Tag Archives: NH-90

Watch this video of Finnish NH-90 helicopters in action during Ex. Cold Blade and under Aurora Borealis

An interesting video shows Finnish helicopters at work in Arctic weather.

Cold Blade 2016 was a European Defence Agency’s Helicopter Exercise Programme’s exercise conducted in Finnish Lapland between Feb. 29 and Mar. 18.

The objective of the exercise was to strengthen interoperability and improve operating capabilities in arctic conditions.

The following video, released by the Finnish Defense Forces shows Finnish NH-90 and German CH-53GA helicopters perform white-out approaches and landings at remote locations located in uninhabited areas, in snowy and extremely cold environments.

The footage shows also the helicopters parked under a sky set alight by the Aurora Borealis.

Aurora (“Aurora Borealis” or “Northern Lights” in the northern hemisphere and “Aurora Australis” or “Southern Lights” in the southern one) is a natural light display caused by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric charged particles with the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere).


Italy deploys Helicopter Force (including AW-129 Mangusta attack choppers) to Iraq

NH-90 and AW-129 helicopters to be deployed to Erbil “very soon.”

The Italian Army is going to deploy a Helicopter Force made of four NH-90 multirole choppers and four AW-129 Mangusta attack helicopters to Iraq, “very soon” the Italian MoD announced on Mar. 2, 2016.

The helicopters, along with 130 military, will be based at Erbil, in the northern part of the country, and their primary mission will be Personnel Recovery and CSAR (Combat SAR) missions. However, they are likely to be there to protect the Italian team working on repairing the Mosul Dam too: on the same day the Italian MoD announced the deployment of the helicopters, the Iraqi government signed an agreement with the Italian Trevi company (worth 273 million Euro) to repair the Mosul damn, located 130 km to the northwest of Erbil.


Italian Army NH-90

This is the not the first time the Italian Mangustas (that have extensively been used in Afghanistan) are deployed to Iraq: the Italian Army operated the A-129 (a previous variant of the current AW-129D) in Iraq from 2003 to 2006, supporting the Italian Contingent based at Nassiryah.

The AW-129D is the latest variant of the A129 attack helicopter equipped with infrared night vision systems, laser systems for range-finding and target designation purposes, OTSWS (Observation, Targeting and Spike Weapon System) for Spike-ER missile guidance in fire-and-forget and fire-and-observe modes.

The Helicopter Force joins the rest of the Italian Contingent in the region, that includes about 760 advisors, MQ-1C Predator A+ UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), four Tornado bombers (for the moment flying only reconnaissance missions) and one KC-767A tanker supporting the US-led coalition jets involved in the air war against ISIS.

Image credit: The Aviationist’s Giovanni Maduli. Top image shows an AW-129 during a simulated Personnel Recovery from behind the enemy lines.

Old Harriers and new choppers unleashed. Welcome aboard the Cavour aircraft carrier during "blue water ops".

On Jan. 25, along with the ambassadors of NATO members, EU, Middle East and Mediterranean partners, The Aviationist has had the opportunity to visit the Cavour aircraft carrier during “blue water ops” off Civitavecchia port.

The event was jointly organized by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to showcase one of the most important assets of the Italian Defense, one of the few European aircraft carriers that is not only important for military operations, but it is also a versatile platform that made its operative debut during the Haiti relief mission.

The Cavour symbolizes “a variety of possible uses that make it cost-effective” said Adm. Luigi Binelli Mantelli, future Chief of Staff of the Italian Navy.

Along with the F-35 program, the Italian Navy flagship was recently targeted by potential budget cuts as a consequence of the country’s financial crisis. However, “the AV-8B will fly until 2020, when they will be replaced by the F-35B. The MoD Di Paola has confirmed the project will continue. We don’t know how many aircraft we will get. The Air Force will get the majority, but even the Italian Navy will receive its planes” Binelli Mantelli said.

According to the Admiral, the F-35, is mainly an Air Force project, since the service needs the plane for its future. However, the Navy has joined the program and the future STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, that was removed from probation one year earlier than expected, will serve as a force multiplier and complement the capabilities of the ship, capabilities that were showed to the ambassadors, diplomats and media during a tactical event involving the AV-8B+ Harrier (both single and double seat), AW-101 and NH-90 helicopters, the San Marco Regiment special forces and the Caio Duilio, a radar-evading Anti-Air Warfare destroyer.

Giovanni Maduli took the following images for The Aviationist.

Blue Angels' almost crash: the risk of Controlled Flight Into Terrain during formation aerobatics

On May 22, 2011, the US Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron was performing at Lynchburg Regional Air Show, Va, when the diamond formation went too low at the end of the “Barrel Roll Break” maneuver. As a consequence of the lower-than-normal maneuver, the Blue Angels aborted the show and all F-18s landed safely. Noteworthy, neither on the preceeding day’s rehearsals, for unknown reasons, the maneuver ended as expected with the break (to see how the maneuver should be performed have a look at the team’s website and select Maneuver 28).

The following video shows both the May 21 and 22 maneuvers.

Following the incident, the Blue Angels announced a safety stand-down and cancelled their next performances (so far, until mid June) for more practice at their home base Pensacola, Florida, and, on May 27, team’s leader CDR Dave Koss resigned and was replaced for the duration of the season by Capt. Greg McWherter, who was the previous Blue Angels’ Commanding Officer.

