Tag: Italian Air Force

NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern Europe

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One of the F-15E Strike Eagles deployed to Aviano AB for Steadfast Noon 2021. (All images: Claudio Tramontin)

“Steadfast Noon” gathers aircraft and personnel from 14 countries. The bases used for the drills are Aviano AB and Ghedi, in Italy.

’s yearly “deterrence” exercise, codenamed “Steadfast Noon”, kicked off on Oct. 18, 2021. Dozens of aircraft from across the alliance are currently deployed to Italy and will carry out joint training during the 1-week drills.

As already happened in the past, this year’s Steadfast Noon takes place alongside another exercise, dubbed “Cross Servicing” or “X-Servicing”, whose goal is to test the ability of each partner to service other nation’s aircraft at NATO airfield operating on their territory. Actually, it looks like that X-Servicing or any other exercises preceding or coinciding with the Steadfast Noons are somehow used to disguise the main one considered the political sensitivity of the nuclear mission in many NATO countries.

Anyway, the routine Steadfast Noon strike exercise is hosted by a different NATO country (or two) each year usually at two air bases where U.S. tactical B61 nuclear bombs are stored. This year, the two Italian air bases involved in the exercise are Ghedi AB and Aviano AB, in the northeastern part of the country. According to the Federation of American Scientists, 35 B-61s are stored at the two bases in Italy.

The flying activity (that needless to say does not involve any “live” armament), is carried out (in specific days made public by AIP Supplement) inside restricted airspace in central and northeastern Italy and the Adriatic Sea.

Since they are sort of back-to-back exercises, both X-Servicing and Steadfast Noon involve the same aircraft on the same bases: the missions are flown by DCA (Dual Capable Aircraft) –  aircraft from Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and the U.S. that are able to perform either conventional or theater nuclear missions carrying the B61 bomb – along with non-nuclear aircraft that support the mission under the SNOWCAT (Support of Nuclear Operations With Conventional Air Tactics) program, which is used to enable military assets from non-nuclear countries to support the nuclear strike mission without being formally part of it.

- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern Europe48th FW F-15E Strike Eagle.

The DCA aircraft committed by the nuclear capable European air forces are always the same, since they are the only ones configured to carry the B61: German and Italian Air Force Tornado IDS; Belgian, Dutch and Turkish F-16s. The American participation involves the tactical assets based in Europe: F-16s and F-15Es.

- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern EuropeBelgian F-16

For what concerns the non-nuclear and support assets, the 2021 iteration of Steadfast Noon/X-Servicing drills see the participation of five Czech Air Force JAS 39 Gripens and three Polish Air Force F-16s, along with NATO E-3A AWACS and Italian Air Force G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning).

- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern EuropeCzech Air Force JAS 39 Gripen.

In particular, the Belgian, Turkish and Polish F-16s, along with the Czech Gripens and U.S. F-15E are deployed to Aviano AB, while Ghedi AB, home of the Italian Tornado fleet, hosts the Dutch F-16s and German Tornados.

- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern EuropeTurkish Air Force F-16.St
- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern EuropePolish Air Force F-16 landing at Aviano on Oct. 18, 2021.

Even though, NATO is usually quite tight-lipped when it deals with this kind of exercise, you can get an idea of the flying activity thanks to some OSINT: flight tracking websites show some of the assets taking part in the drills as they operate inside the restricted airspaces announced by relevant NOTAMs (Notice To Airmen). Then, you can also get some interesting photographs to cross correlate the rest of the information, thanks to the aircraft spotters taking shots outside the main operating bases.

- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern EuropeThe airspace over Italy during Steadfast Noon with an E-3 AWACS and a G550 CAEW providing AEW to the rest of the aircraft. (Image credit: ADSBExchange.org)

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern Europe
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’

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An Italian Air Force HH-139A and a TH-500 during Ex. Grifone 2021. (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri)

A wide variety of assets were involved in the annual Search And Rescue Exercise in Sardinia.

Organized and managed by the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) through the RCC (Rescue Coordination Center) of the COA (Comando Operazioni Aerospaziali – Aerospace Operations Command) “Grifone 2021” exercise was held in Sardinia island, Italy, between Sept. 20 – 24, 2021.

The “Grifone” (Italian for Griffin) is an international and interdepartmental exercise planned and conducted on an yearly basis by the Italian air Force under the SAR.MED.OCC (SAR Western Mediterranean) international agreement, with the aim to develop synergies between the service and other public departments, and to constantly improve techniques and procedures to carry out Search and Rescue missions.

The SAR mission is one of the institutional tasks of the Italian Air Force; a task that can be carried out, if needed, with the contribution of inter-agency, inter-ministerial or inter-agency units. For this reason, Ex. “Grifone” represents a collective and coordinated effort of resources, personnel and assets that has as its ultimate goal the training of crews and rescuers from the many realities of the SAR “chain”, in order to cooperate synergistically for the protection of human life.

- Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’Italian Air Force HH-139A during a night mission with NVGs.

The drills saw the involvement of over 430 people belonging to the National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps (CNSAS) of Sardinia, the Italian Army, Police, Carabinieri (Military Police), Guardia di Finanza (Customs Police), Vigili del Fuoco (Firefighters), Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard), Protezione Civile (Civil Protection), Forestry and Environmental Surveillance Corps of the Region of Sardinia, Regional Agency of Urgency of Sardinia (AREUS) and the Italian Red Cross.

Decimomannu Air Base was the DOB (Deployed Operating Base) of the exercise, while the “XPTZ” airfield at Decimoputzu played the role of the PBA (Posto Base Avanzato – Advanced Base), a real field heliport suitable for projecting the capabilities of personnel and aircraft as close as possible to the exercise area in the southwestern mountainous area of the island, including Mount Linas and the area of the Parco Perd’e Pibera.

