Australia to keep the suitable degree of preparedness to perform mixed procedures,” states the DSCA notification.” The UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter will certainly enhance the Australian Army’s capacity to release fight power to share Australia’s tactical atmosphere, hinder activities versus its passions, and also, when called for, react with trustworthy pressure. Australia will certainly have no trouble absorbing this tools right into its militaries.”It appears that additionally the DSCA notification is tossing a little stab at the MRH90, claiming that the UH-90 is extra tested as well as trustworthy. The Army as well as the Navy had 41 and also 6 Taipans in solution, specifically
, as well as, in spite of army, variety, as well as rate ability efficiency benefits over the Black Hawk, have actually been tormented with bad schedule as well as fleet-wide groundings because of an absence of spares as well as setup monitoring concerns. The MRH90 Taipan, called after a harmful poisonous serpent, is an Australian-specific by-product of the NH90 TTH, created in Europe by the international NHIndustries business, which consists of Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo, as well as GKN Fokker. NH90s have actually been purchased in several land-based and also marine variations by 14 various nations with greater than 446 helicopters supplied. The Army obtained 41 MRH 90s under Project AIR 9000 Phases 2 as well as 4 as well as got in solution in 2008, while 6 were gotten for the Navy under AIR 9000 Phase 6 as well as went into solution in 2010. In October 2021 the United States accepted a$1.3 billion offer for an added set of 12 MH-60R Romeo Seahawks for the Navy to change its MRH 90s as well as to enhance the 23 Romeos currently in solution. The Taipan is the 2nd European helicopter being junked by the Australian Defence Forces, after the AH-64E Apache Guardian was picked as the brand-new armed reconnaissance helicopter previously this year to change the Tiger ARH fleet under the Land 4503 program. The offer, approximated to be worth 4-5 USD billion, will certainly acquire 29 helicopters, with 24 to be based at a solitary place with 2
functional armadas and also the various other 5 for training at the Australian Army Aviation Training Centre. About Stefano D’Urso Stefano D’Urso is a self-employed reporter and also factor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A grad in Industral Engineering he’s likewise examining to accomplish a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering.
The AW609 is made for trip right into well-known topping problems and also fulfills the highest possible FAA needs for both fixed-wing airplane as well as helicopters consisting of single-engine procedure and also autorotation. The AW609’s significant systems are repetitive to guarantee smooth procedure in situation of failing, consisting of a three-way electronic fly-by-wire (FBW)trip control system which supplies exceptional manoeuvrability. The cabin is furnished with an innovative Collins Aerospace Fusion avionics with 3 fluid crystal touch displays, which are completely Night-Vision Goggle(NVG)suitable.”What you have with the AW609 is the advantages of both setups: path self-reliance as well as upright ability to move of a helicopter in addition to the variety, rate as well as elevation efficiency generally discovered in turboprop airplane”informed us William Sunick Jr, Senior Manager, AW609 Marketing at Leonardo Helicopters. “This airplane has a ceiling elevation of 25,000 feet as well as it’s pressurized unlike mostly all the rotorcraft, indicating that it can fly greater and also further, in much less rough air, stay clear of hills as well as challenges, minimizing gas intake of the engines: so it has rate, variety, elevation and also gas benefits over the typical helicopters. ” A profile of the AW609. Leonardo is presently establishing arrangements for various uses the AW609 tiltrotor. The one-of-a-kind efficiencies are suitable in guest transportation goals, offshore transportation on behalf of the power supply market, monitoring as well as patrol, search as well as rescue, clinical transportation, catastrophe alleviation, unique procedures as well as federal government jobs. In time-critical circumstances the tiltrotor’s efficiency significantly boosts feedback times and also protection location throughout Search as well as Rescue(SAR)and also Emergency Medical Services(EMS) goals. In these duties, the AW609’s large cabin door and also 600 pound hoist can conveniently take care of a rescue basket, while 2 cots can