The incident was obviously a Leader’s fault. He entered the loop too low causing the diamond four-ship formation almost to hit the ground as happened in 1982, when the whole Thunderbirds T-38 formation crashed killing all four pilots (even if in that case the cause of the crash was a mechanical malfunction with the #1 aircraft control stick).

Formation aerobatics requires specific qualifications, experience and training as it’s not easy to perform aerobatic maneuvers. When many aircraft (up to 9 elements) fly formation aerobatics, it is important not only to maintain the correct distance from one another, but also to maintain a very reactive flight attitude: who flies up front is required to anticipate wind gusts, turbulence, and the appropriate corrections, absorbing as much as one can the oscillations in order not to propagate them amongst the rest of the formation. Instrument flight is reduced to the minimum. The artificial horizon is utilised for no more than 20 or 30 seconds during the whole display, this being flown “visually”, looking out, maintaining one’s own position by sighting the specific reference points. For almost all the duration of the performance wingmen and slot pilots, have “only” to follow their leader, almost disregarding their position relative to the ground.

Formation leader is the role with greater responsibilities: he guides the whole team, ensuring flight safety, dictating timings and managing separations, opposition passes and rejoins. For this reason, formation leaders are the most experienced pilots flying in a team. However, even the most experienced pilots can do mistakes and when such errors occur during vertical maneuvers, consequences can be tragic.

In 2008 I was attending an airshow when a brand new NH90 helicopter of the Italian Army, piloted by an experienced crew, crashed into the Bracciano lake after entering a Fiesler maneuver at low altitude and, probably, suffering spacial disorientation caused by the surface of the water.

The above picture was taken on Jun. 1, 2008. For more info visit the NH90 crash page. Image is watermarked.

Who called the “Knock it off”?

After watching the footage of the Blue Angel’s almost crash, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss with blog’s visitors and Twitter followers, who might have called the “knock it off” (a radio call reserved for safety of flight issues used to cease maneuvering).

As already explained, the team Leader has the responsibility of ensuring the safety of the formation. Many teams (as the Frecce Tricolori) have a  Commander who issues instructions from the ground to the pilots in the air to fine tune timings and distances in the various manoeuvres, supervising the display both from a technical and a flight safety perspective.  However, in the Blue Angels the Flight Leader is also the Commanding Officer, hence, most probably, it was #1 who radioed the safety order to the rest of the formation. Nonetheless, there are some maneuvers in which other formation members have specific responsibility to cross check heights and distances and during the whole performance, and above all, #4 has a demonstration safety officer role, as he flies at the lowest position in the diamond, from where he has a overall view of the formation. Maybe #1 failed to recognize the dangerous situation and #4 called the safety breakout. Unfortunately it is impossible to determine it but it owuld be extremely interesting to know whether it was the Leader or the Slot or another team member to radio the “knock it off” as it would give us an idea of the formation’ situational awareness.

Even if it is not among his tasks, each formation member can radio a call for a safety issue but it is an extremely unlikely situation, unless the call is made to inform the rest of the formation of a failure involving a single aircraft. Unsolicited safety calls are extremely rare even if the could prevent a so-called “Controlled Flight Into Terrain” (CFIT) of the formation. Military aviation counts thousands episodes of CFIT with wingmen recognizing a potentially dangerous situation earlier than their flight leaders but delaying too much the call that would have saved both lives for extreme confidence in the flight leader and respect of hierarchy.

Sarzana Luni airport

The following images were taken by Matteo Marianeschi during a recent visit in Luni Sarzana, airport where the 1° Nucleo Aereo, 1° Sezione Volo Elicotteri of the Guardia Costiera (CP, Italian Coast Guard) and the Maristaeli Luni Sarzana with the Gruppi 1 and 5 of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) operate.
The local Guardia Costiera unit is equipped with 6 AB-412CP Koala that are employed by the Sezione Elicotteri for SAR (Search and Rescue), Port State Control e Maritime Navigation Safety, Fishing Control, Maritime Policing, Liaison and Transportation and Civil Protection (for fire fighting activities during Summer, by means of the bambi bucket system) duties. The alert take off is performed within 30 minutes during daylight hours and with 120 minutes at night on a 7/24/365 basis.
On the other side of the airport the 1° and 5° Gruppo of the Italian Navy operate with the EH-101 and the AB-212 helos. Noteworthy, all the new helicopters of the rotary wing component of the Marina are tested in Luni before being delivered to the front line operative units. Beginning on October 2010, crews, aircraft and maintenance personnel, will be deployed to Afghanistan even if no more information have been unveiled so far dealing with the exact number of people and helos involved in the mission.
Absolutely interesting is the building hosting the helo dunker for underwater escape training, a mock up of a helicopter cockpit (so far, the system is able to depict the AB-212 and SH-3D cockpit, even if an upgrade to reproduce the EH-101 and NH-90 ones has been requested) that is plunged into a pool, and then flipped over (if required). The system is used to train crews to escape an aircraft from an upside down position, in case of impact with the water. At least once a year all the flying crews of the Marina have to test their ability to fight their way clear of restraint and harness to surface, to maintain their currencies. The Sarzana’s helo dunker is one of the few available in Europe and it is also used by many NATO countries and Italian Armed Forces for their own crews.