” will also wear the HMSS Mk2, a futuristic helmet that provides the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery: information imagery (including aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming etc) are projected on the visor (the HEA – Helmet Equipment Assembly), enabling the pilot to look out in any direction with all the required data always in his field of vision. We will operate inside the D115, a large working area located over the Tyrrhenian Sea suitable for supersonic flying and for use of chaff and flares, under positive radio and radar control of a GCI (Ground Controlled Intercept) site. The Red Air will depart first and wait for the Blues inside the area.

After a common briefing that covered the basic details of the flight (weather, launch and recovery procedures, emergencies, radio channels, transponder codes, etc.), the Blue and Red team split for the (classified) tactical briefing while I’m introduced to the Typhoon’s peculiar flight gear, a mix of British and American-style equipment. The flight helmet I’ll wear is a Gentex ACS (Aircrew Combat System) a lightweight, dual visor HGU-53/P derivative, with the EFA/ACS oxygen mask and the typical inflatable bladder system that acts on the nape and whose aim is to prevent the G-induced Loss of Consciousness (GLOC). I’m also given a survival jacket, the anti-g pants and, since the water temperature is 13° C, I’m also assigned a Tacconi neoprene watertight suit. I’m ready. I join the rest of the Red Air as we step to the aircraft, parked in the apron next to the 9° Gruppo. In a few minutes I find myself strapped in, with Federico copying the ATC clearance on the radio while taxing to the active runway. The plan is to perform a high-performance take off followed by a RAT (Radar Assisted Trail) and subsequent southbound navigation towards D115.

We enter runway 03 and line up, waiting for the other two “bad guys” to reach us. We will take off in sequence, with 10 seconds separation between us. With the three Typhoons aligned on the tarmac we perform the engine checks. All is ok.
“Tower, Dardo 03, ready for take off,” Federico radios. The answer immediately arrives: “Dardo 03, Grosseto Tower, you are cleared to a high-performance take off, wind is calm.”

Let’s rock and roll. The throttle jerks to the full afterburner position and the Typhoon starts rolling. In spite of the two drop tanks that we carry on the underwing pylons, in less than 10 seconds we reach 120 knots and rotate.
“Number 1 is airborne!”.

Take off roll (courtesy: Giovanni Maduli)

High Performance take-off (courtesy: Iolanda Frisina)

Federico retracts the landing gear while gradually pulling the stick.

With a nose up pitch attitude of 50 degrees over the horizon, we continue to accelerate to report FL310 inside Grosseto CTR (Control Zone) following the assigned SID (Standard Instrumental Departure) that will soon bring us over Giglio Island. The rate of climb is impressive.

As we continue to climb followed by the other two Typhoons in radar-trail, I take a chance to get accustomed to the glass cockpit. The TF-2000’s backseat is quite large and comfortable. The most eye-catching thing is the wide-angle HUD (Head Up Display) with the typical green color over the whole screen. Fed by a camera in the front one, the HUD makes you fill like you are sitting at the front seat: not only does it show the same symbology but it also provides a video of the forward view (that otherwise would be obstructed by the front ejection seat). The front panel features three full colour multi-function head down displays (MHDDs) that can be arranged at will to show the system status, the nav menu, the weapons selection, as well as the moving map.

Heading to the Danger Zone!

We climb to FL360 in a fighting wing formation and after about 30 minutes, we reach D115. As planned, we proceed towards the southern part of the area. It’s time to perform the G check during which the low-breathing resistance of the mask along with the helmet’s inflatable bladder prove to be particularly useful: we accelerate to 480 knots, make a right 90-degree turn pulling 5 G, followed by a left 90-degree turn back on course, pulling another 5 G. I’ve survived this, hence we are ready to start with the first BVR exercise.

Pulling some 5-g in a turn

Approaching the southern border of the area we turn northbound to meet the “Blue Air” that has just entered D115. We split the formation spacing the planes by several miles, with altitudes from 5,000 to 50,000 feet, proceeding head-on against the hostile aircraft while the friendly GCI controller provides details about their position, speed and altitude. The first exercise is quite fast: the ability of the two young examinees to use the powerful Captor radar is assessed in a matter of few minutes: the simulated use of three radar-guided missiles ends the first engagement and we can move on to the second one. Once again we proceed southbound as the Blue Air heads north to achieve the required spacing. Before reaching the boundary of D115 we turn back again towards the furball.

The contrails of the other two Typhoons of the “Red Air”

We climb to FL460 and accelerate past Mach 1. Thanks to the supercruise capability of the Typhoon we keep a supersonic speed without using reheat. This time the exercise includes WVR (Within Visual Range) air combat, during which the examinees can exploit the HMSS Mk2 to achieve a good kill on the Aggressors in accordance with the ROE that were established for the mission.

Rolling inverted at FL460

“Although the future scenarios demand for stealth fighters capable to engage hostile aircraft from long distances, the real operations we have taken part so far still require the interceptors to come within visual range of the enemy plane to perform a VID (Visual Identification): this means that air combat at close range remains an eventuality and, as such, we have to train to exploit the aircraft and its sensor at best in WVR engagements.”

Ok, we can prepare for the last exercise during which the Red Air elements “pop up” from lower altitude as if they were just launched from a QRA base and are engaged by the Typhoons CAPping at higher altitude.

We’ve finished dogfighting, it’s time to head home.

Here’s the front office

The Aggressors will RTB (Return To Base) first, followed by the Blue Air: not only do we have less fuel but we also need to vacate the runway in time for them to practice some emergencies. We enter the Grosseto CTR at FL360 and start our descent in close formation in IMC (Instrumental Meteorological Conditions): “although this is randomly practiced, this kind of approach is useful in case of electrical failure,” says Federico as we break the overcast weather and get in sight with the ground. We cancel the IFR (Instrumental Flight Rules) flight plan and continue in VFR (Visual Flight Rules) to the Initial Point of the visual pattern for runway 03.

RTBing Grosseto airbase

The downwind leg, base turn and subsequent landing are extremely smooth. Maintaining the nose-up attitude after the touchdown Federico shows me the efficient aerodynamic braking ability of the Euro-canard. We clear the runway and reach the apron of the 9th Gruppo after 1h 50 minutes of flight.

As I’m greeted by the ground personnel of the squadron after my first hop in a Typhoon, the 4-ship Blue Air arrives overhead. Among them, two newly qualified FCR pilots.

Aerodynamic breaking (courtesy: Iolanda Frisina)

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