be swiftly filled for the people. As much as 4 paramedics can supply undisturbed healthcare for a person in a completely clinically furnished cabin. While originally created as a business airplane, the AW609 will certainly have a fascinating advancement for armed forces objectives where the rate of treatment and also the capacity to land and also remove in restricted rooms are called for. The key abilities that are being checked out see the airplane set up for countless applications such as Homeland Security, VIP, Utility, Special Operations and also Personnel Recovery. Time that i see the”Security Service”variation of AW609 tiltrotor on Leonardo web site. A militarized variation of AW609 has actually been long discussed, and now have actually been included. Leonardo reports jobs in addition to for homeland safety and security, however likewise for SoF procedures and also personel healing. pic.twitter.com/1Y2XAMpSMz– Ciro Nappi(
@CiroNappi6)August 28, 2022 The capability to run even more at 500 kilometres offshore includes maritime as well as boundary patrol, long-range security, anti-piracy, nationwide waters security, fisheries manage and also long-range maritime SAR to the wide variety of safety and security duties fit to AW609. In the last instance, the tiltrotor rate and also variety would certainly enable these goals to be executed with simply one airplane kind, without needing to depend on several airplane,
both repaired and also rotating wings, to get to the rescue location in a prompt way. The growth of the AW609 has actually just recently relocated dramatically more detailed to United States FAA accreditation. The models made use of in the trip screening project, both in the United States and also Italy, have actually clocked over 1,700 trip hrs to day. The last production line is based at Leonardo’s United States plant in Philadelphia, where likewise the whole training curriculum as well as technological assistance solutions have actually additionally opened up. A lot of Leonardo’s Italian manufacturing facilities are included too, creating essential elements for the last setting up. The N609PH is the last as well as 4th model(yet totally manufacturing rep)of the AW609. Bristow Group, the worldwide leader in upright lift remedies, is the launch client for the AW609. Leonardo and also Bristow Group will certainly work together to present the AW609 airplane right into solution and also specify objective abilities, evaluating principles of procedures, guidelines, upkeep, arrangement optimization and also feasible locations of improvement or adjustments. The very first Bristow airplane is currently in the lasts of manufacturing. Considerable rate of interest for the AW609 exists in locations such as Australia as well as Japan. A number of researches have actually been executed in Australia to use the tiltrotor in the wellness industry. The airplane would certainly permit to swiftly get to remote locations of the nationwide area and afterwards transportation people straight to the healthcare facility without needing to consider the mix of airplane with the ability of touchdown on semi-prepared paths and also rescues at the airport terminal. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government likewise revealed the intent to assess the AW609 to give a much faster transport to Ogasawara island in the future, which rests roughly 1000 kilometres from Tokyo. Objectives would certainly be carried out in all climate condition as well as
with minimal infrastructural effect many thanks to its helicopter-like impact, which would certainly not call for brand-new frameworks to be improved
the island. In 2014, the very same AW609 model that was shown at Jesolo Air Show, existed to the general public for the very first time outside the USA as well as Europe, at Dubai Air Show and also throughout Expo2020. The tiltrotor was flown there likewise for the opening event of the brand-new helicopter terminal, constructed by Leonardo in collaboration with Falcon Aviation Services, at the Expo 2020 Dubai website. Several drivers are supposedly thinking about the tiltrotor likewise for
traveler and also VIP transport, specifically in the center East, where Leonardo has a solid existence. Previously this year, an order was revealed for 4 AW609s predestined for an undefined exclusive driver in Europe for traveler transportation jobs. At Farnborough International Airshow 2022, we had an opportunity to talk with Clyde Woltman, CEO of Leonardo Helicopters U.S. Woltman has a substantial experience as a Marine and also Naval Aviator, flying the AV-8V Harrier airplane throughout fight procedures and also as the leader of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8B Harrier Detachment, Marine Attack Squadron 311, and also Marine Aircraft Group 13. Mr. Woltman’s experience extends from Operation Desert Storm to Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and also Iraqi Freedom II throughout those he