Tag Archives: Italian Air Force

The Italian Tornado fleet reorganises

With the arrival of a formation of 10 Tornado IDS of the 156° Gruppo in Ghedi on Jul. 1, the relocation that was described in a previous post on this site (http://cencio4.wordpress.com/2008/06/14/italian-tornados-relocation/) officially took place. The 156° joined the 102° OCU and the 154° Gruppo within the 6° Stormo, that for the moment will keep the status of “Stormo” not becoming an “Aerobrigata” (a flight unit with more than 2 Sqns). According to the information released by the Aeronautica Militare on its official website, the Operational Conversion Unit will keep its training role, even if it was speculated it could merge with the 154° Gruppo. Noteworthy, according to the same news release, the TASMO role, historically assigned to the 156° Gruppo (whose task was also the maritime support because of its strategic position in Southern Italy), should be relieved by the 154° Gruppo, while the “Recce” role, could be taken on charge by the 156°. It would be very strange, since TASMO and Reconnaissance are different missions which require years of specific training and can’t be swapped quickly. In my opinion, the things will remain as they are now and both Sqns will keep their current specialities.
The “Tonkas” of the 156° Gruppo arrived in their new base from Gioia del Colle with the escort of 2 F-2000 Typhoon of the 12° Gruppo (the other unit of the Gioia-based 36° Stormo) and were welcomed by a flight of 2 Tornado of the 6° Stormo. With 3 Sqns on a MOB (Main Operating Base) and a flight line of around 30 aircraft, Ghedi represents one of the most interesting and active airbases in Italy. However, for the moment at least, it will not be the only Tornado base in Italy since the ECRs of the 155° Gruppo will remain in Piacenza, home of the 50° Stormo (even if they were recently compelled to move to Cameri because of the works interesting their homebase).

The following pictures, courtesy of the Italian Air Force Press Office, shows the 10 ship formation of the 156° Gruppo flying to Ghedi on Jul 1 2008.

In the meanwhile, the Italian Ministry of Defense, visiting the Italian contingent in Herat and Kabul confirmed the possible deployement of the Tonkas in Afghanistan. As La Russa explained, currently, the German and British detachments provide the reconnaissance and they would like Italy to share the effort in the “recce” mission. According to the MOD such a request is reasonable even if the final decision to deploy the aircraft must be taken by the whole Italian Government and has to take into account also the economic effort required by a temporary deployment overseas. As reported by the ANSA news agency, a 3 months deployment of a cell of 4 Tornados could cost up to 15 milion Euro.

Inside the Italian Air Force One: discover the A319CJ

Have you ever wondered what’s the internal set up of the Italian Air Force One? Have you ever guessed if the seat of the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is comfortable?

On Apr 17, I had the opportunity to sit on that important (and comfortable) chair since I flew in one of the 3 A319CJ of the 31° Stormo, the unit within the Aeronautica Militare undertaking VIP transportation missions (among the important persons carried by the aircraft of the 31 Stormo there’s also Pope Benedict XVI, who often use the SH-3D of the 93° Gruppo). The opportunity was provided by a Media Flight organized by the Italian Air Force Press Office to bring journlists and photographers to Decimomannu to attend the Media Day of the Exercise Spring Flag (for more info and pictures search “Spring Flag” in this site using the search field in the upper right hand column). Along with other media representatives, I boarded the aircraft serialled MM62174 (the other two A319CJ of the ItAF are the MM62209 and MM62243) of the 306° Gruppo, parked in the 31° Stormo apron at Ciampino airport, Rome, and made two flights (to and from Deci) lasting slightly less than 1 hour each.

Immediately after boarding through the front stairs I gave a quick look at the “glass” cockpit with retractable HUD (Head Up Display), MFDs (Multi-Function Displays) and all the other features of a commercial A319, IFF and radio equipment aside. The standard crew is composed by 2 pilots (“I-2174” flight had Gen. Parma, former Cdr of the 31° Stormo and current Cdr of the Comando delle Forze per la Mobilità e il Supporto, on the left seat in the cockpit), 2 flight engineers, 2 stewards.

I was given the possibility to take a seat in the VIP area, a sort of internal “business class” made of 8 seats. These are large and ergonomic and they are located in front of desks equipped with telephones and have large LCDs on the opposite wall. Next to the “business class”, there’s also a sort of President’ Suite with two large seats (each with an embedded telephone, modem/fax), LCDs, a sofa and a private restroom; everything inside this private area is lacquered. This is where a strategic meeting between the Prime Minister and its closer co-workers would take place.

