Tag Archives: Trapani

Here’s how the Italian Air Force has restructured to enhance its ability to face modern, terrorist threats

A QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) cell deployed to an airbase in the northwest; fighters flying with live weapons during training flights: this is how the Italian Air Force deals with modern threats and shrinking budgets.

Italian Air Force 4.0: this is how it’s been unofficially dubbed. It’s the outcome of a restructuring phase that will enhance the effectiveness of the Air Power by leveraging joint, inter-agency cooperation and a more efficient use of the currently available assets.

In a long interview with Air Press, the Chief of Staff of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) Lt. Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli, provided many interesting details about the way the service is changing to face the most modern threats in an age of financial crisis, and with a plan to reduce its size (in terms of personnel) by about 25%.

The most interesting changes deal with the Italian Air Force’s primary mission: Air Defense.

After closing several airbases to concentrate its interceptors in just two MOBs (Main Operating Bases), Grosseto and Gioia del Colle, and one DOB (Deployment Operating Base), Trapani, the flying branch has realized that the current set up is strongly unbalanced: most of northern Italy is almost uncovered against the asymmetrical threat posed by ultralight aircraft or drones in the hands of terrorists.

For this reason, beginning on Sept. 1, 2016, a couple of Typhoons have started providing QRA duties from Cameri (in northwestern Italy), once the base of a Stormo (Wing) equipped with the F-104 Starfighter. From there, the Italian F-2000As (that’s how the Eurofighter jet fighters are designated in Italy) will be able to engage “renegade” planes much earlier than they would have done taking off from Grosseto (the airbase on H24 alert to provide air policing for all central and northern Italy and Slovenia.)

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Although air superiority remains the Italian Typhoons primary mission, last year the ItAF has started the Operational Testing and Evaluation in the air-to-ground. A team of experienced pilots are already swing role-qualified but, for the moment, the Italians consider the air-to-surface capabilities useful in some niche scenarios and to support the platform’s export opportunities. (Author)

Even more noteworthy is the fact that, in order to be able to engage any aerial threat in the shortest possible time, nowadays all the fighter aircraft flying training missions, including the attack planes, carry live air-to-air weaponry so that the whole ItAF fleet of tactical assets contribute to the airspace surveillance duties: in spite of a bit of overhead required to service and manage many more aircraft carrying actual missiles, the new procedures enable a more efficient way to manage the fleet in accordance with the “train as you fight, fight as you train” motto.

Actually, even the SAR (Search And Rescue) helicopters, that ensure a round-the-clock operational readiness across the country, have been included in the air policing tasks in order to exploit their SMI (Slow Mover Interceptor) capability.

According to Vecciarelli, the restructing of the Air Defense and a more appropriate distribution on the territory allowed the Aeronautica Militare to quadruple the air defense capabilities at a very low-cost.

Whilst daily training sorties are carried out with two drop tanks, QRA aircraft are usually armed with 1 AIM-9L/M and 1 AIM-120B/C air-to-air missiles, cannon with 150 rounds and a single 1,000 kg centerline drop tank, are ready to launch from the shelters in the northern part of Grosseto airbase to cover the wing’s AOR (Area Of Responsibility): a circle of 450 NM radius centered in Grosseto and covering central and northern Italy, and Slovenia

Whilst daily training sorties are carried out with two drop tanks, QRA aircraft are usually armed with 1 AIM-9L/M and 1 AIM-120B/C air-to-air missiles, cannon with 150 rounds and a single 1,000 kg centerline drop tank, are ready to launch from the shelters in the northern part of Grosseto airbase to cover the wing’s AOR (Area Of Responsibility): a circle of 450 NM radius centered in Grosseto and covering central and northern Italy, and Slovenia. (Author)

Furthermore, the Israel’s IAI will soon deliver the first of two Gulfstream G550 Eitam conformal airborne early warning (CAEW) aircraft (as well as ground support equipment and logistical support services) under the terms of a deal worth 750 million USD that was signed in 2012 as part of “a larger larger Government-to-Government agreement between Israel and Italy that includes aircraft, engines, maintenance, logistics, simulators and training, provided also by other Israeli and international companies.”

Although reinforced by several non-standard air defense assets (including the first multirole F-35s, that are expected to be delivered to Amendola airbase, to be taken on charge by the local-based 32° Stormo in the coming weeks), the Italian Air Defense’s main asset remains the Typhoon.

The Euro-canard has been providing air policing tasks since Dec. 16, 2005, when the 4° Stormo (Wing), first among all the partner nations, undertook the first QRA alert duty with the F-2000A from Grosseto.

Since then, the Italian Air Force has become the first to achieve the NATO Quick Response Force certification, has flown hundred alert scrambles, has supported NATO operations in Iceland, and enforced NFZs (No Fly Zones) during several highly-sensitive events, including the Turin 2006 Winter Games and Davos World Economic Forums, and has also taken part to Operation Unified Protector, flying sweep and escort missions over Libya.

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 27, 2015, as part of the TFA (Task Force Air) based at Šiauliai, Lithuania, four Typhoons of the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo logged about 900 flying hours, 40 A-Scrambles (Alert Scrambles) and more than 160 T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles) in support of NATO BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) mission.

