Tag Archives: Italian Navy

We went aboard USS America during USMC F-35B Proof Of Concept Sea Trials

We Visited the USS America with 12 F-35Bs on Board!

The rumble of the MV-22B reverberated off the flight deck of the USS America (LHA-6).

The 12 F-35Bs onboard represented more F-35s than had ever gathered at sea. The F-35B moving steadily towards deployment represents an unprecedented leap in capability, the future of formidable maritime power.

The USS America (LHA-6) cruises off the coast of S. Cal with 10 USMC F-35Bs topside (2 more below) from VMFA-211 & VMX-1, as well as a UH-1Y, AH-1Z, & SH-60. Taken during the "Proof of Concept" demonstration Nov. 19, 2016.

The USS America (LHA-6) cruises off the coast of S. Cal with 10 USMC F-35Bs topside (2 more below) from VMFA-211 & VMX-1, as well as a UH-1Y, AH-1Z, & SH-60. Taken during the “Proof of Concept” demonstration Nov. 19, 2016.

The gathering of assets was part of a joint US Navy (USN)/ US Marine Corps (USMC) “Proof of Concept” demonstration held off the coast of Southern California Nov. 18-20.

F-35Bs from USMC VMFA-211 & VMX-1 on the deck of the USS America (LHA-6) during Carrier capability proof of concept demonstration November 19, 2016.

F-35Bs from USMC VMFA-211 & VMX-1 on the deck of the USS America (LHA-6) during Carrier capability proof of concept demonstration November 19, 2016.

PAO Capt. Sarah Burns indicated that the demonstration would explore the best way to integrate a large package of F-35Bs into the current USN/USMC structure to bring the most effective power projection from the sea.

Lt. General Jon M. Davis, Deputy Commandant for Aviation shared a core value of the Marine Corps demonstrated onboard, “No Marine Corps platform fights alone.” The F-35B, MV-22B, AH-1Z and UH-1Y combined and integrated with the US Navy’s latest amphibious assault ship (USS America) complete a package that provides the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) with a broad spectrum of response options, and the most advanced mobile warfighting capability.

F-35Bs from USMC VMFA-211 & VMX-1 on the deck of the USS America (LHA-6) during Carrier capability proof of concept demonstration November 19, 2016.

F-35Bs from USMC VMFA-211 & VMX-1 on the deck of the USS America (LHA-6) during Carrier capability proof of concept demonstration November 19, 2016.

The MV-22B Ospreys speed and range have been a game changer for the USMC MAGTF, and now with the F-35B on hand the operational possibilities take yet another quantum leap. The sea based capability provides global mobility unrestrained by availability of land bases. This integrated USN/USMC capability is ideal for the fight against terrorism, and/or the insertion of Marine infantryman or special forces deep in hostile territory.

USMC F-35B of VMFA-211 (squadron jet) in transport on the USS America (LHA-6) during the integrated USN & USMC 'proof of concept" demonstration November 19, 2016.

USMC F-35B of VMFA-211 (squadron jet) in transport on the USS America (LHA-6) during the integrated USN & USMC ‘proof of concept” demonstration November 19, 2016.

The access is increased even more given the platforms ability to quickly relocate to austere forward operating bases. Given the F-35Bs stealth, advanced sensors, situational awareness and weapons, it also provides the capability to operate in proximity of areas hosting Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS) or Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) environments.

F-35B from VMFA-211 taxis to take off postion on the deck of the USS America (LHA-16 during proof of concept demonstration November19. The American Flag graphic on the America's "Conning Tower" is reflected in the F-35Bs canopy.

F-35B from VMFA-211 taxis to take off position on the deck of the USS America (LHA-16 during proof of concept demonstration November19. The American Flag graphic on the America’s “Conning Tower” is reflected in the F-35Bs canopy.

The demonstrated integration of the F-35 and the US Navy’s AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System adds tremendous potency to an already capable system. The F-35 can provide over the horizon targeting data to a readily available USN AEGIS platform that can quickly intercept ballistic missile, drone, or hostile aircraft with its SM-6 missile (widely believed to have a range beyond 200 mile). This allows stealth detection of targets by the F-35, and a virtually unlimited (boatload) of missiles to utilize.

F-35B of USMC VMFA-211 hovers aside the USS America as it prepares for a vertical landing on deck during the integrated USN/USMC proof of concept demonstration November 19, 2016.

F-35B of USMC VMFA-211 hovers aside the USS America as it prepares for a vertical landing on deck during the integrated USN/USMC proof of concept demonstration November 19, 2016.

The F-35B replaces three Marine Corps aircraft, the F/A-18 Hornet, the EA-6B Prowler, and the AV-8B Harrier II. Not only does it do the job of each aircraft better, it adds Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) and Command & Control (C2) capability. The F-35B fulfills the USMC vision of “every Marine Corps aircraft a sensor, a shooter and a sharer.”