The importance and organizational effort of the Grifone are also revealed in the number of aircraft involved:  1x HH-139A of the 80° CSAR Center of Decimomannu; 1x TH-500 of the 72° Stormo from Frosinone; 1x TH-500B and 1x SIAI U-208 of the Squadriglia Collegamenti (Liaison Flight) from Linate; 1x BH-412 of the 21st Orsa Maggiore Group of Elmas of the Italian Army; 1 AW-109 Nexus of the 11th Nucleo Elicotteri (Helicopter Nucleus) C.C. of Cagliari of the Carabinieri; 1 PH-139D of the Guardia di Finanza of Elmas and 1x UH-169A of the Guardia di Finanza from Pratica di Mare; 1 UH-139C of the 7° Reparto Volo of the Polizia from Fenosu; 1x AW-139 of the Nucleo Elicotteri of the Vigili del Fuoco from Sassari; 1x HH-139A of the 4^ Sezione della Capitaneria di Porto from Cagliari and the support of 1x EC-145 of AREUS (Azienda Regionale Urgenza Sardegna).

- Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’AW-109 Nexus of the Carabinieri (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri)

The level of realism of the scenarios and the intensity of the flying activity were such as to make the training part indistinguishable from the operational one: for instance, during the exercise, the AREUS EC-145 was called to operate a real mission in the island area.

- Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’AREUS EC-145 (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri)

Particularly numerous was the component of the research teams made up of the personnel of the National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps (CNSAS), Air Riflemen of the 16° Stormo of the Italian Air Force, the Taurinense Alpine Brigade and the Army Alpine Training Center, Alpine Rescue of the Guardia di Finanza, Civil Protection Volunteers and Forestry Corps and Environmental Surveillance of the Sardinia Region.

- Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’Italian Army BH-412. (Image credit: Gian Luca Onnis)

As reported by the Ex. Director Col. Cipriano during the media day held on Sept. 24, at the end of the exercise: “The Grifone is an extraordinary opportunity for professional growth for all participants who have the opportunity to improve their skills to collaborate in complex scenarios, regardless of the units to which they belongs, be it military or civilian. The high value of the objectives achieved in just two days of activity is in the numbers: 47:46 flight hours 3:33 of which at night with the help of NVGs, 100 sorties with the transportation of 55 ground crews.”

- Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’Italian Air Force HH-139A during the boarding a rescue team. (Image credit: Gian Luca Onnis)

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

F-35 In ‘Beast Mode’, Swing-Role Typhoons And Everything You’ll Find In The 2022 Calendar Of The Italian Air Force

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - F-35 In ‘Beast Mode’, Swing-Role Typhoons And Everything You’ll Find In The 2022 Calendar Of The Italian Air Force
The cover of the 2022 calendar. The 100-1 marks the fact that 2022 will lead to the centenary of the Italian Air Force that will be celebrated in 2023 (on Mar. 28, 2023). (All images: ItAF / Troupe Azzurra)

The Italian Air Force 2022 Calendar Marks A Significant Change In The Service’s Communication Strategy.

On Oct. 7, 2021, the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) presented its 2022 calendar during an event attended by civil and military authorities as well as media representatives organized in a recently restored hangar at Urbe airport, in Rome, Italy. While the annual Italian Air Force calendar has a reputation for its choice of amazing photographs, the 2022 edition is much more interesting (at least to this Author) than usual: in order to show, “without hypocrisy”, the service’s most modern and advanced face, the new calendar features an F-35A in “Beast Mode” on the cover and 12 main shots (one for each month) of aircraft in “operational configuration”.

More in detail, F-35A Lightning, Eurofighter Typhoons, Tornado IDS and ECR, and also a T-346 (M-346 Master) are depicted carrying (inert) weapons in the 2022 calendar marking a first for the Italian Air Force: for various reasons, the Aeronautica Militare has always been rather cautious in showing only its peaceful face, highlighting the dual role of its fleet and the missions flown in support of the population, almost hiding the most realistic nature of its tasks.

- F-35 In ‘Beast Mode’, Swing-Role Typhoons And Everything You’ll Find In The 2022 Calendar Of The Italian Air ForceTwo F-35A of the 32° Stormo.

The change in communication strategy found its most evident expression in the 2022 calendar where we can eventually find F-35s, plenty of bombs and swing-role Typhoons, three “taboo topics” until a few years ago. However, the switch was already underway. It all started with the slow acceptance of the Lockheed Martin’s 5th generation aircraft by the public opinion and the subsequent drop from the interests of those parties who had made of the fight against the American stealth aircraft one of the cornerstones of their political agenda.

A step at a time, after years of ostracism, the Air Force became less “shy” of its most advanced aircraft and, between 2018 and 2019, the first significant details about the F-35 and its progress (including the Initial Operational Capability or the first deployment under NATO command) started to be released until, in 2020, the images of the ItAF F-35A and B flying together in Beast Mode for the first time were published on the Italian Air Force website. A pretty bold move considered the earlier “low profile” approach, that eventually led to the F-35 in Beast Mode (an Italian Beast Mode considered that the aircraft can’t carry any AAMs – Air to Air Missiles – on the outer pylons since the AIM-9X is not in inventory and the IRIS-T integration has not been requested) making the front cover of the 2022 calendar

The more relaxed atmosphere surrounding the program made it possible for the Aeronautica Militare to eventually publicly talk about the Typhoon as a multirole aircraft.

- F-35 In ‘Beast Mode’, Swing-Role Typhoons And Everything You’ll Find In The 2022 Calendar Of The Italian Air ForceTwo Eurofighter Typhoons of the 4° Stormo (Wing).

Unlike other partner nations that used the Typhoon for air interdiction missions quite soon, the Italian Air Force hadn’t initially planned to employ the Typhoon is the air-to-surface role, stubbornly claiming that the Eurofighter was just an air superiority fighter. In 2016, when the Italian Typhoons took part in their first Red Flag exercise, three of the Typhoons deployed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, were Tranche 2 examples that embedded the P1E(B) upgrades and were loaded with the latest Software Release Package. The two T2 Typhoons carried also two inert GBU-16 Paveway II LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and the Litening targeting pod. At that time, the Italian Air Force claimed the Swing Role capability was being developed only to support the platform’s export capabilities and help the industry promoting the aircraft in particular regions (like Kuwait). Following the Red Flag participation, a team of experienced Eurofighter pilots was destined to the new role and those aircrews who were already dual role qualified took part in a TLP (Tactical Leadership Programme) course at Albacete flying the Swing Role mission. Little by little, the Italian Air Force continued to work on the “multirole evolution” of Typhoon that was also deployed to Kuwait in support of OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve) in Syria and Iraq, and eventually became more vocal about the swing-role capabilities of the Eurofighter, as proved by the official photographs of the Typhoons carrying the new GBU-48s released earlier this year.

