Tag Archives: Mangusta

Italian Call 2011: an ISAF-like scenario to train European crews in a "hot, dry and dusty environment" adopting common procedures

Italian Call 2011 is the name of a Multinational Helicopter Exercise held at Viterbo, Italy, from May 23 to Jun. 9, 2011, as part of the European Defense Agency’s Helicopter Training Program. It follows two past successful exercises: GAP 2009, held in France, and AZOR 2010, held in Spain.

The exercise had the purpose of practing missions and procedures that might be required on current and future operations with a special focus on multiship formations in multinational joint environment: Medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), QRF (Quick Reaction Force), SAR (Search And Rescue), troops insertion, combat air support to ground troops, Airmobile operations.

In particular, the aim of the Exercise was to train European crews and staff to operate “in a hot, dry and dusty environment adopting common procedures while operating as joint/combined Aviation Battalion in an exercise Crisis Response Operations (CRO)”. The ISAF Theater of Operations in Afghanistan was in fact used as Exercise Scenario.

Furthermore, Italian Call 2011 provided an important opportunity for helicopters operators to share information and best practices, to conduct multi-ship formations, NVG sorties, Target hand-over operations with Troops in Contact (TIC), escort and scout missions as well as live firing exercises.

The proposed scenario saw a multinational Aviation Battalion tasked to deploy in Area of Operations (AOO) under a Combined multinational command. Prior to the deployment phase multinational units were concentrated in Viterbo army airfield in order to achieve Full Operational Capability (FOC) and to integrate all assigned assets into the Task Force (TF). Aviation assets would be deployed in the Main Operating Base (MOB) in order to support ground forces.

Operating from a Forward Operating Base (FOB) the Aviation Battalion assets are called on a daily basis to operate to support ground units with fire suppression, Medical Evacuation and convoy escort missions. Local insurgents clans and several mixed terrorist elements are operating in the AOO with a wide array of threats: Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), Small Arms Fire (SAFIRE) and Rockets and Mortars (RAM) mainly attacking convoys. Regional policy was to set up further platoon-company size strong points along the main supply routes and around the main urbanized areas and to re-supply them by air and by ground as a daily routine activity. The Aviation Battalion was also tasked to escort ground convoys and to re-supply allied positions.

A total of 32 helicopters beloning to three classes were involved:
– CH-47, CH-53 (more than 10 tonnes payload);
– NH-90, EH-101 Merlin e Mi-17 (5-10 tonnes payload),
– A-109 & AB-412 (less than 5 tons payload).

Besides Italy, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovenia participated with aircrafts and crews, with Lithuania and Greece having observers for a total of around 350 military.

Here’s a list of the participating assets as provided by the special blog published and updated on a daily basis to provide information and news about the Exercise (note that the list was not updated since it contains only 29 helos).

4 x A 129
2 x CH47C
2 x NH90
1 x SH-3D
4 x AB-212
3 x AB212
3 x A109
4 x Mi 17
2 x Mi 24
2 x CH-53
2 x Cougar

The Exercise took place within the huge R53 (“Romeo 53”) restricted airspace, an area that “surrounds” the Viterbo airport and that is dedicated to the military training activity of Italian Army helicopters.  All the participating units could get informed about ATC and planning procedures for IT CALL 2011 thank to the ENAC (Ente Nazionale Assistenza al Volo) “Self Briefing” platform which enables real time Web access to AIS, Meteo, AFTN and ATFM info via Internet.

More than 600 flying hours were flown during Italian Call 2011 with 50 daily sorties (on average) and a total consumption of 450.000 lts of fuel.

Thanks to the help of Col. Massimo Meola and Lt.Col. Giovanni Ramunno of the Italian Army, contributor Giovanni Maduli had the opportunity to report from Viterbo and to take the following interesting images of Exercise Italian Call 2011.