USMC F-35B of VMFA-211 launches off the USS America (LHA-6) during USMC proof of concept capabiliity demonstration November 19, 2016.

USMC F-35B of VMFA-211 launches off the USS America (LHA-6) during USMC proof of concept capabiliity demonstration November 19, 2016.

Once onboard the USS America the rumbling of the Osprey was quickly replaced by the near continuous roar of F-35Bs launching and landing. The tempo of operations demonstrated the F-35Bs readiness for deployment and combat activity. That should come as no surprise given the “B” has over 22,000 combined flight hours.

The F-35B advanced flight systems reduce pilot workload and increase safety in all aspects of flight. USMC pilot Lt. Col. Rich “VC” Rusnok an experienced AV-8B Harrier II pilot and slated to become the Commanding Officer (CO) of VFMA-121 in 2017 noted that, “hovering in the Harrier was like sitting on a one-legged bar stool.” His comment was complemented by USMC pilot Lt. Col. John “Guts” Price (slated to become the CO of VFMA-122 in 2018). Price noted that his first hover in a F-35B found him realize his learned instincts in the Harrier to provide inputs created problems in the hover, and it was better to ease off the controls and let the F-35B do as it wanted! Perhaps nowhere is this ease of flying more evident than in the speed of pilots Carrier Qualifications (CQs); in the previous 4 years only 8 USMC F-35B pilots had CQ’d, in the past 3 weeks 19 pilots CQ’d!

F-35B of USMC VMFA-211 perfroms vertical landing on the USS America (LHA-6) during integrated USN/USMC "proof of concept" exercise November 19, 2016.

F-35B of USMC VMFA-211 perfroms vertical landing on the USS America (LHA-6) during integrated USN/USMC “proof of concept” exercise November 19, 2016.

The Marine Corps lead the way with the F-35 program. The deployment of VMFA-121 the “Green Knights” to Japan is motion to take place in January 2017, with further deployments slated for 2018. It all speaks to the ongoing progress and maturity of the F-35 program. This “aerial amphibious assault force” represents a new era of flexibility and capability for the MAGTF, and I anticipate we’ll regularly see the USS America serving the nations interests in strategic locations around the globe.

USMC F-35B of VMFA-211 starts its take off run on the USS America (LHA-6) during USMC proof of concept capabiliity demonstration.

USMC F-35B of VMFA-211 starts its take off run on the USS America (LHA-6) during USMC proof of concept capabiliity demonstration.

The Aviationist thanks Sylvia Pierson, and Brandi Schiff, JSF/JPO PA; Capt. Sarah Burns & 1st Lt. Maida Zheng, USMC PAOs; Captain Joseph R. Olson, Commanding Officer of the USS America and entire crew; Lt. General Jon M. Davis, USMC Deputy Commandant for Aviation; Supporting F-35B pilots of VMFA-211 & the F-35B and MV-22B pilots and personnel of VMX-1.

 

Salva

Let’s see the flight gear that makes this helicopter’s system operator look like a Stormtrooper out of Star Wars

Let’s have a look at the flight gear of a modern combat helicopter’s crew member.

The above image was released by the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) recently.

The photo is particularly interesting as it provides the opportunity to have a look at the flight gear worn by an SH/UH-90A multi-role combat helicopter aircrew member during a mission.

Maurizio Bressan, a flight gear collector and expert, has helped us identifying the various pieces.

Flight helmet: it’s a Gentex HGU-84/P, the same used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps helicopter crew members. In this case, it includes the Maxillofacial Shield (MFS) used to safeguard the wearer’s lower face from rotor wash, flying debris and windblast during helicopter operations, and to reduce noise in the microphone. The MFS has been introduced with the HGU-84/P recently, as it previously was only featured by the HGU-56. According to Bressan, the Italian Air Force HH-3F rescuers and operators extensively used this kind of protection during the war in Somalia, when they used the MBU-5 and MBU-12 (without the oxygen hose) to improve the quality of their comms.

Flight Suite: it looks like an American CWU-27/P.

Life Preserver:  it’s an Italian version of the LPU-21/P used by rotary wing assets since the late ’70s – mid ’80s. It contains some manually inflated air bladders.

Survival vest: it’s an Italian variant of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps SV-2B containing a HEEDS (Helicopter Emergency Egress Device), a backup oxygen cylinder that is needed to give the crew member some 3-5 minutes of air in case they need to escape the helicopter (even when upside down) underwater .

Gloves: Italian version of the nomex GS/FRP-2 with the peculiar white palms.

By the way, if you want to get more details about the Italian aircraft and helicopter aircrews’ flight gear you can find more information online on the website of the Italian Ministry of Defense.

Image credit: Italian Navy H/T to Maurizio Bressan for providing the details about the flight gear.

 

The Italian Air Force welcomes the first F-35A delivered outside the U.S.

