An eye-catching special colored Tornado IDS for the 60th anniversary of 311° Gruppo.
On Oct. 27, the Italian Air Force officially rolled out a Tornado IDS in a special livery at Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, Italy.
The aircraft, serialled CSX 7041, celebrates the 60th anniversary of the 311° Gruppo (Squadron) of the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo), the Italian Air Force Test Wing responsible for the development, testing and validation of all the flying “hardware”: aircraft, sensors, weapons, etc.
The new “special color” was the highlight of a ceremony that also included the flying display of the C-27J Spartan and the Eurofighter Typhoon: the unit is indeed responsible of the aerial displays of all the ItAF aircraft.
Our contributor Alessandro Borsetti attended the small airshow at Pratica di Mare and took the photographs you can find in this post (top air-to-air image is a courtesy photo by the Italian Air Force).
Image credit: Alessandro Borsetti (top: Italian Air Force)
Italian Tornado combat planes took part in an anti-drug mission aimed at finding a marijuana plantation not far from their homebase.
About 250 kg of cannabis were seized in northern Italy after a plantation was discovered at Quinzano, near Brescia.
Interestingly, the operation was supported by the Italian Air Force Tornado IDS aircraft of the 6° Stormo (Wing) based at Ghedi, near Brescia. The ItAF jets were in fact tasked with reconnaissance runs aimed at discovering the farm and gathering imagery that was then used by the Carabinieri (Military Police) to arrest two people involved with the plantation.
It is not the first time Italian attack planes are requested by other national agencies to perform reconnaissance missions: for instance, in the aftermath of the 6.0 earthquake that hit central Italy on Aug. 24 causing about 300 deaths, ItAF Tornados supported the relief operations collecting imagery used to map the damages to Amatrice and the nearby villages.
Reccelite imagery of Amatrice in the aftermath of the earthquake. Source: ItAF
The Tornados have already been involved in sort-of anti-drug missions abroad: from November 2008 to December 2009, the Italian jets were deployed to Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, from where they supported ISAF with reconnaissance missions: many of these were tasked with the aim of discovering opium poppy farms and depots across a country that produces more than 90% of heroin worldwide.
In “recce” role at home and in theater, the Italian aircraft carry a Rafael Reccelite reconnaissance pod: the Reccelite is a Day/Night electro-optical pod able to provide real-time imagery collection. It is made of a stabilized turret, solid-state on board recorder that provides image collections in all directions, from high, medium and low altitudes.
The Reccelite reconnaissance pod is used to broadcast live video imagery via datalink to ground stations and to ROVER (Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver) tactical receivers in a range of about 100 miles.
The Tornados have used the pod in combat not only in Afghanistan, but also in Libya and more recently in Kuwait, where the aircraft were deployed to support, with ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) missions, the air war against ISIS.
Training missions in reconnaissance role see the aircraft overflying a series of targets taking photographs that are then analysed by image interpreters: during the above mentioned mission, one of the targets was a real one, a suspected cannabis farm.
Close encounters in the skies over Syria between Russian and German fighters.
As reported by several media outlets on Feb. 16, Russian Air Force (RuAF) fighter jets often shadow German Air Force (GAF) Tornados performing reconnaissance missions in Syrian airspace.
Although shadowing a foreign combat plane in Syria’s skies filled with jets and UAVs may lead to some tense situations, as explained by RT.com, both sides act professionally and prevent incidents.
A claim that was also confirmed by Lt. Gen. Joachim Wundrak, a Luftwaffe official recently returned from anti-ISIS coordination center in Qatar, who told to Rheinische Post daily that RuAF pilots take no aggressive actions against their German colleagues and that no incidents have been registered because “those encounters go on professionally.”
In his opinion RuAF performs this kind of sorties to make clear that “unlike the international (US-led) anti-IS coalition, they operate at the invitation of the legitimate Syrian government.”
Nevertheless according to Wundrak these encounters are carried out safely also because Luftwaffe pilots know how to interact with their Russian colleagues thanks to the experience they gained during the Baltic Air Policing mission, where Germany regularly provides fighter jets for patrolling airspace of NATO member states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, countries that do not have interceptor jets to secure their own airspace.
An incredible rescue mission recently took place at RAF Leeming during a training sortie in a Hawk jet.
On Jan. 28, 2016 an unnamed Royal Air Force Hawk pilot that lost his sight due to an eye infection while in a routine training sortie, was able to make a safe landing thanks to the help received from another pilot who flew alongside his plane to talk him down.
But because of the ejection injuries he could have suffered, the commander decided to dispatch another pilot, Flt. Lt. Paul Durban, an experienced Tornado driver now assigned to RAF Leeming, who talked him down.
According to a RAF spokesman, the pilot that suffered the partial loss of vision was flanked by Durban and then they flew in formation back to RAF Leeming “where the pilot landed the aircraft uneventfully. Flying in formation, and conducting an approach to land as a formation, is a skill practised daily by RAF fast jet pilots.”
The BAe Hawks belonged to the RAF’s 100 Sqn which uses this aircraft to train forward air controllers and to act as enemy jets in training missions.
RAF Tornados, supported by Voyager tanker and a Reaper UAV, have extended the UK’s airstrikes to Syria.
Hours after the UK parliament approved to extend the airstrikes to include Syria, Royal Air Force Tornado attack planes, deployed to Akrotiri, Cyprus, flew their first raid on terrorist targets inside Syria, early in the morning on Dec. 3.
The Tornados, supported by a Voyager tanker and a Reaper drone, dropped their Paveway IV guided bombs against six targets on an oilfield at Omar, “one of the ISIS’s largest and most important oilfields,” according to the MoD.
The six British “Tonkas” committed to Operation Shader flew their first mission against ISIS on Sept. 27, 2014 destroying the first ISIS target, a “technical” (an armed pick-up truck), in Iraq, on Sept. 30. Since then the RAF Tornado jets, have carried out hundreds of strike (and armed reconnaissance) missions against Daesh targets.
Although the payload may vary according to the type of mission the RAF Tornado GR4s have often carried a mixed load out with a single rack of three Brimstones and two Paveway IV 226kg bombs along with the Rafael Litening III targeting pod.
The Brimstone, is a fire-and-forget anti-armour missile, optimized for use against fast-moving platforms, first fielded during 2008 after an urgent operational requirement and used on the RAF Harriers during operations over Afghanistan.
With a warhead of 9 kg and a range of 7.5 miles, the Brimstones are an extensive redevelopment of the AGM-114 Hellfire and can be used on fast jets, helicopters and UAVs. They use a millimeter wave (mmW) radar seeker with a semi-active laser (SAL) that enables final guidance to the target by either the launching platform or another plane, and are perfect to destroy a vehicle with very low collateral damage risk, and an accuracy of about 1 – 2 meters. That’s why these small guided missiles have become the RAF weapons of choice since the Air War over Libya back in 2011.
Interestingly, one of the 8 RAF Tornados deployed at Akrotiri could be regularly tracked online during its transit from Cyprus to Iraq via Israel, Jordan, accompanied by a Voyager tanker: the example #ZA556 (the only “visible” aircraft in a formation of at least two planes) can be often spotted on Flightardar24.com as it flies into Israel, then into the Jordanian airspace before turning its transponder off to enter the Iraqi airspace.