completed 200 fight goals. Front sight”of AC4″I’m a power lift pilot,”flying the AV-8B and also regulating a”armada as well as an Air Group,”therefore I’m partial and also extremely delicate”to the capacity”to fly an”airplane in upright”as well as aircraft setting. And also I’m likewise really keen on the tiltrotor innovation, as a retired Marine, considered what the V-22 has actually provided for us in a fight atmosphere. That being claimed, it’s an honour for me to be component of a company that is leading in this area as the capability to fly upright as well as placed the airplane on the fly the solitary objective is extraordinary. It opens up many doors, for a lot of consumers, in the industrial side, EMS, long-range SAR, and so on: as an example, to save somebody mixed-up you would certainly common demand to release a number of airplane. This tiltrotor airplane can arrive swiftly, reconnaissance over the location, locate whatever/whoever you require to carry out an objective and also locate as it was a helicopter. As well as this is a remarkable capacity.””From a pilot point of view, this airplane is really flexible and also exceptionally straightforward. When we did an emergency situation [I was excited by its capacities in the simulator] we reduced an engine as well as we had the ability to do a hefty remove from the top of a structure with marginal influence as well as did likewise an emergency situation touchdown. This is a flexible and also exceptionally qualified airplane”Woltman claimed. Woltman highly thinks tiltorotor innovation will certainly be much more appropriate in the future, as it will certainly be readily available to sustain brand-new usage situations.”This is simply the start, in the future we will certainly see larger and also much better much more qualified tiltrotor airplane. The benefit of upright launch exists, will not disappear. The shift from that to receive from Point A to Point B swiftly, tis allowed by having the ability to place the airplane on the wing. That’s wonderful.”An AW609 instructor was
likewise on display screen at FIA 22, where we had a possibility to check it. Right here listed below is a brief video clip shot throughout our training session at the simulator: About David Cenciotti David Cenciotti is a reporter based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and also Editor of” The Aviationist”, among the globe’s most well-known as well as check out army air travel blog sites. Given that 1996, he has actually created for significant around the world publications, consisting of Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and also numerous others, covering aeronautics, protection, battle, sector, knowledge, cyberwar as well as criminal activity. He has actually reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia as well as Syria, and also flown numerous battle airplanes with various flying force. He is a previous 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, an exclusive pilot as well as a grad in Computer Engineering. He has actually created 5 publications and also added to a lot more ones. About Stefano D’Urso Stefano D’Urso is an independent reporter and also factor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A grad in Industral Engineering he’s likewise researching to accomplish a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and also OSINT methods put on the globe of existing disputes as well as army procedures are amongst his locations of know-how.
The AW149 is the selection made in the Perkoz program.
Head of the Polish MoD, Mariusz Błaszczak, signed a procurement agreement on Jul. 1, 2022, at the PZL-Świdnik facility owned by Leonardo, covering the procurement of AW149 helicopters for the land forces.
The agreement, with a value of PLN 8.25B gross (USD ~1.81B) concerns the delivery of 32 AW149 battlefield support helicopters, while the deliveries would take place between 2023 and 2029. Krzysztof Płatek, spokesman for the Armament Agency, the Polish MoD’s procurement body added, via his Twitter account, that the agreement would also entail establishing relevant industrial potential – domestically.
1 lipca br. została podpisana umowa z @PZLSwidnik na dostawę 32 śmigłowców wsparcia pola walki #AW149. Wartość umowy wynosi ok. 8,2 mld zł brutto, a śmigłowce zostaną dostarczone do Sił Zbrojnych RP w latach 2023-2029. Umowa wiąże się z ustanowieniem potencjału przemysłowego. pic.twitter.com/aC7culAPut
— Krzysztof Płatek (@krzysztof_atek) July 1, 2022
This procurement concludes the Polish Perkoz helicopter program, aimed initially at replacing the obsolete Mi-2 fleet. Noteworthy, this is a second acquisition that Poland is making at Leonardo’s PZL-Świdnik facility. Previously Warsaw also acquired 4 AW101 maritime helicopters for its Navy.
