Tag Archives: Italian Navy

Italian Navy AV-8B+ Harrier Jet Deploys Aboard Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima

An Italian Navy “Jump Jet” landed aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) in the Med Sea.

On Jul. 18, 2018, an AV-8B+ Harrier II belonging to the I GRUPAER (Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati) of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy), from Grottaglie, landed aboard USS Iwo Jima as the amphibious assault ship and its embarked 26th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) transited through the Mediterranean Sea on their way back home from their deployment “in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet.”

The Italian Navy Harrier will remain with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group until it arrives in the U.S., then, the “Jump Jet” will head to MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Cherry Point, NC, for a scheduled PMI (Preventative Maintenance Inspection) that will take up to six months.

“Italy and America have an agreement where we will bring over our planes for maintenance,” said Italian pilot, Lt. Domenico Iovino, in a public statement released by the U.S. DoD. “After the maintenance is performed, we will come back to the U.S. and take the plane back to Italy.”

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (July 18, 2018) An Italian AV-8B Harrier lands aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), in the Mediterranean Sea, July 18, 2018. The Harrier and its crew will return to the United States for scheduled maintenance at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jon Sosner/ Released)

This is not the first time the Italian Harriers operate from a U.S. unit: since many deployments pass through the Med Sea, the Italian Navy pilots have the opportunity to operate from the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ships every now and then.

“We have done this several times in the last few years,” said Italian Lt. Cosimo Manica, also a Harrier pilot. “We have taken approximately 10 planes from Italy to the United States for PMI, which can only be done in America.” Indeed, the deployment of Italian AV-8Bs has already happened with USS Bataan in 2017 and 2014 and USS Kearsarge in 2015.

Operating from a U.S. ship is not too different from operating aboard an Italian aircraft carrier, such as the ITS Cavour or Garibaldi. Whilst landing procedures are almost identical, what is probably different is the amount of traffic the units manage both in the air and on the apron, making the opportunity to operate on a U.S. amphibious assault ship relatively “low-stress” but also formative.

“The program that we go through to become a Harrier pilot is taught the exact same way as it is to Americans, and the planes are the same, so there is not much difference when landing on the American ships,” Manica said in the public release. “Our landing procedures are almost exactly the same as well, so there are no problems when we come in to land on U.S. Navy ships.”

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (July 18, 2018) A U.S. Marine assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 completes post flight maintenance on an Italian AV-8B Harrier aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), in the Mediterranean Sea, July 18, 2018. The Harrier and its crew will return to the United States for scheduled maintenance at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jon Sosner/ Released)

The Italian Navy operates little more than a dozen Harriers that are planned to be replaced by the F-35B (probably 15, according to most sources). Italy’s first-built F-35B, aircraft BL-1, was delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense and assigned to the Italian Navy at the Cameri, Italy, Final Assembly & Check-Out (FACO) facility, on Jan. 25, 2018. It completed its transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland on Jan. 31. At Pax River, the aircraft, serialled MM7451/4-01 will obtain the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification, before moving to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina home of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B pilot training.

30 Combat Aircraft from 7 Nations Take Part In APROC 2018 Personnel Recovery Exercise In The Netherlands

Air Centric Personal Recovery Operative Course 2018 was held at the Dutch base of Gilze-Rijen, in the southern part of the Netherlands.

The 12th iteration of the Air Centric Personnel Recovery Operatives Course (APROC 2018) took place from May 23 to Jun. 7 at Gilze-Rijen, in the Netherlands, home of the Defense Helicopter Command (DHC) of the Royal Dutch Armed Forces.

Along with 577 personnel from 12 countries, several combat planes and helicopters supported the exercise: Dutch F-16s and Italian F-2000 Typhoons in the Fixed Wing RESCORT role; French AS555, Dutch AH-64 and Polish Mi-24 helicopters in the Rotary Wing RESCORT role; Dutch CH-47, Spanish AS332, French Navy NH-90, Royal Navy Merlin HC4, Italian Air Force HH-101 and ItNavy EH-101, Swedish Hkp.16a in the Extraction Vehicle role.

Spanish AS.332B

The photographs in this post, showing some of the participant aircraft, were taken at Gilze-Rijen airbase by Marco Ferrageau and Corne Rodenburg.

An Italian Air Force HH-101 Caesar of the 15° Stormo during APROC 2018. (All images credit: Marco Ferrageau and Corne Rodenburg)

The exercise was also supported by the Italian Air Force G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning and Control) aircraft belonging to the 14° Stormo (Wing) from Pratica di Mare airbase to Gilze-Rijen, that undertook the AMC (Airborne Mission Coordinator Role). The two Italian aircraft, MM62293/14-11 and MM62303/14-12 proved to be crucial as all the NATO E-3 AWACS jets that were supposed to support the drills from their homebase at Geilenkirchen cancelled their missions due to aircraft availability issues. Also Extraction Forces from Italy, Spain, UK, France and Sweden joined APROC 2018 as members of the primary training audience.