The “economic class” is divided from the business class by means of a corridor that runs inside the fuselage more or less above the root of the right wing and has plenty of windows on the starboard engine. The seats in the back are obviously smaller and there are 8 rows with 5 seat each (2 on the left and 3 on the right of the corridor).

Even if the aircraft is used for State Flights, carrying the most important representatives of the Italian Government, the A319CJ, whose Mission Design Series is VC-319A, can be also used as an Air Ambulance to perform Hospital flights, MEDEVAC and CASEVAC. In fact, with its fleet of A319, Falcon 50 (VC-50A) and Falcon 900EX (VC-900A) and EASY (VC-900B), the 31° Stormo provides also short, medium and long range

Emergency transportation with at least one aircraft ready for departure H24 365 days per year (recently the aircraft of the Stormo have rescued Italian citizens in Australia, USA and Argentina). Just to have an idea of the effort of the wing in its two main tasks, let’s have a look at figures of the last year: in 2007, the VC-319A, flew 1.364 sorties (2.483 flight hours); the VC-50A, 1311 sorties (1083 fh); the VC-900A, 2136 sorties (1510 fh); the VC-900B 1484 sorties (957 fh) and the SH-3D (VH-3D), 250 sorties (247 fh).

Boarding the A319CJ of the 306° Gruppo:

My seat (on the left, next to the window):

Looking to my left:

Looking to my right:

The display in front of my seat showing the flight progressing to destination:

The right wing as seen from the corridor’s window:

The corridor window and the corridor between “business” and “economy”:

The Presidential Suite:

Inside the cockpit:

Rome, as seen from the aircraft performing the ILS procedure in Ciampino:

I wish to thank Col. Amedeo Magnani of the Italian Air Force Press Office for providing the opportunity to fly with the A319CJ.

Spotter Day 90th Anniversary 23° Gruppo – Cervia 20.06.08

The following aircraft were noted during the Spotter Day held in Cervia on June 20, to watch the arrivals of the Italian and foreign squadrons invited by the 23° Gruppo to celebrate its 90th Anniversary.
Here’s the log of the activity:

AT-21 Alpha Jet BAF but flown by EC2/8 of the FAF crews
AT-23 Alpha Jet BAF but flown by EC2/8 of the FAF crews
135 Red L-39 2 Sqn HuAF
C.14-38 14-20 Mir F.1 Esc 141 SpAF
C.14-10 14-05 Mir F.1 Esc 141 SpAF
E-180 F-16A-MLU Esk 727
ET-199 F-16B-MLU Esk 727
XX285 Hawk 100 Sqn RAF Special markings 90th Anniversary
XX284/CA Hawk 100 Sqn RAF
89-2047 F-16CG 510FS
89-2018 F-16CG 510FS
MM54514 “61-64” MB.339A 213 Gr
MM7059 “50-47” Tornado ECR 155 Gr
MM7078 “36-30” Tornado 156 Gr
MM7080 “6-33” Tornado 102 Gr Special Colour
MM6940 “5-30” F-104ASA-M preserved
MM7169 “51-66” AMX 132Gr
MM7239 F-16ADF 23 Gr
MM7251 F-16ADF 23 Gr Special Colour
MM7252 F-16ADF 23 Gr
MM7259 F-16ADF 23 Gr
MM7262 F-16ADF 23 Gr
MM7269 F-16B 18 Gr
MM7273 “36-02” F-2000 12 Gr
MM61970 “5-55” S208M 605SC
MM81343 “15-31” HH-3F 83 CSAR

First Italian F-16 in special colour scheme and new preserved F-104 at Cervia

The highlights of the Spotter Day held on June 20 in Cervia airbase to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 23° Gruppo were the F-16ADF MM7251 painted in a special colour scheme (since, most probably, it will be the first and only F-16 “Special Colour” in ItAF service) and the preserved F-104S (it is actually an ASA-M) MM6940/5-30, wearing the old codes and markings used by the 23° Gruppo when the Squadron and its parent unit (the 5° Stormo) were based in Rimini.
More pictures of the Spotter Day and the full log of the partecipating aircraft here.

The Queen’s birthday flypast (vs the once traditional Italian June 2 flypast in Rome)

Thanks to the BBC, on June 14 I’ve had the possibility to watch the footage of the flypast provided by the Royal Air Force to mark the Queen’s official birthday.