The false problem of the armed Predators

On Sept. 18, 2010, Lt. Alessandro Romani of the Col. Moschin was killed by the Afghan insurgents in a shooting in the area to the East of Farah, Afghanistan. Lt. Romani was a member of the Italian Special Forces team of the Task Force 45 flying on board a CH-47. The Chinook, escorted by two A-129 Mangusta, was approaching the spot pointed out by a Predator of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) where some terrorists, that had just placed a bomb on a nearby road, had taken refuge. The chopper was landing when it was hit by some Kalashnikov shots that caused the death of the Italian officer.
In the aftermath of the shooting, some experts claimed that the use of armed Predators would prevent such accidents to occur: an article, written by an expert suggested that an MQ-1 equipped with Hellfire missiles would have saved Lt. Romani’s life. A direct hit into the terrorists refuge would made the Special Forces’ intervention unneeded. True, theoretically. False, if we analyse Italy’s attitude in Peace Keeping and Peace Enforcing operations. Italian forces, whose partecipation to such operations are usually strongly opposed by certain parties and are the cause of strong debate in the Parliament, have strict Rules Of Engagement, much more complicated than “Don’t fire until fired upon”. Historically, Italians are neither warmongers nor willing to use arms: for better or for worse, we tend to use diplomacy, to talk with the local people. The option of firing a couple of missiles from high altitude, from a UAV, towards some insurgents sheltered in a building, is simply something not in our DNA. What if the terrorist have hostages with them? What if the Italians cause “collateral damages”? Unacceptable for the public opinion in Italy, that still considers the Armed Forces a sort of burden, an unworthy cost, a diabolic means of destruction and war. Wisely, Italy decided to purchase only unarmed UAVs (even the MQ-9 Reaper will not carry missiles or bombs): cheaper and “safer”.
Hence, not even an armed Predator could save Lt. Romani’s life…….unless it was American.

The following images are courtesy of the Italian Air Force.

Armed Forces Day: departures from downtown Rome

The following images, showing the departure of the helicopters attending the exhibition in Rome for the Armed Forces Day celebration, were taken by Giovanni Maduli on Nov. 11, 2009. All but the EH-101 of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy, ItNy), that experienced a failure, and the A109 of the Guardia di Finanza, that returned to its homebase via ground transportation, took off from the Circus Maximus; the ruins of Ancient Rome on the Palatine Hill provided a striking background to the pictures.

First Italian COMAO in Afghanistan

On Jan 18, for the first time since the beginning of the Italian involvement in the Afghan theatre, the Joint Air Task Force (JATF) of the RC-W (Regional Command – West) planned and perfomed a complex COMAO (Combined Air Operation) to protect a convoy of the Esercito (Italian Army) that was in bound a remote post in the North of the country against an eventual hostile actions of the insurgents. COMAO were among the most important “themes” of the Spring Flag 2008, a Joint, Interdepartmental, International Exercise, that took place in Italy in April 2008 (for more info: http://cencio4.wordpress.com/2008/04/23/spring-flag-media-day-debrief-part-2/ and http://cencio4.wordpress.com/tag/spring-flag/).
The Afghan operation saw the involvement of A-129 Mangusta and CH-47 Chinook helicopters ot the Italian Army and of single Predator UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) of the 28° Gruppo / 32° Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF), both departed from Herat. The CH-47 were tasked with the transportation of armoured vehicles and took off from Herat only after the Predator had completed a reconnaissance mission in the area where the vehicles were about to be ferried. While the area was patrolled by 2 Mangusta, the CH-47 were escorted during their flight by other two A-129s. Once the Chinook had reached the target area and unloaded the vehicles the returned to Herat with the escort provided by the 4 Mangusta. The Predator UAV after fulfilling its task within the COMAO has surveilled other two convoys of the Army that were South bound.
In the Southern area, other missions were conducted on Jan 18: the AB.212 of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) ensured the transportation towards the Farah remote base of personnel and equipment and performing, at the same time, a low level Recce mission; a C-27J of the 98° Gruppo of the 46^ Brigata Aerea performed a tactical transport to the Mazar-e-Sharif airbase, the deployment base of the 2 Tornado IDS of the 154th Gruppo that, on the same day, performed a night reconnaissance mission which required an air-to-air refueling from a US KC-135. As explained by the JATF Cdr, Col. Francesco Vestito, all the Task Group of the JATF flew in one day 50 Flight Hours: 1% of the activity flown in 1 year. In 2008 the JATF logged 4.600 flight hours, 1.400 of which were flown by the Predators. It is organized in Task Groups (TG): Devil, (Tornado), Astore (Predator), Albatros (C-27J and now with a single C-130J), Pantera (Italian Navy AB-212), Fenice (Italian Army CH-47C and AW-129), and Tigre (ItAF AB-212ICO).
Dealing with the two C-27J Spartans, the aircraft returned home on Jan 27, after completing their first tour of duty which started on Sep. 12, 2008. 200 Flight Hours, 50 missions, 1.500 passengers and 30.000 pounds of cargo: these are the figures of the first operative mission of the C-27Js. The aircraft have been tasked with different kind of missions: cargo and personnel transportation but also MEDEVAC (MEDical Evacuation). The aircraft proved to be particularly important since they are able to operate from both the convetional airports and the tactical strips.