The ItAF G550 supporting the exercise on May 30. (Screenshot by Hugo Fonteyn).

“The course aims to educate and train Aircrews and Extraction Forces in the implementation of internationally agreed techniques and procedures for Personnel Recovery operations as a member of a combined and joint force contingent,” says the European Personnel Recovery Center in a release published after the course. “The result of this kind of training will be an interoperable force that will be able to provide a viable PR capability for future contingencies. The course aims were achieved by planning and conducting 26 missions in 9 flying days, resulting in more than 140 sorties and 300 flight hours of the participating 20 aircraft. This training opportunity enables the participants to train the Personnel Recovery mission profile in a realistic and international environment that uses the processes and structures found in international operations. The APROC is currently the only European opportunity that focuses entirely on this mission set and attracts great interest in many countries.”

French Navy NH-90-NFH

More than 30 aircraft (including support assets) took part in exercise APROC 2018. Next year’s iteration will be hosted by the Spanish Air Force at Zaragoza airbase.

Exercise Joint Stars 2018 put Italian Armed Forces most advanced “hardware” to test

F-35, T-346, Typhoon, AV-8B, CAEW among the assets involved Italy’s largest exercise supported (for the first time) by the U.S. Marine Corps too.

From May 7 to 19, more than 2,000 military, 25 aircraft and helicopters, dozens of land, naval and amphibious vehicles belonging to the Italian Air Force, Navy, Army were involved in the first phase of Italy’s largest joint drills this year: Exercise Joint Stars 2018. The aim of JS18 is “to achieve the highest possible level of interoperability among the Armed Forces, with an intelligent use of all specialties, to achieve a common goal, thanks also to the development and integration of common procedures “.

Joint Stars 2018 was designed to train commands and forces on the various types of missions that could be required in future national, multinational and coalition operations and is “a valuable opportunity to achieve, through the joint training of the Italian Army, Navy and Air Force synergy and economies, as well as to share resources and maximize interoperability in the Defense field, refining the capacity for intervention with a joint force.” Unlike the previous editions, the scenario included operations conducted within an environment degraded by cybernetic and chemical-biological and radioactive threats (CBRN).

A KC-767 escorted by Typhoon, T-346, F-35, Tornado IDS, AMX and AV-8B overflies “Deci”.

The first phase of JS18 saw the integration of four “federated” exercises within a LIVEX (Live Exercise), an exercise made of actual assets. In particular, the LIVEX integrated Exercise “Vega 18” led by the Italian Air Force; “Mare Aperto 2018” led by the Italian Navy; “Golden Wings” led by the Italian Army; and “Ramstein Guard 6-2018” exercise conducted by NATO. For the very first time this year, the JS drills saw the participation of a contingent of the U.S. Marine Corps.

An Italian Navy Harrier breaks overhead for landing in Decimomannu.

Italian Army Chinook.

The MOB (Main Operating Base) of the exercise was Decimomannu, in Sardinia, that hosted most of the participating assets, including the Italian Navy AV-8B+ Harrier II and NH-90, the Italian Army CH-47 and A-129 Mangusta as well as the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor and KC-130J aircraft, that took part in the airdrop onto the airfield and in a large Joint Personnel Recovery mission.

The U.S. Marine Corps Super Hercules during the airdrop onto Decimomannu airfield, MOB of JS18.

Dealing with the Italian Air Force, JS18 saw the involvement of all the most advanced “hardware” currently in service.

F-35A, Predator drones, G550 CAEW but also Eurofighter, Tornado and AMX jets flew missions aimed at achieving “Information Superiority” on the battlefield: indeed, access to and control of information has always played a crucial role in military operations. The Italian Air Force responds to this challenge with the use of highly specialized aircraft assets such as Predator, CAEW and F-35 and high-tech systems, such as the “RecceLite” and “Litening III” pods on Eurofighter, Tornado and AMX.

The F-35A Lightning II also flew as Aggressors in complex missions against the Eurofighter Typhoons.

Noteworthy, the Italian F-35A were involved also as Aggressors, alongside the T-346 aircraft: for instance, an air defense mission saw four Typhoons supported by one CAEW (“Blue Air”) fly against two T-346 and two F-35s (“Red Air”) supported by a NATO Da-20 EW (Electronic Warfare), whose role was to degrade the effectiveness of the interceptors radar and radio systems by using radar jamming and deception methods.

The T-346A of the 212° Gruppo (Squadron) from 61° Stormo were part of the Red Air.

The MQ-1C (Predator “A +”) and MQ-9A (Predator “B”) UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) were tasked with ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) missions; the CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) aircraft, acted as AEW as well as “flying command post” proving particularly useful to support land, naval and air forces; the brand new F-35A Lightning II stealth aircraft made use of their high-end electronic intelligence gathering sensors combined with advanced sensor fusion capabilities to create a single integrated “picture” of the battlefield that could be shared in real-time with all the players.

