Tag Archives: Italian Air Force

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



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)





Italian Typhoons along with Spanish Hornets and Typhoons take part in DACT 2017 exercise in the Canary Islands

The Italian Air Force Eurofighters have attended the Dissimilar Air Combat Training 2017 exercise at Gando airbase for the first time to work alongside the Spanish Air Force Hornets and Typhoons.

From Jan. 17 to 26, three Italian Typhoon jets, belonging to the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (Wing), the three ItAF units that operate the Eurofighter, took part in the DACT 2017 exercise the most important Air Defense drills organized by the Ejercito del Aire (Spanish Air Force), at Gando Air Base, in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands.

The three Italian jets carried out 38 missions logging more than 75 flight hours, flying air-to-air sorties against the Spanish Hornets and Typhoons to validate the TTPS (Tactics Technics Procedures) in the air superiority role within the Canary Islands firing range, where combat aircraft can fly supersonic and employ EW (Electronic Warfare) countermeasures without restrictions.

DACT 17 featured “waves” of 25 aircraft flying at the same time operating under control of a NATO E-3 AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) from Geilenkirchen, Germany.

“Taking part in this exercise has been extremely important for the Italian Air Force and for its units and personnel tasked with the air defense of the national and NATO airspace,” said Lt. Col. Raffaele Catucci, chief of the Italian detachment, in a public statement.

“We have launched all the planned sorties, thanks to the valuable contribution of the technical personnel who ensured a 100% efficiency of the aircraft throughout the exercise period.”

From Oct. 18 to 21, four Italian Typhoons visited Gando on a pre-DACT 1,800-nautical mile journey supported by a KC-767A tanker with the 14° Stormo from Pratica di Mare.

Image credit: Remo Guidi



Year 2016 in review through The Aviationist’s Top 5 articles

The five top stories of The Aviationist provide the readers the opportunity to virtually review the year that is coming to an end.

Ordered by pageviews, the following 5 posts got the most pageviews and comments among the articles published on the site, and can be used to review year 2016.

Needless to say, we covered many more topics during the past year, that saw us discussing F-35, Air War on ISIS, Russian campaign in Syria, Turkish Failed Coup, RC-135 spyplanes buzzed by Su-27s, Special Operations tracked online, A-10, North Korea, Eurofighter, and much more.

Please use the search feature or select the proper category/tag to read all what was written throughout the year.

1) “Here’s what I’ve learned so far dogfighting in the F-35”: a JSF pilot’s first-hand account

Mar. 1, 2016

A Norwegian pilot shared his experience flying mock aerial combat with the F-35.

As we reported last year, the debate between F-35 supporters and critics became more harsh in July 2015, when War Is Boring got their hands on a brief according to which the JSF was outclassed by a two-seat F-16D Block 40 (one of the aircraft the U.S. Air Force intends to replace with the Lightning II) in mock aerial combat.

Although we debunked some theories about the alleged capabilities of all the F-35 variants to match or considerably exceed the maneuvering performance of some of the most famous fourth-generation fighter, and explained that there is probably no way a JSF will ever match a Eurofighter Typhoon in aerial combat, we also highlighted that the simulated dogfight mentioned in the unclassified report obtained by WIB involved one of the very first test aircraft that lacked some cool and useful features.

Kampflybloggen (The Combat Aircraft Blog), the official blog of the Norwegian F-35 Program Office within the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, has just published an interesting article, that we repost here below under permission, written by Major Morten “Dolby” Hanche, one of the Royal Norwegian Air Force experienced pilots and the first to fly the F-35.

“Dolby”  has more than 2200 hours in the F-16, he is a U.S. Navy Test Pilot School graduate, and currently serves as an instructor and as the Assistant Weapons Officer with the 62nd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

He provides a first-hand account of what dogfighting in the F-35 looks like to a pilot who has a significant experience with the F-16. His conclusions are worth a read.

[Continue here]

2) Russian Su-33 crashed in the Mediterranean while attempting to land on Kuznetsov aircraft carrier

Dec. 5, 2016

Less than three weeks after losing a MiG-29, it looks like the Russian Navy has lost another aircraft during Admiral Kuznetsov operations: a Su-33 Flanker.

Military sources close to The Aviationist report that a Russian Navy Su-33 Flanker carrier-based multirole aircraft has crashed during flight operations from Admiral Kuznetsov on Saturday, Dec. 3.