In the end, the photos of the armed Italian aircraft (that are accompanied by many historical images and details of aircraft that preceded the birth of the service in 1923) are quite cool.

As already said, along with the F-35A in Beast Mode (that is not an official or technical term but just a common way an F-35 configuration involving both internal and external loads is dubbed) and the Typhoons with GBUs there are also other types in the 2022 calendar, including a Tornado IDS with GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) with a Tornado ECR carrying two AGM-88 HARMs; two T-346 advanced jet trainers including one with a CATM-9 (Captive Air Training Missile); an HH-101A Caesar in the new overall grey color scheme, two KC-767A tankers, a new HH-139B, an MQ-9A Predator B UAS (Unmanned Aerial System); a T-260A basic trainer; and a G550 CAEW.

We can’t but notice that the only significant missing one is the F-35B STOVL aircraft that was one of the highlights of the recent Rivolto airshow that celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori display team.

- F-35 In ‘Beast Mode’, Swing-Role Typhoons And Everything You’ll Find In The 2022 Calendar Of The Italian Air ForceTornados of the 6° Stormo in action.
- F-35 In ‘Beast Mode’, Swing-Role Typhoons And Everything You’ll Find In The 2022 Calendar Of The Italian Air ForceT-346A Master.

By the way, it’s worth remembering that also last year the calendar contained a gem: a rare photograph of the secretive YEC-27J JEDI (Jamming and Electronic Defense Instrumentation), the EW (Electronic Warfare) variant of the C-27J Spartan.

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - F-35 In ‘Beast Mode’, Swing-Role Typhoons And Everything You’ll Find In The 2022 Calendar Of The Italian Air Force
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Let’s Focus On The Aerobatic Teams That Took Part In The Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow In Rivolto

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Let’s Focus On The Aerobatic Teams That Took Part In The Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow In Rivolto
All the display teams that took part in Rivolto Airshow. (Image credit: Author, Alessandro Fucito, Midnight Hawks).

Although some had to cancel their participation at the last minute, Rivolto airshow featured teams from all over Europe,

As we reported few days ago, an international airshow was held at Rivolto Air Base, Italy, on Sept. 18 and 19, 2021, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori, the display team of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force). This was the first large-scale airshow in Italy in almost two years, which was initially intended to be held in 2020 as the beginning of year of celebrations which would have lasted until the anniversary on March 1, 2021.

The cancelled 2020 airshow season was then replaced by an unprecedented tour of Italy, named “Abbraccio Tricolore” (Italian for “Tricolor Hug”), which included 21 flyovers in 5 days before the final flight over Rome on June 2 for the Festa della Repubblica, the Italian National Day and Republic Day. When airshows started to be cancelled in 2021 too, the Italian Air Force did its best to avoid postponing again the celebrations for the Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (PAN, National Aerobatic Team).

In the first part of our report about the airshow, we dissected the highlights of the flight program. The whole airshow was divided in two main parts, both introduced by a flyby of a HH-139A helicopter with an Air Rescueman suspended by the winch and carrying the Italian flag. The first part of the show was reserved to the exhibitions of the foreign aerobatic teams, while the second part was dedicated to the Italian assets, including the Legend formation, a Slow Mover Intercept (SMI) scenario, the technical displays of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (the Test unit of the ItAF) and a very interesting COMAO (Composite Air Operations) demonstration.

- Let’s Focus On The Aerobatic Teams That Took Part In The Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow In RivoltoThe Orlik Aerobatic Team beginning a formation loop. (All images Author, unless otherwise stated).

In this second part of the report about Rivolto Airshow, we will focus on the aerobatic teams that were invited to the 60th anniversary.

Frecce’s colleagues from all over Europe were invited to join the airshow, with an initial lineup of seven aerobatic teams in addition to the Frecce Tricolori: Red Devils (Belgium), Orlik Aerobatic Team (Poland), Krila Oluje (Croatia), Midnight Hawks (Finland), Patrulla Águila (Spain), Patroulle Suisse (Switzerland), Red Arrows (United Kingdom).

The Red Arrows were the first to be removed from the airshow schedule, as they were expected to perform a flypast over Astey Hall, Chorley for the G7 Speaker’s conference on September 18. At the last minute, the Red Arrows’ cancellation was followed by the one of the Red Devils and Krila Oluje: the reason for their absence is not clear at the moment. The Patrouille de France, who was a guest for the previous anniversaries, was not able to join the airshow this year as, in the same days, the team was already involved in the airshow at the Base Aérienne 116 Luxeuil.

The Orlik Aerobatic Team (Zespół Akrobacyjny Orlik) is one of the two national teams of the Polish Air Force, with the other being the Red and White Iskras (Biało-Czerwone Iskry). The team, which takes the name from its seven PZL-130TC-II Orlik turboprop trainer aircraft, was first established in 1998 and based at the 42nd Training Air Base in Radom, the home of the entire PZL-130 fleet. Later that year, the team took part to its firsts international air show at the Royal International Air Tattoo.

The pilots are flight instructors of the Polish Air Force Academy who volunteered to join the team while still continuing to provide training to the cadets. Unlike other teams, their aircraft do not have any special marking that identifies the Orlik Team, but they fly instead with the standard PolAF livery and just a white smoke generator installed under the fuselage. The 20-minute display includes maneuvers in different formations by the main five aircraft section, with the two solos demonstrating the capabilities of the PZL-130.

The second team to perform at Rivolto was the Midnight Hawks of the Finnish Air Force which, like the Orlik Team, is one of the youngest aerobatic teams in Europe, being established only in 1997. The name comes from the fact the team and its predecessors were permanent performers of the Midnight Sun Airshow in June which, as the name implies, lasts from 7PM to midnight. Like Orlik, the pilots of the Midnight Hawks are instructors of the Air Force Academy who continue to train cadets while being part of the team.

