Tag Archives: scramble

Following bomb threat two Italian Typhoon jets perform supersonic scramble to escort Lebanese Airbus 320

Two Italian Eurofighter Typhoon in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) were scrambled to intercept and escort MEA214 flight that reported a bomb threat aboard.

Two loud sonic booms were heard at around 1.45PM LT in Central Italy as two Italian Air Force Typhoons accelerated to supersonic speed to intercept Middle East Airlines 214 flight, an Airbus 320 from Geneva to Beirut.

The two fighter planes, belonging to the 4° Stormo (Wing) from Grosseto, in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) service round the clock together with those of the 36° Stormo from Gioia del Colle, were dispatched to intercept the Lebanese plane that, once flying over Bari, in southeastern Italy, radioed the Italian Air Traffic Control the request to land at Rome Fiumicino airport, because of a bomb threat.

The two armed Typhoons intercepted the Airbus 320 T7-MRC and escorted it to landing on runway 16R at Fiumicino airport, then circled at low altitude over the sea near the airport, until security forces surrounded the plane and brought it to an isolated parking slot.

The subsequent inspection did not find any bomb aboard the plane.

The MEA214 route could be tracked on Flightradar24.com as the following screenshot shows.


Image credit: screenshot by FR24.com


Audio: U.S. Air Force F-15s scramble to intercept United Airlines Boeing 767 with "suspicious package" onboard

On Jul. 31, two F-15s were scrambled from Barnes Air National Guard Base, when United Airlines Flight 956, a Boeing 767 with registration N654UA and 157 passengers on board, flying from Newark to Geneva, informed Boston Air Route Control Center that they had found a “suspicious package” on board and needed to divert to Boston Logan aiport.

Slam 31 and 32 (these were the radio callsigns of the fighter jets) were scrambled at approximately 00.39Z but shortly after take-off Slam 31 suffered an avionics system failure, resulting in him having to return to base and declare an In-Flight Emergency.

Since Slam 31 could not autonomously fly through the bad weather as it lacked any navigational assistance from the onboard systems, Slam 32 escorted the leader back to the base.

Although the two F-15s failed to intercept the jet liner, the Boeing 767 landed safely at Boston Logan airport at about 21.15 local time when it became clear that the “bomb scare” that had compelled the plane to return to the U.S. when it was just off the coast of Nova Scotia, was a digital camera stuffed in a seat back pocket whose owner could not be found.

Aaron Perry digged out of LiveATC archives the radio communications between Barnes ANGB Tower and SLAM 32 getting clearances for the scramble.

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Here’s the transcript of the radio comms:

SLAM 32: “Westfield Tower, SLAM 32, active air alert, scramble. Taxi and take-off, Runway 20. Singles then one to follow.

“Westfield Tower: “SLAM 31/32 roger, cleared to the TOI 085 at 232 miles, cleared for take-off, Runway 20, change departure frequencies, left turn 090, climb and maintain niner thousand.”

SLAM32: “SLAM 32, nine thousand, 090, cleared for take-off.”

Westfield Tower: “31 squawk 7574, 32 squawk 7575.”

SLAM 32: “SLAM 32, 7575.”

Westfield Tower: “31/32 departure end cable indicate (???)”

SLAM 32: “32 copies, departure end cable.”

Westfield Tower: “Slam 31/32 the wind is calm, the altimeter 29.93, you can switch departure frequency.”

[Read also: US Air Defense response to the September 11 attacks: known and unknown facts]

Two pilots shocked to find German Typhoons hot on their tail

Two pilots flying what they thought was a routine flight to Germany for servicing of their Embraer Phenom executive jet had more than they bargained for when two Luftwaffe Typhoons appeared on their wing tip.

According to The Local website, the two German Eurofighters were scrambled from Norvenich airbase after British firm Hangar 8 had reported the jet stolen and had called German Police to tell them of the theft, even if it is unclear on why they went to the German Police in the first instance.

The risk of an illegal plane, being flown by unknown pilots with an unknown aim in German airspace prompted terror fears. German Police contacted NATO who in turn contacted the Luftwaffe, which launched two Eurofighters to intercept the jet and bring it down safely.

According to The Local, a Luftwaffe spokeman said: “We received the alarm via NATO at 19:48. Within six minutes two of our Eurfighters started from Norvenich” within 30 minutes the Phenom jet was on the ground at Cologne’s Cologne-Bonn airport, where Police welcomed the two bemused Austrian pilots.

The article does not say when the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) was launched: most probably it happened on Mar. 31, 2012.

The two hapless pilots both Austrians, said that they had taken off from Nigeria, refueled in Algeria and were heading for Cologne to take the jet for servicing.