The first F-35 delivered outside the U.S. was taken on charge by the Italian Air Force.

On Dec. 3, Lt. Gen. Pasquale Preziosa, Chief of the Italian Air Force, welcomed the first Italian F-35A at the F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.

Not only is the AL-1 (as the aircraft is designated) the first F-35 for the Italian armed forces but it is also the first assembled and delivered outside the U.S.

With the delivery of its first aircraft, Italy becomes the sixth nation to receive an F-35 joining Australia, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom and the U.S. that already operate the aircraft at various airbase across the United States.

The aircraft for the Italian Air Force, that made its very first flight from Cameri airbase on Sept. 7, it’s the first of eight aircraft currently being assembled at the Italian FACO that will assemble all the remaining F-35A and F-35B for the Italian Air Force and Navy, and build F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

AL-1 will be delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, in 2016 (with the support of an Italian Air Force KC-767 tanker, the first international tanker to refuel the JSF) where Italy’s first two pilots have recently begun F-35 flight training..

Italy is a Tier II partner in the F-35 program. So far, the Government has invested 3.5 billion USD in the program with an industrial return, in terms of contracts signed, that amounts to +1 billion USD.
That said, industrial participation in the program includes Alenia Aeronautica supplying wing sets (about 75% of Italy’s participation in the program) and other companies of the Finmeccanica group supplying work on some of those quite critical systems, including the EOTS (Electro-Optical Targeting System).

Despite the cuts, the program has attracted a significant chunk of Italy’s defense budget: for this reason the F-35 surely the most famous defense program in Italy. And the most controversial. So much so that it has become a very “sensitive” subject.

A large part of the public opinion, as well as many Italian lawmakers are against it, because they believe that the about 13 billion Euro for the F-35 and no significant industrial gains can’t co-exist with the country’s fragile public finances. However, as a consequence of the cuts (from 131 to 90 examples, with the “promise” to consider more cuts if needed), the assignment of the European FACO to Cameri, and a significant investment already done (Rome remains the second largest contributing partner after the UK) the Italian Government has been able to save the F-35 and ensure the Italian Air Force its 5th generation aircraft to replace the ageing (and for this reason costly) AMX and Tornado fleets, and the Navy its F-35Bs to replace the AV-8B+ Harrier jump jets.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin’s Thinh Nguyen

 

British pilot performs first ever F-35B launch from ski-jump

F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter performs first launch from ski-jump in the hands of a British pilot.

On Jun. 19, BAE Systems Test Pilot Pete ‘Wizzer’ Wilson launched the Lockheed Martin F-35B from a land-based ski-jump for the very first time, at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

The trials aim at validating the troubled fifth generation multi-role aircraft’s ability to take off safely and effectively from a ski-jump ramp similar to that which will be used on the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

Ski-jump ramps on aircraft carrier help the launching plane take off with an upward flight path. Italy’s Cavour aircraft carrier, destined to receive the Italian Navy F-35Bs that will replace the AV-8B+ Harrier II is also equipped with a ski-jump.

 

Photos from Aircraft involved in rescue mission to evacuate people trapped on burning ferry

Italian and Greek military and coast guard aircraft, helicopters and boats are battling strong winds and massive waves to rescue 478 people trapped on a burning ferry adrift between Italy and Albania.

A complex rescue mission is underway since early in the morning on Dec. 28, when fire broke out on a car deck of the Italian flagged “Norman Atlantic” ferry, travelling from Patras, Greece, to Ancona, Italy, with 478 people on board.

Italy and Greece dispatched helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft (including an Italian Coast Guard ATR-42MP and Hellenic C-130) to support the rescue mission that will go ahead until everyone aboard is evacuated from the ferry, adrift about 15 nautical miles from the Albanian coast.

Smoke

Italian Air Force HH-139s, Italian Navy SH-212 and EH-101s helicopters are rescuing passengers from the ship and carrying them to the nearby ships or hospitals in southeastern Italy.

Ferry EH101

At 21.43 GMT, 287 people must still be evacuated. One of the passengers has been declared dead. Rescue operations are particularly difficult because of the high seas, darkness and amount of smoke coming from the ship.

Ferry MM 4

Both the ferry and the nearby ships can be tracked by AIS (Automatic Identification System), an automatic tracking system used for identification and geo-localization of vessels that can be considered the naval homologous of the ADS-B used by airplanes and it is used for collision avoidance, search and rescue, and for aids to navigation.

Here below you can see the track followed by the Norman Atlantic until the present position (from MarineTraffic.com):

Norman Atlantic track

Here below you can see the position of the ferry at 21.39 GMT:

Norman Atlantic position

It looks like one of the supporting helicopters is also using broadcasting its flight data by means of AIS and can be tracked. Have a look at the path it has followed.

Norman Atlantic helicopter

Image credit: Guardia Costiera, Marina Militare, Marinetraffic.com