One of the Hawks also showed special tail marking for the 40 years of service of the Hawk aircraft in the FinAF, celebrated last year. The Midnight Hawks introduced this year some new vertical maneuvers to increase the variety and spectacularity of their show, which includes multiple passes in various formations enriched by formation breaks and rejoins by the three aircraft section and the solo.

- Let’s Focus On The Aerobatic Teams That Took Part In The Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow In RivoltoThe Patrulla Aguila taking off for their display at Rivolto. (Image credit: Italian Air Force).

The Patrulla Águila (Eagle Patrol) of the Spanish Air Force was the next performer, flying with its seven specially colored CASA C-101 Aviojet (E.25 in the Spanish military designation) trainer aircraft. The team, established in 1985 at San Javier Air Base, is made by flight instructors of the Academia General del Aire (General Air Academy) and is the only team to use yellow smoke, one of the colors of the Spanish flag, during their shows.

During their 25-minute display routine, the team alternates formation passes of the main section of four aircraft (callsigns Eagle 1 through 4), the solo (Eagle 5) and the pair (Eagle 6 and 7), each with their characteristic aerobatic figures. The Spanish Air Force is replacing the aging C-101 jet trainers with the new PC-21 turboprop trainers, however it has been confirmed that the Patrulla Águila will keep flying as long as possible the Aviojet to represent not only the Air Force, but also the national industry, in absence of a Spanish-made replacement.

- Let’s Focus On The Aerobatic Teams That Took Part In The Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow In RivoltoThe Patrouille Suisse’s solos during the mirror formation pass.

The last team to fly during the first part of the show was the Patrouille Suisse, one of the two aerobatic display teams of the Swiss Air Force (the other being the PC-7 Team) and one of the few teams to operate fighter jets instead of trainer aircraft, flying with six white and red F-5E Tiger II fighters. The Swiss team itself is close to its 60th anniversary, since it was founded in 1964 (three years after Frecce Tricolori).

Since the F-5E has different handling characteristics compared to a trainer aircraft, it also requires more space during the airshow, as the higher speeds lead to a larger turn radius during maneuvers. An example of this is mentioned on the team’s website: the looping requires an entry speed of 460 knots (850 km/h) and about 10,000 feet of altitude (3,000 m). This summer it was announced that the F-35 Lightning II won the Air2030 evaluation program to replace the F-5 and the F/A-18 Hornet, however the Patrouille Suisse will keep flying the Tiger II for the next few years until a decision is made about the future of the team.

- Let’s Focus On The Aerobatic Teams That Took Part In The Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow In RivoltoThe Frecce Tricolori with their trademark tri-colored smokes. (Image credit: Alessandro Fucito)

As tradition, the Frecce Tricolori closed the airshow with the last display on both days. The ten-aircraft display team received a new livery for the 55th anniversary, while this year all jets received special tails to celebrate the heritage of the five teams that represented Italy and its Air Force in the decade before the Frecce Tricolori were officially established: the “Cavallino Rampante”, “Getti Tonanti”, “Tigri Bianche”, “Diavoli Rossi” and “Lanceri Neri”.

The liveries were created by the renowned Italian artist Mirco Pecorari of AircraftStudioDesign, who designed hundreds of liveries for aircraft all around the world. Five MB-339s received the special tails earlier this year, while the remaining aircraft received them before the Rivolto Airshow. As a surprise, the pilots also had their helmets repainted the night before the airshow, featuring the current helmet on one side and the helmet of the historical teams on the other side.

- Let’s Focus On The Aerobatic Teams That Took Part In The Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow In RivoltoThe formation break of the two main formations and the solo of the Frecce Tricolori.

As mentioned by the Frecce Tricolori’s commander Lt. Col. Gaetano Farina, the team is heir and guardian of the aerobatic flight’s tradition, which was born in the 1920s at Campoformido airfield, located a few kilometers north-east of Rivolto. Campoformido was the home of the 1° Stormo Caccia (Fighter Wing) and its commander, Lt. Col. Rino Corso Fougier, had the innovative idea in 1928 that aerobatic flight could be used as an essential part of a military pilot’s training to achieve mastery, sensitivity and coordination in any flight attitude, leading to the maximum effectiveness in the military use of the airplane.

The same year, three pilots flew the first demonstration with the Fiat CR.1 biplane fighters flying loopings in formation. The then Royal Italian Air Force was diffident but gave a go to this idea a year later to welcome the pilots who flew for the first from the United States to Rome. The exhibition was a triumph and Campoformido soon became the home of an aerobatic flight school. The school also created in the 1930s one of the most famous maneuvers still flown today by the Frecce Tricolori, the downward bomb burst.

With the years, the “experiment” was extended also to other units, like the 4° Stormo Caccia, and the number of exhibitions increased, together with the number of the aircraft involved in the formation maneuvers. With the threat of WW2 becoming more incumbent, 1939 saw the last Italian aerobatic exhibitions. The Italian Air Force resumed these activities in 1952 with the “Cavallino Rampante” (Prancing Horse), which flew with four DH.100 Vampire jets of the 4° Stormo.

- Let’s Focus On The Aerobatic Teams That Took Part In The Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow In RivoltoThe two sections of the Frecce Tricolori formation rejoin after the takeoff ahead of the show.

The enthusiasm for this return led to the creation in 1953 of another team flying on four F-84G Thunderjets of the 5^ Aerobrigata (Air Brigade), named “Getti Tonanti” (Thundering Jets). A second team on four F-84Gs, this time from the 51^ Aerobrigata, was created in 1955 and called “Tigri Bianche” (White Tigers). 1957 saw the return of the “Cavallino Rampante”, which in the meantime was converted to the F-86E Sabre MK4. The team became the first to use smoke generators during their shows in Italy.

In the same year there was also a reserve team, the “Diavoli Rossi” (Red Devils) of the 6^ Aerobrigata. The team initially flew on four F-84F Thunderstreaks, which soon became six, including for the first time a solo which had the role to fill the space left by the main formation during its repositioning maneuvers away from the spectators. In 1959 the “Lanceri Neri” (Black Lancers) became the new main team, with “Diavoli Rossi” and “Getti Tonanti” as reserves. The new team flew initially with four Sabres, which were later increased to six.