Let us recall that the original assumption of the Perkoz program was to procure 32 rotary-wing aircraft in three different variants: combat support/advanced airmanship training, command and control version, and reconnaissance/EW variant. The specification published in May 2020 suggested that the aircraft are to be capable of transporting either 5 troops with full kit, or up to 1,000 kilograms of payload. The training requirement means that the helicopters shall have a dual set of controls, while the close support requirement suggests that the helicopter shall be armed.
The MoD claims that the helicopters would receive sensors, guns, and guided and unguided missiles/rockets, as well as a self-protection suite. The guided effectors would also include ATGMs – but it is unclear which missile would be selected for that role. Krzysztof Płatek, spokesman for the Armament Agency suggested that the missile is going to be a Hellfire-class ATGM, without naming a specific effector. Poland could then procure either Hellfires, Spike ATGMs (manufactured locally), or the MBDA UK Brimstone, already selected in the Army’s Ottokar-Brzoza tank destroyer program.
Przeciwpancerne pociski rakietowe będą tej klasy co Hellfire, ale wybrany typ stanowi informację niejawną. Natomiast ustanowienie potencjału przemysłowego obejmuje budowę zdolności produkcyjno-obsługowo-naprawczych oraz potencjału do ew. dalszej modernizacji w przyszłości.
— Krzysztof Płatek (@krzysztof_atek) July 1, 2022
In further tweets, Płatek explains that even though the type of the missile has not been disclosed (as it is confidential), the missile belonging to the same class as the US-made Hellfire shall have a range of at least 8 kilometers. Nonetheless, using the argument that the information on the specific type is confidential, Płatek did not reveal that type.
The Polish helicopter procurement saga continues, following the 2016 cancelation of the Caracal deal. So far the Polish MoD procured minor quantities of S-70i Black Hawk helicopters for the SOF component and AW101s for the Navy. The AW149 would become the third type in service – which departs from the Caracal tender assumptions, where 50 helicopters were to be gathered in a common fleet, across all branches of the military.
The Norwegian MoD is also demanding a refund of the money spent on the NH90 programme.
The Norwegian government has decided to immediately halt all operations with the NH90 helicopters and to terminate the contract with the manufacturer NHIndustries. In a statement released by the Ministry of Defence on June 10, 2022, delays, errors and time-consuming maintenance are mentioned as the cause of this abrupt decision that put an end to the programme after 20 years.
“Regrettably we have reached the conclusion that no matter how many hours our technicians work, and how many parts we order, it will never make the NH90 capable of to meeting the requirements of the Norwegian Armed Forces”, said Norwegian Minister of Defence, Mr. Bjørn Arild Gram. “Based on a joint recommendation by the Armed Forces and associated departments and agencies, the Norwegian Government has therefore decided to end the introduction of the NH90 and has authorized the Norwegian Defence Material Agency to terminate the contract”.
The Norwegian Defence Material Agency has subsequently notified NHIndustries about the contract termination and is now preparing to return the NH90s along with any spares and equipment received. At the same time, the agency will also request a full refund from NHI, which will include the approximately NOK five billion (USD 522.5 million) it has paid under the contract, in addition to interest and other expenses.
“We have made repeated attempts at resolving the problems related to the NH90 in cooperation with NHI, but more than 20 years after the contract was signed, we still don’t have helicopters capable of performing the missions for which they were bought, and without NHI being able to present us with any realistic solutions”, said Gro Jære, Director General of the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency.
The NH90 was developed in the mid-1990s by NHIndustries, a partnership between Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Fokker Technologies. Norway decided to join the programme in 2001, with the order of 14 helicopters for Coast Guard and Anti-Submarine Warfare duties originally slated for delivery by the end of 2008. However, only eight helicopters have so far been delivered in a fully operational configuration, which were expected to provide 3,900 flight hours annually but in recent years it has averaged less than a fifth of that value, about 700 hours, according to the MoD.