According to the report, the combat plane crashed at its second attempt to land on the aircraft carrier in good weather conditions (visibility +10 kilometers, Sea State 4, wind at 12 knots): it seems that it missed the wires and failed to go around* falling short of the bow of the warship.

The pilot successfully ejected and was picked up by a Russian Navy search and rescue helicopter.

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3) F-15E Strike Eagles unable to shoot down the F-35s in 8 dogfights during simulated deployment

Jun. 27, 2016

“0 losses in 8 dogfights against F-15E Red Air”

The U.S. Air Force F-35A fleet continues to work to declare the Lightning II IOC (initial operational capability) scheduled in the August – December timeframe.

Among the activities carried out in the past weeks, a simulated deployment provided important feedbacks about the goal of demonstrating the F-35’s ability to “penetrate areas with developed air defenses, provide close air support to ground troops and be readily deployable to conflict theaters.”

Seven F-35s deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to  Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, to carry out a series of operational tests which involved local-based 4th Generation F-15E Strike Eagles belonging to the 366th Fighter Wing.

In a Q&A posted on the USAF website, Col. David Chace, the F-35 systems management office chief and lead for F-35 operational requirements at ACC, provided some insights about the activities carried out during the second simulated deployment to Mountain Home (the first was in February this year):

[Continue here]

4) Exclusive: all the details about the air ops and aerial battle over Turkey during the military coup to depose Erdogan

Jul. 18, 2016

F-16s, KC-135Rs, A400Ms: known and unknown details about the night of the Turkey military coup.

Here below is the account of what happened on Jul. 15, when a military takeover was attempted in Turkey. It is based on the information gathered by Turkish defense journalist Arda Mevlutoglu, by analysis of the Mode-S logs and reports that have been published by several media outlets in the aftermath of the coup.

Shortly after 22.00 local time on July 15th, air traffic control (ATC) operator in Akinci 4th Main Jet Base (MJB), an airbase located to the northwest of Ankara, contacted his counterpart at Esenboga Airport ATC. Akinci airbase is the homebase of 141, 142 and 143 Filo (Squadrons) of the Turkish Air Force (TuAF) equipped with F-16Cs.

4MJB operator informed that two local-based F-16s were going to take off, fly at 21-22,000 feet and coordination with Esenboga ATC could not be possible.

Shortly after, two F-16s calsign “Aslan 1” (“Lion 1”) and “Aslan 2” (“Lion 2”) from 141 Squadron took off from 4MJB.

[Continue here]

5) Russia has just deployed its most advanced spyplane to Syria

Feb. 15, 2016

A Russian Air Force Tu-214R is about to land at Latakia, Syria.

The Tu-214R is a Russian ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft. In other words, a quite advanced spyplane.

As we have already explained here in the past, it is a special mission aircraft equipped with all-weather radar systems and electro optical sensors that produce photo-like imagery of a large parts of the ground: these images are then used to identify and map the position of the enemy forces, even if these are camouflaged or hidden.

The aircraft is known to carry sensor packages to perform ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) and SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) missions: the antennae of the Tu-214R can intercept the signals emitted by the enemy systems (radars, aircraft, radios, combat vehicles, mobile phones etc) so as it can build the EOB (Electronic Order of Battle) of the enemy forces: where the enemy forces are operating, what kind of equipment they are using and, by eavesdropping into their radio/phone communications, what they are doing and what will be their next move.

[Continue here]

Note: the Tu-214R has carried out two deployments in Syria throughout the year, the first one lasting just a couple of weeks and ending on Feb. 29, the second one from Jul. 31 to Dec. 9, 2016.


Here are the photographs of the first “operational” F-35A outside of the US landing in Italy

On Monday, Italy became the first country to operate the F-35 outside of the U.S. when two aircraft landed at the first F-35 base in Europe. Here are the first photographs.

As reported yesterday, on Dec. 12, the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) received its first two F-35A Lightning II at Amendola airbase, in southeastern Italy, becoming the very first service to take delivery of the 5th generation stealth jet outside of the U.S.

The two aircraft, that were flown to Amendola by two ItAF pilots, will now be involved in the flying activities required to achieve the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) with the type.

Here are the photographs showing the first two F-35s arriving at Amendola (the first European airbase to receive the JSF) on Monday.

Image credit: Troupe Azzura, ItAF