The success of the five teams though the years convinced the Italian Air Force to better manage the aircraft and human resources, creating on March 1, 1961 the 313° Gruppo Addestramento Acrobatico (Aerobatic Training Squadron) at Rivolto Air Base. The core of the new unit was the “Cavallino Rampante”, which moved to Rivolto with its six F-86E jets (actually Canadian licensed-built CL.13s).

- Let’s Focus On The Aerobatic Teams That Took Part In The Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow In RivoltoThe Frecce Tricolori during the final pass of their exhibition for the 60th anniversary. (Image credit: Alessandro Fucito)

The new Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (National Aerobatic Team) performed for the first time on May 1 (thus becoming the traditional day of the first exhibition every year), with the six F-86s fitted with smoke generators and painted in a dark blue livery, with a lighter diamond containing a black sword on the sides of the fuselage. A year later, the more famous blue livery with the three green, white and red frecce (arrows) and the yellow tail number was applied for the first time, leading to the name Frecce Tricolori.

In 1963, the now nine-aircraft team received the G.91PAN, a specially modified variant of the Fiat G.91 light fighter aircraft. For the first time since WW2, an Italian aerobatic team was now equipped with Italian-made aircraft, which also allowed a more aggressive display routine and a tighter space required to maneuver. A few years later, in 1966, the solo was added to the formation, with the Frecce becoming the only team in the world to fly with ten aircraft.

In 1982, the MB-339PAN was delivered to Rivolto. Since then, the Frecce begun to fly tours around Europe and the world, winning numerous prizes. Now, after 60 years of history and almost 40 years flying on the MB-339, the Frecce Tricolori are preparing for their next chapter, which will see them flying in a few years on the new M-345, which was delivered at the end of 2020 to the Italian Air Force.

1c874047463801220adcba061ba371a3?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Let’s Focus On The Aerobatic Teams That Took Part In The Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow In Rivolto
Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

International Flight Training School In Italy Welcomes First Two German Air Force Pilots

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - International Flight Training School In Italy Welcomes First Two German Air Force Pilots
An M-346 of the International Flight Training School. (Image credit: Leonardo)

Two German Air Force pilots have joined Qatari pilots at the Italian Flight Training School (IFTS) in Italy.

The new International Flight Training School (IFTS) is a joint venture between the Italian Air Force and Leonardo. Currently located at the 61° Stormo (Wing) at Galatina Air Base, in southeastern Italy but about to relocate to Decimomannu Air Base, Sardinia, (where a groundbreaking ceremony was held in December 2020 to mark the beginning of the construction works of a modern flight training campus), the initiative is an example of strategic partnership between the military and the industry, set to become an international  benchmark for military pilots’ training. There’s a growing demand for training by partner nations most of those are simply not equipped with “domestic” solutions to prepare their pilots for 4th and 5th generation aircraft.

The evolution of front line combat aircraft that need to operate in a hi-tech airspace using new generation avionics while employing PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), EW (Electronic Warfare) suites and several hi-tech sensors, has called for a complete redesign of the training syllabus: modern pilots need to put more focus on the management of the onboard systems rather than the handling of the aircraft. Today and tomorrow’s pilots need to exploit the capabilities of their aircraft, so that they can operate in complex, contested, high-threat/high performance scenarios. In order to develop the information management skills of future pilots before they are assigned to the OCUs (Operational Conversion Units), student pilots need to train on advanced trainers equipped with glass cockpit, touch screens, radar, multiple datalinks, LVC (Live Virtual Constructive) interfaces, Voice Commands, Helmet Mounted Display and the plethora of modern sensors they will find in the Eurofighter Typhoon, the F/A-18 Hornet, the Dassault Rafale or the F-35 Lightning II.

The M-346 is, if not the most, one of the most advanced jet trainers around, offering all those features required to prepare future combat pilots for +4th and 5th gen. fighters, and the IFTS combines the knowledge and tradition of the Italian Air Force with the expertise and leadership in training platforms of Leonardo to offer both Italian and foreign pilots, Phase IV or Lead-In to Fighter Training (LIFT) using the M-346 Master aircraft and its GBTS (Ground-Based Training System) as well as the advanced full-mission simulator jointly developed by Leonardo and CAE.

- International Flight Training School In Italy Welcomes First Two German Air Force PilotsTwo M-346 advanced training aircraft of the Italian Air Force. (Photo: Leonardo)

The IFTS will operate a fleet of 22 M-346 jets: four Leonardo owned aircraft (the latter of those was delivered in October 2019) and 18 Italian Air Force T-346As (as the M-346 is designated by the Italian MOD Mission Design Series). Training will be delivered by a cadre of active-duty Italian Air Force and highly experienced international former military instructor pilots.

A new IFTS campus is under construction at Decimomannu Air Force Base: in the will be a flight academy capable of hosting students and technical staff, in addition to accommodation, recreational areas, a cafeteria, sports facilities.An entire building will be home to the GBTS, with classrooms and the installation of a modern training system, which is based on the latest generation of simulation devices. The average weather (mostly suitable for the flying activity) and the availability of several training areas made “Deci” the perfect place to host the IFTS when it will be in full operation.

Some foreign attendees are already attending IFTS training classes. Two Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) pilots have already reached the final stage of the LIFT course, while two German Air Force pilots have recently begun their advanced flight training (or Phase IV) at Lecce Air Base.

According to joint Italian Air Force – Leonardo press release, the GAF pilots have joined the IFTS in accordance wtih an agreement signed by the Lt. Gen. Alberto Rosso, Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force, and Maj. Gen. Klement, Commander of the Flying Units of the German Air Force.

“The training provided to the German pilots follows activities undertaken by the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s pilots, which commenced at IFTS in June this year. The Qatar Emiri Air Force pilots have completed the synthetic training modules both on the Partial Task Trainer (PTT) and the Full Mission Simulator (FMS) – two of the ultra-technological simulator devices integrated into the training system based on the T-346A aircraft. The pilots have now begun the in-flight instructional training. The agreement between the Italian and German Air Forces for advanced flight training services foresees the possibility to extend the collaboration to Phase III in the future, which brings the cadet to the military pilot qualification. The Qatari Air Force’s and now German Air Force’s decision to send their pilots to train in Italy at the IFTS provides clear evidence of the recognition of the Italian training system and testifies the potential of this ambitious international project.”