MV-22, CH-47 NH-90 and a pair of A-129 involved in a PR (Personnel Recovery) mission.

Taking part in a Joint Stars exercise for the very first time were also the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 and KC-130J.

Typhoon, Tornado IDS and AMX jets performed tactical reconnaissance missions on terrestrial targets using “RecceLite” and “Litening III” pods, whereas HH-139, HH-101, HH-212 helicopters along with the Eurofighter jets undertook SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) missions against NH.500 helicopter and Siai 208 light aircraft that played the “slow mover” role.

An AMX ACOL comes to landing in Decimomannu after a JS18 mission.

All the photographs in this article were taken by The Aviationist’s photographers Giovanni Maduli and Alessandro Caglieri.

The First F-35B Assembled Outside The U.S. Delivered To The Italian Ministry Of Defense Today

The first Italian-build Short Take-Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35B Lightning II aircraft was delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense and assigned to the Italian Navy at the Cameri Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility today.

As planned, the Italian Ministry of Defense was delivered its first F-35B STOVL variant of the Lightning II aircraft at the FACO in Cameri, northwest Italy, on Jan. 25.

The aircraft, that had been spotted flying last week, was assigned to the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) during a ceremony attended by General Claudio Graziano, Chief of Italian Defense General Staff; Admiral Valter Girardelli, Chief of the Italian Navy; Italian Air Force Lt. Gen. Francesco Langella, Director ARMAEREO; Air Commodore Charles Docherty, F-35 Joint Program Office; Fillipo Bagnato, Director of Leonardo Aircraft Division; and Mr. Doug Wilhelm, Lockheed Martin F-35 Program Management Vice President.

Unfortunately, as happened during almost all the milestone events linked to the F-35 in Italy, no media representatives were invited/allowed to attend the ceremony and the few details about the ceremony we are able to report come from an official press release from Lockheed Martin. Indeed, whereas the delivery of the first Israeli or Dutch F-35s got a significant media coverage (with constant updates, live streaming on social media, etc.), the Italian MoD has kept a “low profile” about the F-35 program (in spite of the several firsts scored by the Italian Air Force with the 5th generation aircraft).

As already explained in the past, despite the cuts (from 131 to 90 examples, with the “promise” to consider more cuts if needed…), 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. In Italy the F-35 is still a “sensitive” subject: a large part of the public opinion, as well as many Italian lawmakers have always been against it, because they believe that the investment as a Tier II partner and no significant industrial gains couldn’t co-exist with the country’s fragile public finances. However, 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.

Anyway, to date, nine F-35As and one F-35B have been delivered from the Cameri FACO, which is the only F-35B production facility outside the United States. Four of those jets are now based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for international pilot training and five are at Amendola Air Base, Italy.

The Cameri FACO is also programmed to produce 29 F-35As for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and retains the capacity to deliver to other European partners in the future. The FACO is operated by Leonardo in conjunction with Lockheed Martin with a current workforce of more than 800 skilled personnel engaged in full assembly of the Conventional Take-Off/Landing F-35A and F-35B STOVL aircraft variants and F-35A wing production.

Top image: Italy’s first-built F-35B, aircraft BL-1, was delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense and assigned to the Italian Navy at the Cameri, Italy, Final Assembly & Check-Out (FACO) facility, Jan. 25. (Ministry of Defense Photo)

Here Is Italy’s First F-35B Lightning II Flying In Full Italian Navy Markings For The First Time Today

The aircraft will be officially delivered to the Marina Militare next week. Today it flew for the first time in full Italian Navy markings.

On Jan. 18, the first Italian F-35B, the first short-take and vertical landing Lightning II aircraft assembled outside the US, designated BL-1, carried out a test flight in STOVL mode at Cameri airfield, home of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility, in northwestern Italy, sporting full Italian Navy markings for the very first time.

Aviation photographer and friend Franco Gualdoni was there and took the photographs of the F-35B flying in the early afternoon sun.

The aircraft, serialled MM7451/4-01, will be taken on charge by the Marina Militare with a ceremony scheduled at the FACO on Jan. 25, 2018. After delivery, the aircraft will be transferred to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, to obtain the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification, before moving (most probably) to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina home of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B pilot training.

The aircraft, that had successfully completed its maiden flight on Oct. 24, 2017, sports a livery quite similar to the one of the Italian Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier II of the Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati: it features the wolf’s head insignia on the tail, the wolf’s paw prints on the rudder, the Italian Navy roundel and the MARINA text.

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. The Navy’s STOVL aircraft will replace the ageing Harrier jump jets at Grottaglie airbase, in southeastern Italy, and aboard the Cavour aircraft carrier.

The F-35B MM7451 during its test flight in full Marina Militare markings (Credit: Franco Gualdoni)