The plane will remain grounded until the ownership can be established.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: Stefan Gygas / Luftwaffe

An Italian Typhoon intercepts a Primera Air B-737

On Jul. 10, 2009, a Primera Air Boeing 737-700, with registration TF-JXG, flying as GX-362 flight, from Zakinthos (Greece) to Dublin (Ireland), with 153 passengers and 6 crew members, was escorted by a single F-2000 (not two as some sources reported) of the 4° Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) after the crew requested an emergency landing in Rome Fiumicino airport, due to a technical problem. The airplane landed safely on runway 16L, that had been kept sterile for 40 minutes for the emergency arrival with all other traffic “diverted” on runway 16R, at 16.51LT. According to the information released by the ItAF, “Typhoon 99” was ordered to intercept the aircraft, after the B737 had made an unauthorised descent from cruising altitude to FL200. The Italian authorities initially requested the flight to divert to Naples airport, but the commander refused to land in Capodichino as it required a longer runway. Since L’Aquila and Rome were interested in that day by the G8 summit and a NFZ (No Fly Zone) was active, the Italian COFA (Comando Operativo Forze Aeree) scrambled a Typhoon to intercept the “zombie”.

Image courtesy of Alenia Aeronautica

Image courtesy of Alenia Aeronautica

Another supersonic scramble

Even if in the F-104 age there were many scrambles, I remember that only a few times the interceptor “broke” the sound barrier during the mission. Even in the post 911 period, until 2004, under highened security measures, the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) aircraft rarely performed supersonic interceptions (or at least the went through Mach 1 above the sea and were not heard from the people on the ground).

In the last year at least three times the fighter scrambled to intercept a “zombie” performed a supersonic acceleration causing a loud sonic boom that was heard by the population.

The last occurrence was on Oct 8 when 2 F-16 of the 37° Stormo based in Trapani were scrambled at 07.18 LT from the COFA/CAOC5 to intercept an unknown aircraft flying without the FPL (Flight Plan).

The Vipers on alert took off in 6 minutes and were vectored to intercept the unknown aircraft that despite being identified by the ATC (Air Traffic Control) had provided unclear information and had decided to change its routing after being informed of the imminent interception by the Italian Air Defense. At around 40.000 feet above the Gulf of Naples the two F-16 went supersonic. At 07.45LT the 2 F-16 ADF reached the Byelorussian Ilyushin 76, flying from Sebha, Libya, to Linz, Austria, between Foggia and Napoli, and escorted it until it exited the Italian airspace, above the Adriatic, North of the Tremiti Islands.

On Sept. 16, two F-2000 of the 4° Stormo, based in Grosseto, had departed at 18.45LT to intercept a Czech Boeing 737 from Tunis to Praha, that had lost the radio contact with the ATC flying abeam Rome. During the initial phase of the interception the two Eurofighter accelerated above Mach 1 causing a sonic boom that was heard from many miles away. The two fighters did not complete the mission since the civilian aircraft was able to establish the contact with the ACC and the F-2000 were cleared to RTB (Return To Base).

On May 30, two F-16s belonging to the 37° Stormo of Trapani were scrambled to intercept the Lufthansa flight LH8619T, that was flying from Milan Linate to Athinai, and at 08.29 LT lost the radio contact with Padova ATC. The QRA flight of Southern Italy was immediately scrambled to intercept and escort the civilian A300 and two armed “Vipers”, just after take off, were cleared to accelerate to supersonic speed in order to reach the “zombie” in the shortest time possible. The consequent shock wave caused a loud “bang” that was heard from the ground.

The two fighters were cruising above Mach 1, when the Lufthansa flight was able to establish the radio contact with “Brindisi Control”, and they were ordered to “skip it”, to slow down to subsonic speed and RTB. The F-16s made a fuel stop to Gioia del Colle before proceeding to Trapani.

As I have already explained here, unlike it happened in the past, when there were many bases sharing the QRA duties in Northern and Southern Italy (at the end of the ’80s they were: Istrana, Cameri, Rimini, Grosseto, Grazzanise, Gioia del Colle, Trapani and Sigonella, where a cell was deployed on rotation) the current Italian Air Defense set up foresees two QRA (Norther and Southern), each made of a flight of 2 fighters ready for departure in 15 minutes: 2 fighters in either Grosseto (9° Gruppo, equipped with the F-2000 Typhoon) or Cervia (23° Gruppo, equipped with the F-16ADF); and 2 aircraft in Trapani (where two Squadrons share the alert shifts, the 10° and 18° Gruppo).

It is normal that to intercept a “zombie” asap, possibly departing from an airbase far away (in more than 3-5 minutes like the F-104 was able to do), the fighters are compelled to fly supersonic. Since both Cervia and Trapani are going to cease their QRA shifts with the expiration of the Peace Caesar programme, from 2010 – 2011 there will only be two Eurofighter MOBs (Main Operating Bases) fulfilling the Air Defense duties with the Typhoon: Grosseto (9° Gruppo and 20 OCU) and Gioia del Colle (12° and 10° Gruppo).

So, the situation is not going to change in the near future. Actually, it was not completely different before, since there were always 2 bases with QRA cells (one in the North and one in the South with another two in 2 hours stand by alert) and it could happen that a flight of F-104 from Grazzanise had to intercept a Tu-16 above the Adriatic Sea. However, there were many other airbases distributed on the peninsula: it often happened that the alert one was also near (or the nearest) to the “zombie”, thus interception took place in short time and without the need of supersonic accelerations.