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - International Flight Training School In Italy Welcomes First Two German Air Force Pilots
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO Demo

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO Demo
Some of the highlights of the Rivolto airshow. (All images: Alessandro Fucito, unless otherwise stated)

The one organized at Rivolto AB was much more than “just” a celebration of the Frecce Tricolori’s anniversary: unlike most of the Italian airshows it was also an opportunity to have a look at some of the Italian Air Force capabilities at work.

As we already reported, the Frecce Tricolori, the display team of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), celebrated their 60th anniversary earlier this year. To mark the milestone, an international airshow was held at Rivolto Air Base, home of the Frecce, on September 18 and 19, 2021, representing the first proper airshow in almost two years in Italy. The Covid-19 pandemic, in fact, caused the cancellation of all the scheduled airshows, including the 60th anniversary’s airshow which was to be initially held in 2020 and then postponed to this year.

Even if the 60th anniversary is in 2021, it was initially chosen to hold the airshow in 2020 as a way to begin a year of celebrations which would have lasted until the anniversary on March 1. The cancelled 2020 airshow season was then replaced by an unprecedented tour of Italy, named “Abbraccio Tricolore” (Tricolor Hug), which included 21 flyovers in 5 days before the final flight over Rome on June 2 for the Festa della Repubblica, the Italian National Day and Republic Day.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThe Frecce Tricolori with their trademark tri-colored smokes. (Image credit: Alessandro Fucito)

When airshows started to be cancelled in 2021 too, the Italian Air Force did its best to avoid postponing again the celebrations for the Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (PAN, National Aerobatic Team). Efforts were made to allow a wide participation without compromising the safety and the health, ultimately limiting the access to the air base to 17,500 people over the two days with free admission passes and valid Covid “Green Certifications”. The passes went sold out as soon as the request form was made available online in mid-August, but people who couldn’t get the pass could at least count on the live streaming on the Italian State television RAI1 (where The Aviationist’s editor David Cenciotti was one of the guests providing expert commentary) and the Italian Air Force’s YouTube channel.

International aerobatic teams joined the airshow to wish a happy birthday to the Frecce Tricolori, including the Orlik Team from Poland, the Midnight Hawks from Finland, the Patrulla Aguila from Spain and the Patrouille Suisse from Switzerland. Initially, the Red Arrows from the United Kingdom, the Red Devils from Belgium and the Krila Oluje from Croatia were also expected to join the show, but their participation was later cancelled. The French Patrouille de France could not attend the celebrations in Rivolto as they were already involved in their own airshow at the Base Aérienne 116 Luxeuil.

The airshow with lots of interesting displays and demos, including the flypast of the Legend formation, that made its debut in 9-ship formation at the recent 75th anniversary of the 61° Stormo: the formation is a joint civil-military effort with some privately owned warbirds (T-6, G.46, SF-260AM, MB-326E and MB-326K) along with military aircraft in active service (Siai 208M, M-346/T-346, MB-339A/T-339A and MB-339CD/FT-339C).

We will cover the Legend formation and other displays more in depth in a series of upcoming stories (yes, there’s much more to say) we will publish in the next days. For the moment, let’s focus on the COMAO.

Composite Air Operations demo

In addition to the aerobatic teams, the entire Italian Air Force took part in the celebrations with representatives from almost all aircraft types, including the F-2000 Typhoon, F-35A and F-35B, Tornado, AMX, HH-101, HH-139 (as part of a SMI demo), T-346, T-339A and FT-339C (as part of the Legend formation), C-27J, C-130J, KC-767, G550 CAEW and Predator. The flight displays by the Reparto Sperimentale Volo, the Test unit of the ItAF, were followed by operational demonstrations which included a Slow Mover Intercept (SMI) scenario, with two Typhoons scrambling to intercept a HH-139A, and a COMAO (Composite Air Operations) scenario.

The latter included all the capabilities of the Italian Air Force, with the CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) and a Predator RPA operating behind the scenes to provide data and share the “picture” so as to achieve the Information Superiority needed by the decision makers in any conflict or crisis operation.

Actually, several different scenarios were merged into a 30 minute demo.

It all started with a demo of the strategic and tactical airlift capabilities of the Italian Air Force: a KC-767A and a C-130J which also airlifted operators from the “Fucilieri dell’Aria” (Air Riflemen) Battalion of the 16° Stormo simulated an evacuation from an airport located in a contested zone. More or less what the service put into practice to evacuate civilians from Kabul during operation Aquila Omnia.

Then, an F-35A simulated a SEAD/DEAD attack on the airfield, targeting a SPADA SAM battery of the local-based 2° Stormo (Wing), the Italian Air Force missile unit. The aircraft showed two GBU-12 Paveway II bombs during the open weapon bay pass.

After the enemy air defenses had been disabled, it was the turn of a package composed by two Typhoons loaded in a swing role configuration with two IRIS-T IR-guided air-to-air missiles and two GBU-48 Enhanced Paveway II; two Tornados (one of those carrying three GBU-32 JDAM bombs) and two AMX to attack the airfield: this phase provided the crowd with a quite rare sight during Italian airshows, with an AMX dropping flares during a simulated strafing run and inert bombs on the Typhoon, F-35 and Tornado.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoAMX dropping flares. Quite rare in an Italian airshow. Last time this happened during a large airshow was (probably) at Pratica di Mare airbase in the 2000s.
- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoTyphoon with GBU-48 Enhanced Paveway.
- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThis Tornado appeared to carry three GBU-32 bombs.

The fourth phase fo the demo saw two HH-101 Caesar helicopters arrive on the “scene” to insert a special forces team of the 17° Stormo “Incursori” (Raiders Wing) using the Fast Rope while one Typhoon and an F-35 provided top cover and Close Air Support with glide 10 strafing attacks.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoOne of the two HH-101A of the 21° Gruppo, based at Grazzanise airbase.