The decision to terminate the NH90 contract follows a comprehensive review of Norway’s maritime helicopter capabilities requested by the MoD, which concluded that, even with significant additional financial investments, it would not be possible to bring the performance and availability of the NH90 to a level that would meet Norwegian requirements.
NHIndustries did not take very well the news: “NHIndustries is extremely disappointed by the decision taken by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and refutes the allegations being made against the NH90 as well as against the Company”, reads the statement. “NHIndustries was not offered the possibility to discuss the latest proposal made to improve the availability of the NH90 in Norway and to address the specific Norwegian requirements. NHI Industries considers this termination to be legally groundless”.
NHIndustries (@NHIndustriesSAS) has issued a strongly worded statement about #Norway‘s #NH90 decision, refuting the allegations made this morning, and claiming the termination to be “legally groundless.” pic.twitter.com/3ftKCHNIjG
— Tony Osborne (@Rotorfocus) June 10, 2022
The company also said that a total of 13 helicopters have already been delivered and the last one on order was ready for acceptance. In the meanwhile, the MoD will shortly begin the process of identifying an alternative maritime helicopter to fill the capability gap left by the NH90.
The situation is very reminiscent of what happened in Australia last year, when the Australian Defence Force has announced that it will retire its entire fleet of MRH90 Taipan helicopters a decade earlier than scheduled and replace them with UH-60M Black Hawks and MH-60R Seahawks. As for the Norwegian case, poor availability rates were among the causes that forced the retirement of the Australian NH90s.
‘Follow Me, You’re In A Prohibited Area’: A Slow Mover Intercept As Seen From The Target’s Point Of View
We have taken part in a scheduled Slow Mover Intercept exercise during which we were intercepted by Eurofighter F-2000 fighter jets and HH-139 helicopters. Here’s how it went.
When one thinks about Air Defense and the Quick Reaction Alert nowadays, the thought immediately goes to big airliners that might be hijacked, not responding to radios and so on, with the worst-case scenario being 9/11. However, there is an even more subtle threat, which is presented by small general aviation aircraft and ultralight aircraft who usually fly low and slow and thus harder to detect. Aircraft with these characteristics are usually described as “Slow Movers”.
To counter this threat, the Slow Mover Intercept mission was introduced and air forces around the world regularly train for it as the flight envelope of these small fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters presents some challenges for the pilots of fighter jets trying to intercept them. More often than not, these aircraft fly at very low altitude and speeds that might be slower than the stall speed of fighter aircraft, requiring specific procedures for a safe interception.
Because of this, helicopters might get involved in the QRA missions to assist fighter jets and take over once they arrive on scene. The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) is among those using both fighters and helicopters for SMI scenarios, deploying them to protect no-fly zones for important events since the early 2000s. During standard QRA missions from their homebases, usually the fighters take the precedence for the SMI scenarios but, if needed, helicopters can also be scrambled.
The Slow Mover Intercept capability was also provided by the F-16ADF which were leased as stopgap solution until the Eurofighter Typhoon (F-2000A in accordance to Italy’s MOD Mission Design Series) became operational, assisted by HH-3F CSAR helicopters. Our Editor David Cenciotti took part in a SMI training scenario in 2009 with the F-16s from the X Gruppo Caccia (10th Fighter Squadron), when the unit was still based at Trapani Air Base.
Since then, the assets and procedures for these missions has changed. For some years, even before the F-16s were committed to the mission, the XII Gruppo Caccia (12th Fighter Squadron) was assigned the SMI role and was equipped with the MB-339CD trainer (FT-339C in accordance to Italy’s MOD Mission Design Series) until it received the first Eurofighters. The MB-339CD was given this secondary mission since it has a slower stall speed compared to fighter jets (below 100 kt, depending on the configuration) and it can also be armed with AIM-9L air-to-air missiles and 30 mm gunpods.
The Slow Mover Intercept mission’s responsibility has now been transferred to the Eurofighter units, supported by HH-139 helicopters. The Italian Air Force regularly trains for this mission, with periodic exercises which sometimes also involve F-35 5th gen fighter jets and HH-101 helicopters. In fact, as the F-2000s, the F-35s are part of the SSSA (Servizio Sorveglianza Spazio Aereo – Air Space Surveillance Service) and the NATO QRA, so they can be assigned QRA duties too, both in Italy and abroad.