“Our involvement in the BAP mission is just the latest of several real operations we have taken part in the last years. […] We have the required know-how and a much mature aircraft,” told Col. Enrico Pederzolli, commander of the 4° Stormo, at Grosseto, in an interview to The Aviationist earlier this year.

 

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All Italian Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon units simultaneously deployed to Decimomannu

Eurofighter Typhoons, belonging to the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (Wing), the Italian Air Force units equipped with the European fighter jet recently deployed to Decimomannu to undertake air-to-air combat training.

The Typhoon currently equips the 9° Gruppo (Squadron) and 20° OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) of the 4° Stormo at Grosseto, the 10° and 12° Gruppo of the 36° Stormo at Gioia del Colle and the 18° Gruppo of the 37° Stormo at Trapani.

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Considered that the 18° Gruppo, from Trapani airbase, was the last squadron to be equipped with the Typhoon, previously flying U.S. F-16s, this is the very first time that F-2000s (that’s the designation used by the Aeronautica Militare) belonging to three different Wings are simultaneously deployed to “Deci” for joint ACMI (Air Combat Maneuvering Installation) drills.

It’s also safe to believe that some Instructor Pilots of the OCU accompanied the front-line fighter pilots in Sardinia, making the deployment the first to feature not only all the Wings but also all ItAF squadrons flying the Typhoon.

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Noteworthy, one of the aircraft involved in the deployment suffered a landing incident on Mar. 1, 2013.

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Gian Luca Onnis took the interesting pictures of the Typhoons operating from Decimomannu airbase that you can find in this post, including that of a 18° Gruppo F-2000A with the traditional checkered tail.

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Image credit: Gian Luca Onnis

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First Eurofighter Typhoon jets in new unit markings at Trapani

The following pictures were taken by Michele Carrara at Trapani airbase, where the local based 18° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 37° Stormo (Wing) has recently been officially delivered the first Eurofighter Typhoon jets.

The image prove that the fifth Italian squadron equipped with the F-2000A (as the Typhoon is designated by the Italian Air Force) has already given its first aircraft brand new markings.

Image credit: Michele Carrara

Among the last operative units to operate the legendary F-104 Starfighter in 2003, the 18° Gruppo was the last to fly the F-16 leased by the U.S. and returned last summer to the AMARG.

The Italian Typhoons are not new to Trapani airbase: besides being regularly deployed there to take part to live firing activities in the Sardinian ranges, F-2000As of both the 4° Stormo from Grosseto and 36° Stormo from Gioia del Colle, took part to Operation Unified Protector enforcing the No-Fly Zone over Libya in 2011.

New Eurofighter Typhoon Squadron activated at Trapani airbase, Italy

Although it has not (officially) received its first plane yet, the 18° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 37° Stormo (Wing) at Trapani airbase, in Sicily, is the more recent Italian Air Force unit to operate the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Last Squadron to operate the leased U.S. F-16 ADF fighter jets, returned last summer to the AMARG, the 18° Gruppo was initially destined to be disbanded, with Trapani planed to be “downgraded” to DOB (Deployment Operating Base) of the Typhoon fleet: in other words although not permanently hosting any active F-2000 squadron it would maintain trained personnel and equipments to support and handle cells of temporarily deployed Eurofighters.

However, the renewed role of Trapani airbase, strategically located in Sicily, few minutes flight time from North Africa, and a significant amount of available planes (96 between operative and on order ones) persuaded the Air Force to keep the 37° Stormo alive rendering its 18° Gruppo, the fifth Typhoon squadron of the Aeronautica Militare.

Filmed in the month of October, the following video shows the pilots of the 18° Gruppo closely working with the crews and IPs of the 4° Stormo, based at Grosseto, whose 20° Gruppo is the type’s Operational Conversion Unit, to convert to the new Gen. 4+ fighter plane.

The 18° Gruppo should officially be delivered its first plane on Oct. 18, 2012.

Special feature: the most interesting pictures of the aircraft involved in Libya air war

On Oct. 31, at 23.59 Libyan Time, exactly 7 months after it began, NATO Operation Unified Protector has come to an end. Since the beginning of the Uprising and especially from Mar. 19, the Day 1 of the war (then named Odyssey Dawn), this site has provided an unmatched analysis of the air campaign with special reports, previously unreleased information, detailed debriefings, infographics and pictures.

I’ve already written the first part of the Lessons Learned during the war in the post titled Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained: Final Report (part two will follow in the next days….so stay tuned, I’ve still something to say about the air war in Libya). However, to celebrate the official end of the air campaign, I’ve collected some of the most interesting pictures of the aircraft involved in the operations in Libya taken by unofficial sources (whose name are listed at the end of this post) since February 2011.

Most of them were taken at Malta International Airport that, although not being directly involved in the allied operations, was a hub for all the civil and military aircraft involved in the humanitarian airlift in the aftermath of the Uprising (when Libya was evacuated) and, during the war, was often the preferred alternate airfield for all the OUP aircraft experiencing mechanical failures or fuel shortage.

This post will not show you all the technologies that took out Gaddafi but will probably show most of those that played a critical role in the “victory”.

Each image’s filename contains where and when the picture was taken.

Images by: Estelle Calleja, Matthew Scerri, Trafford Vella, Brendon Attard, Roderick Agius, Giovanni Maduli, David Cenciotti and a couple of anonymous contributors.