The subsequent phase saw the Raiders exfiltrate a wounded military from a building while one Tornado and one AMX provided armed overwatch flying a Visual Wheel at 1,000 and 2,000 feet.

The next phase simulated a PR (Personnel Recovery) operation: as AMX and Tornado in Sandy role continued to provide cover, the HH-101 Caesar landed to recover the wounded military and egress the combat zone.

Then it was the time for the ItAF F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II to take the stage: the aircraft approached the field from the North, hovered in front of the crowd at the center of the display line and then landed vertically on the runway.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoF-35B banking left.
- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThe F-35B of the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) of the Italian Air Force.

The final act of the demo was a flypast of most of the aircraft taking part in the display split into three sections: the first one was a formation made of a KC-767, F-35A, F-2000, AMX, Tornado and G550 CAEW flying at 1,000 feet AGL and 270 knots; the second formation, coming in at 500 feet and 220 knots was a formation with a C-130 and a C-27J while the third and final section, flying at 100 feet AGL, was composed by two HH-101A Caesar helicopters of the 21° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 9° Stormo (Wing).

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThe KC-767 leading the first section of the final flypast.

Interestingly, while the AMXs landed at Rivolto after the “Composite event”, all the other assets taking part in the flyover flew back to their homebases. Among them the F-35A that carried out AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) with the KC-767 before heading to Amendola airbase. After all, the demo was also a training opportunity for the involved aircrews and supporting personnel.

Static display and VIPs

A static display of the aircraft in service with the Aeronautica Militare was also available for the public to visit, along with thematic areas dedicated to the Frecce Tricolori’s history, ItAF recruitment and technologies for a sustainable future. Aircraft were not the only protagonists of the static display, as they were joined also by high performance cars of the Italian builder Pagani.

One of the cars in Rivolto was the exclusive Huayra Tricolore, a hypercar of which only three examples have been built expressly for the Frecce Tricolori anniversary and with the astonishing price of about 6 million Euro each. Horacio Pagani, founder and CEO of the company, drove himself the car on the runway for a high-speed drive before the beginning of the airshow, for the delight of the crowd.

Among the authorities arrived in Rivolto for the 60th anniversary there were also the Italian President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, the President of the Senate Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati and the Minister of Defence Lorenzo Guerini, welcomed by the “homeowners” Gen. Alberto Rosso, Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force, Col. Marco Bertoli, Commander of the 2° Stormo, and Lt. Col. Gaetano Farina, Commander of the Frecce Tricolori.

President Mattarella arrived in Rivolto on board of the A319CJ of the 31° Stormo, the Italian Air Force One, escorted by two Typhoons. The aircraft was parked away from the crowd, with the President taken by car to the authorities’ official gallery where he enjoyed a center stage seat. At the end of the airshow, the President personally congratulated Lt. Col. Farina and all the members of the team on the flight line, before posing for a group photo and being gifted a special print for the anniversary.

“It is always a sight to see you, well done. It was exciting”, said President Mattarella. “In important ceremonies such as June 2 and other days, your flypast is a highlight, a central moment. You are a magnificent symbol of Italy. Congratulations and thanks. I imagine the work, but the involvement is exciting”. The President later departed on the A319CJ back to Rome, after being saluted by the crowd gathered in Rivolto for the airshow.

“An anniversary full of pride for Italy,” commented the Gen. Rosso. “Italians are the pilots, Italian is the training they received at the Air Force flight schools, Italian is the technology of the aircraft. The Frecce Tricolori are the tip of the iceberg of this airshow but there are many capabilities and assets constantly engaged at the service of the community, to protect our skies and the skies of countries that do not have their own defense system, assets also committed in recent months abroad, in the complex repatriation operation of Afghan refugees, and before that committed to supporting the fight against Covid-19 ”.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThe 2021 Frecce Tricolori team poses for the photographers at the end of the airshow. (Image credit: Stefano D’Urso)

“Words are not needed to describe this day”, said Minister Guerini during his salute address. “The emotions experienced thanks to the extraordinary spectacle we witnessed are enough. But beyond the emotion, we saw the purest, most immediate and concrete expression of the peculiarity of our military instrument, based on professional skills of the highest level and high-tech means but firmly anchored to values ​​and traditions “.

The Minister of Defence underlined the importance of teamwork that distinguishes all the excellent departments of the Italian Armed Forces, highlighting that with this anniversary “the result of 60 years of history was celebrated, to be watched with great pride and respect, in which the Frecce Tricolori have sailed the skies of Italy and the world, ambassadors of prestige, traditions and Italian excellence and, before that, of the technical and human skills of the entire Air Force “.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThe sun sets over Rivolto while the maintenance crews perform post-flight operations after the airshow. (Image credit: Stefano D’Urso)

The airshow was replicated the next day, with the rain being unable to deter thousands of enthusiast people from enjoying the special day.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoLanding on wet runway on Sept. 19, 2021.

The second day of the airshow was also dedicated to the participation of former pilots and members of the 313° Gruppo Addestramento Acrobatico (the official ItAF designation of the Frecce Tricolori), as well as those who were part of the historical aerobatic teams who preceded the official creation of the Frecce, sealing the indissoluble bond that ideally binds all those who have had the honor of representing the Armed Force and the country in this capacity.

This bond was also celebrated with the special tails that were created this year for the anniversary, featuring the liveries of the display teams that in the 1950s were given, on a rotational basis, the task of representing the Air Force at air shows and flyovers in Italy and abroad: the “Cavallino Rampante”, “Getti Tonanti”, “Tigri Bianche”, “Diavoli Rossi” and “Lancieri Neri”. The special tails were initially applied to five aircraft earlier this year, with the other five receiving them before the airshow. As a surprise, the pilots also had their helmets repainted the night before the airshow, featuring the current helmet on one side and the helmet of the historical teams on the other side

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO Demo
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.
1c874047463801220adcba061ba371a3?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO Demo
Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

Two Russian Tu-160 Bombers Escorted By Flankers Intercepted By Italian Typhoons, Danish F-16s Over The Baltic Sea

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Two Russian Tu-160 Bombers Escorted By Flankers Intercepted By Italian Typhoons, Danish F-16s Over The Baltic Sea
Some screenshots from the Russian MOD video show the Tu-160s, accompanying Su-35S and an Italian Eurofighter Typhoon. In the bottom left hand box, a screenshot from FR24.com.