All the following pictures, courtesy of the Aeronautica Militare / Cellula PI Herat

2008: a bad year for Italian military helicopters

Most probably, 2008 will be remembered as one of the worst years in the history of the Italian military helicopter aviation. At least 5 accidents occurred to aircraft belonging to both the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF), the Esercito Italiano (Italian Army, ItAy) and the Marina Militare (Italian Navy, ItNy). On Mar 13, an NH-500E of the 72° Stormo crashed in a field near Arnara, some 10 chilometers from Frosinone airbase, during the execution of a simulated crash landing. The two pilots on board (an Instructor Pilot and a Student) escaped the helicopter before it was completely destroyed by the fire. At around 12.00LT on Mar 13, I was on board Samba 01+1, a flight of 2 NH-500E that were performing a training sortie within the Frosinone ATZ to take some air-to-air pictures for a report that will be published on RID next month. We heard on the Tower frequency about the emergency: a Rescue helicopter was already approaching the crash landing site and reported fire on the ground and smoke.

On May 7 at 22.15LT, an HH-3F of the 15° Stormo ditched in the Tyrrehenian sea 5 NM W of Pratica di Mare during a night SAR training mission. The aircraft belonged to the 85 Gruppo SAR and the 5 people on board escaped the aircraft with injuries: http://cencio4.wordpress.com/2008/05/08/an-italian-hh-3f-pelican-ditches-in-the-tyrrhenian-sea/
On Jun 1, an NH90 of the Army crashed into the Bracciano lake during Ali sul Lago airshow (attended also by the Frecce Tricolori), causing the death of 1 of the crew members. I was there, took pictures of the helicopter impacting the surface of the water and wrote a detailed report on the mishap: http://cencio4.wordpress.com/nh90-crash-pictures/.

One month later, on Jul 1, an AB212ASW of the Italian Navy crash landed during a training sortie in the countryside near Grottaglie airbase, causing 1 dead and 2 injured ones.

On Oct 23, an HH-3F of the ItAF belonging to the 84° CSAR (Centro SAR, SAR Center) based in Brindisi, flying to Florennes with another aircraft of the same time to attend the TLP (Tactical Leadership Programme) crashed between Isle-en-Barrois and Vaubecourt, near Strasbourg, France, causing the death of 8 POB (People On Board). The accident was caused by the sudden rupture of one the main rotor blades, an event that caused the loss of the tail rotor and the quick impact of the aircraft with the terrain (for more info on this accident, read the following articles: An Italian HH-3F crashes in France killing 8 POB; “Mammaiut”: all the ItAF HH-3Fs grounded; HH-3F crash caused by the fracture of a main rotor’s blade; Three HH-3F cleared to fly).

On Dec 16, an A129 “Mangusta” of the 7° Reggimento “Vega”, hit a the military jeep during the simulation of a typical in-theatre check point operation in Rimini airport, causing the death of one of the occupants of vehicle. Two Mangusta were taking part to the exercise: the first one had to halt the 5 vehicles coloumn, while the second had to overfly it with a 360° turn. The second vehicle of the coloumn was hit by the blade of the second A129 as this one performed a tight turn above to visually check it. The helicopter’s blade was seriously damaged and the pilot struggled to keep the aircraft flying but he was able to perform an emergency landing nearby. Even if an investigation is still in progress the accident was probably caused by a pilot’s error who misjudged the distance from the jeep or because of a wind gust (strong winds and bad weather were reported on Rimini airport on Dec 16).