The flypast involved 57 aircraft of 14 different types ranging from the WWII Spitfires, Hurricane and Lancaster, to the Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon who overflew the Buckingham Palace in large formations. Absolutely stunning in my opinion, the sight of 16 Tornado GR4, a formation composed most probably by all the airworthy “Tonkas” from RAF Marham.

Noteworthy, among the 5 aircraft of the Battle of Britain Flight, there was also the only airworthy Lancaster bomber in the UK. The flypast comprised a C-130J flanked by two King Air 100, a 9 ships formation of Tornado F3s, a formation of 9 Typhoons, an E-3, a VC-10, a Nimrod and a C-17 flying along with two F3s each, and a Tristar flanked by a pair of HS125.

According to the RAF website, the formation assembled over the North Sea and routed towards Buckingham Palace with the support of two Hawks from 100 Sqn and an A.109E that performed weather checks and acted as a camera ship. The formations flew over London at altitudes between 1.300 and 1.700 feet along a corridor 20 NM long that was flown in 4 minutes.

Watching the images of all those formations made me compare the RAF flypast to the once traditional Italian flypast provided by the Italian Air Force on June 2 until 2006. In the last two years, the only formation providing a flypast during National celebrations is the one made of 9 MB339 of the Frecce Tricolori: budget constraints don’t permit the ItAF and other Armed Forces to “waste” flight hours.

Actually, even in the 2001 – 2006 period, the flypasts taking place in Italy were light years away from those that brought hundreds of aircraft and large formations of fighters above Rome: in the ’70s and ’80s, the flypast was one of the highlights of the military parade (that took place almost all years from 1948 to 1992, when it was suspended), and I have pictures of formations made by 18 F-104s and 18 G.91s or 36 F-104s overflying The Eternal City. Look at the following video (1:38) to have an idea of a flypast of 18 F-104s in 1972.

Eight years after it was abolished, in 2000, the parade with an interesting old-style flypast was planned, but something very “Italian” happened: after performing 3 rehearsals neitheir aircraft was cleared to perform the flypast on Sunday June 4, 2001. All those formation, it was later explained, would have rendered the flypast too military! Strange isn’t it? Especially if we consider that the whole parade is provided by all the Armed Forces (Navy, Army, Air Force, Carabinieri, Coast Guard, Police, Guardia Di Finanza etc).

In 2000, 100 aircraft, spares comprised, from 8 airbases, were expected to fly over Rome. Even if it was never confirmed, it was decided to keep the aircraft on the ground since many citizens (and politicians) protested for the “show of force”, for the noise pollution, for the Widow Maker (the F-104) overflying the Nation’s Capital etc.

As a consequence, only the Frecce Tricolori could attend the flypast and the following elements of the Aeronautica Militare were cancelled: 3 MB339 of the 61° Stormo (callsign “Veltro”); 3 SF-260 of the 70° Stormo (“Vespa”); 3 NH-500 of the 72° Stormo and 3 HH-3F of the 15° Stormo (“Eolo” and “Ettore”); 1 C-130 and 2 G-222 of the 46^ Brigata Aerea (“Vega”); 3 Atlantique of the 41° Stormo (“Vicky”); 3 Tornado IDS and 3 ADV of the 36° Stormo (“Vortex” and “Vulcan”), 3 AMX of the 51° Stormo (“Violet”); and 3 F-104 of the 5° Stormo (“Victor”). The fixed wing aircraft (whose c/s began with the letter “V”, for “Velivolo”, “Plane”) were expected to fly at 1.500 ft AGL, while helicopters (with c/s beginning with the letter “E”, as “Elicottero”, “Helicopter”) were expected to fly at 1.000 ft AGL.

In the following years the flypast took place but, as a compromise, only aircraft with two or more engines were authorized to overfly Rome and as a consequence, in 2001, only 48 aircraft (helicopters comprised), took part to the flypast. In 2002, the aircraft were 68 but, despite the single-engined aircraft were still banned (MB.339PAN of the Frecce Tricolori display team aside), nobody noticed that in spite of the 4 nozzles, the Italian Navy Harriers with a single engine were cleared to overfly the center of Rome. The 2003 edition saw only 54 aircraft belonging to all the Armed Forces and Corps performing the flypast; among them there was no AV8B+. Until 2005, when the last one was performed, the flypast had approximately the same shape with less than 30 aircraft and around 20 helicopters.

The following pictures (courtesy Troupe Azzurra, Aeronautica Militare) show the 2003 edition of the military parade.