We had a chance to take part in a scheduled Slow Mover Intercept exercise, on April 27, 2022, at Gioia del Colle Air Base, in southeastern Italy, home of the 36° Stormo (Wing). During the exercise, this Author flew in the SIAI-Marchetti S.208M liaison and glider-towing aircraft of the 60° Stormo (Wing), based at Guidonia, which was deployed to Gioia del Colle to act as the “zombie” (as an unidentified aircraft that triggers a QRA launch is called in the interceptors’ lingo).
The S.208M (U-208A in accordance to Italy’s MOD Mission Design Series) is the military variant of the S.205, a low wing, single engine, four-seater general aviation aircraft designed in the 1960s. The S.208 is in the same class of aircraft like the Beechcraft Bonanza and the Piper PA-24 Comanche, so it’s perfectly suited to simulate general aviation aircraft during SMI scenarios. Also, its camouflage paint scheme makes it even harder to visually acquire the S.208 at low altitude during the interception.
Our morning in Gioia del Colle began with the mission briefing with all the crews involved in the exercise, which involved our SIAI U-208A, three Eurofighter F-2000 (one of those was a twin-seater TF-2000) of the X Gruppo Caccia and two HH-139A helicopters of the 84° Centro CSAR. A great emphasis goes to the safety of the flight, as the aircraft would have to fly very close to each other and the Eurofighters are flying near the lower limits of their flight envelope, so it is important to thoroughly discuss minimum speeds, deconfliction and which maneuvers to avoid.
As you would expect, during these complex exercises, a particular focus goes on maximizing the training value of the mission. Because of this, multiple intercepts were planned during the same flight, so every pilot could get a chance to train in the SMI role. A key point during the planning was the speed of the intercepted aircraft, as it needed to be high enough to be safe for the fighters while also keeping the fuel consumption under control in order to provide the longest vul time (vulnerability time – the period of time when an aircraft is vulnerable to harm) possible for multiple intercepts.
Our flight, which was expected to last approximatively one hour and 50 minutes, was divided in three different training scenarios, which were then followed by a simulated forced landing. Since we were flying as the zombie, we were the first to take off and departed from Gioia del Colle’s runway 32L at 13:48LT with the callsign “VENTO 30”. Since our plan was to fly low and slow, there wasn’t much need to climb and we leveled off at 2,000 ft while heading towards the Gulf of Taranto, where we began orbiting over the coast.
In the meanwhile, the Eurofighters were being scrambled to find us with the help of the Ground Controlled Interception (GCI) operators. Here comes the first complication for the fighter pilots, courtesy of the doppler radar: usually a doppler radar ignores the contacts with a speed equal to or lower than the one of the interceptor aircraft, as it might consider them as background noise from radar waves reflected by the ground. If the intercepted aircraft is not built with metal, the situation gets worse, underlining the need to practice the visual interception of such targets.
We already mentioned the second complication, the low speed. Slow Mover Intercept missions are a challenging task as fast jets are not designed as slow as general aviation or ultralight aircraft. In this type of mission profile, the pilot needs to balance the speed of his fighter jet to the target’s speed in order to keep it safe while also being able to give all the details concerning the identification of the intercepted aircraft.
Based on the target’s speed, the pilot might face two different scenarios: the intercepted aircraft is flying at a speed comparable with the minimum safe speed for the fighter jet or a much lower speed. In the former case, the fighter jets are still able to get in formation with the “zombie” and fly alongside it, even if this requires an attitude with an high AOA (Angle Of Attack). However, that’s not always the case.
Most of the times, like during our mission, the Slow Mover aircraft is flying at a speed lower than the fighter jet’s minimum speed, so the interceptors use a special procedure. When this happens, the two fighters set up a “racetrack” pattern where one fighter is on the inbound side of the pattern while the second one is on the outbound side, so that at each stage of the intercept the zombie is always in the sights of the interceptors.
During this maneuver, the fighters pass the intercepted aircraft on the port side while keeping a safe lateral separation. As they “overtake” the zombie, the pilots check for the aircraft registration, that they will later pass to the GCI along with all the info useful for the identification and for the decision-making process on the prosecution of the intercept.
So, as we’re flying at 2,000 ft and 130 kts over the coast, we look behind our shoulders and we find the first F-2000 slowly catching up on us as the pilot relays back the info regarding our VID (Visual IDentification), followed seconds later by the second fighter. As the two single-seater Typhoons of the “Picca” flight break away, the two HH-139s of the “Duffy” flight appear at our 10 o’clock, ready to form up in a shadowing position slightly behind our left wing.
The helicopters continue to shadow us for some minutes, keeping the zombie under surveillance, before breaking away and clearing the airspace for the second scenario. While the first training scenario was over the sea, the second one was over land. Just as before, after a few orbits, the Eurofighters appeared through our rear windows, slowly catching up on us. This time one of the single seaters swapped place with the twin seater and both fighters continued to fly by us until the helicopters appeared at our 1 o’clock and were ready to intercept us.
This second training scenario, in fact, included the entire procedure and not only the interception and VID. Again, the HH-139s got in a shadowing position, one on each wing, and began identifying us with the help of their nose-mounted Electro-Optical/InfraRed sensor (EO/IR). Once the helicopters relayed all info for the VID, they moved forward to get in visual contact with the pilots of the zombie. In fact, if the radio contact is not successful, the helicopters’ pilots work to get the attention of the intercepted aircraft’s pilots while the crew in the back exposes some panels to help the communication.
Among the panels, you can find: “Prohibited area”, meaning that the zombie Is flying in a no fly zone or, more generally, a restricted area; “Follow me”, which is self-explanatory and orders the zombie to follow the interceptors out of the restricted area; “Contact 121.5 MHz”, another self-explanatory message ordering the intercepted aircraft to switch to the international guard frequency to communicate with the helicopters.
While they were not present during this exercise, usually Slow Mover Interceptor Operators (SMIO) are on board the helicopters. SMIO are both pararescuemen of the CSAR center or Fucilieri dell’Aria (Air Riflemen) of the 16° Stormo, trained in the use of precision weapons (both marksman and sniper rifles) from aerial platforms, ready to provide an air-to-air engagement capability, should the need arise, to stop a rogue aircraft. For this role they will use precision weapons like the recently introduced ARX-200 7.62 x 51 mm Designated Marksman Rifle.
We then transitioned to the third scenario, where our three-ship formation became even more unusual as two Eurofighters joined us again. We became, in fact, the leader of a five-ship V-shaped formation with our U-208, two HH-139s and two F-2000s. Having used most of their fuel, the fighters were now able to stay in formation almost effortlessly without the need to use the racetrack pattern.
As our vul time approached the end, the fighters broke the formation while we headed back to Gioia del Colle. We were still escorted by the helicopters, simulating a forced landing as it would happen if further checks are needed after the VID. This phase of the flight is where the helicopters really come in handy, as they can easily stay on our wing until the touchdown on the runway at around 60 kts.
After vacating runway 32R after a 1h 40 min- flight, we then returned to our parking spot where, in a real SMI forced landing, we would be met by the force protection or law enforcement for further checks. This Is what happened, for an instance, a couple of months ago in France, when a stolen Cessna 172 was intercepted by a Mirage 2000 and forced to land, with law enforcement agencies waiting on the ground to take over.
Slow Mover Intercept missions are among the most complex air defense missions, requiring perfect coordination between a large number of assets during the Quick Reaction Alert launch. This is why such missions are practiced periodically, so pilot can train and maintain their proficiency in this complex scenario, as well as validating the procedures during these exercises, designed to be as challenging and as realistic as possible, to better counter the asymmetric threat brought by slow movers.