Two Tu-160s have flown over the Baltic region. NATO, Finnish and Swedish fighters shadowed the Russian Blackjacks which were escorted by Su-35s.

Two Russian Aerospace Forces Tu-160 Blackjacks carried out an 8-hour mission that brought the bombers off the Baltic States on Sept. 21, 2021. According to the Russian MOD, the two strategic missile carriers performed a planned flight in airspace over the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea.

The missile-carrier bombers were escorted by two Su-35S aircraft of the Aerospace Force and two Su-27 fighters of the Baltic Fleet’s naval aviation during their mission.

As happened last time the Tu-160s from Engels-2 Air Base in Saratov, Oblast, southwestern Russia, the Russian Long Range Aviation (LRA) trip in the Baltic region caused several NATO, Finnish and Swedish aircraft in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) to support Baltic Air Policing (BAP) to scramble.

The video released by the Russian MOD shows some of the fighters that were dispatched to identify and shadow the Russian “package” as it operated in international airspace: you can clearly see an Italian Air Force Typhoon currently deployed to Amari for Baltic Eagle II where they replaced the F-35As (the Russian MOD press release did mention the Italian fighters but misidentified them as F-16s) and Royal Danish Air Force F-16s. Finnish Air Force F-18s and Swedish Air Force JAS 39 Gripens were also launched and intercepted the Tu-160s.

Interestingly, at least one Su-35S made an appearance on Flightradar24.com, marking (to our knowledge), the very first time a Russian Flanker could be tracked online.

The Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack, is the largest and heaviest combat aircraft, the fastest bomber in use and the largest and heaviest variable-sweep wing airplane ever flown. Its first flight dates back to 1981 and its induction into active service took place in 1987.

The Tu-160 took part in the Air War in the skies over Syria; at least one Tu-160 aircraft flew a strike mission on Nov. 17, 2015 that hit ISIL targets in Syria using Russian 3M-54 Kalibur cruise missiles launched at standoff range. As of 2016, the Russian Air Force’s LRA still had 16 aircraft in service. In other words it’s a rare bird.

The Russians are already working on its replacement. The new Tu-160M2s are not be rebuilt, upgraded existing Tu-160s, but rather new production aircraft coming from the Tupolev plant. The new Tu-160M2 version, includes a glass cockpit, weapons upgrades, new engines and the removal of obsolete equipment no longer relevant to the Tu-160’s mission. The first flight of the first Tu-160M2 took place on Feb. 2, 2020 and lasted 2 hours and 34 minutes.  The second Tu-160M, equipped with new engines NK-32 series 02 (NK-32-02), made its maiden flight a few days ago, on Sept. 17, 2021.

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Two Russian Tu-160 Bombers Escorted By Flankers Intercepted By Italian Typhoons, Danish F-16s Over The Baltic Sea
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

The Italian Air Force Celebrates The 75th Anniversary Of The Flight School At Lecce-Galatina Air Base

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - The Italian Air Force Celebrates The 75th Anniversary Of The Flight School At Lecce-Galatina Air Base
The Legend Formation flies over Lecce-Galatina Air Base during the anniversary celebrations. (All images: Author)

The celebrations included flybys of the Legend Formation, which represents the aircraft that made the history of the school, as well as aircraft representing all the ItAF flight schools.

On Sept. 10, 2021, the Italian Air Force celebrated the anniversary of the flight school of the 61° Stormo (Wing) at Lecce-Galatina Air Base, in southeastern Italy. The ceremony, which was attended by the ItAF Chief of Staff Gen. Alberto Rosso, also saw the graduation of 28 new military pilots, including foreign pilots from the Hellenic Air Force and Austrian Air Force, which trained in the International Flight Training School there.

While the air base was established in 1931, only in 1945 it was decided to transform it in a flight school. A year later, on September 1st, 1946, the Scuola di Volo delle Puglie (literally “Flight School of Apulia”, from the region where the air base is located) was born. The school was primarily devoted to initial flight training, while advanced and pre-operational training were provided in other locations.

The flight school changed name and role many times through its history, moving from the T-6 Texan to the AerMacchi MB-326 and, in 1982, to today’s MB-339s. While the MB-339A have been upgraded via a Mid-Life Upgrade, in 1997 the unit received the first MB-339CD (FT-339C in the official designation), an upgraded variant with glass cockpit and air-to-air refueling capabilities. In 2015 the unit received the new T-346 Master and the era of the new advanced Integrated Training System. Finally, last year the first two T-345 have been delivered and will replace in the next years the T-339.

- The Italian Air Force Celebrates The 75th Anniversary Of The Flight School At Lecce-Galatina Air BaseThe aircraft currently in service with the 61° Stormo during one of their formation passes.

Nowadays, the flight school trains pilots during phase II of the syllabus, the common phase for all military student pilots, phase III for fighter and Remotely Piloted Aircraft tracks and phase IV for the Lead In Fighter Training (LIFT). Another role of the flight school, this time for experienced pilots, is the Pilot Instructor Training for all jet-powered aircraft.

Friday morning, at the beginning of the celebrations, a new special color gate guardian was unveiled, with the eagle from the unit’s insignia painted over the MB-339A’s (T-339A in the official designation) fuselage and wings and the penguin from the unit’s motto on the tail. The 61° Stormo motto says “Dove i pinguini mettono le ali”, which literally translates “Where penguins get their wings” and, in the ItAF tradition, the “penguin” is the student that is training to graduate as a pilot, as the aquatic bird has wings but can’t fly.

In addition to the gate guardian, the unit unveiled three special tails, one for each squadron on their assigned aircraft: the 212th Squadron which flies the T-346 for the pre-operational LIFT course, the 213th Squadron which flies the FT-339C to graduate pilots assigned to the fighter track and the 214th Squadron which flies the T-339A to provide initial training to military pilots and for instructor training.

- The Italian Air Force Celebrates The 75th Anniversary Of The Flight School At Lecce-Galatina Air BaseAnother angle of the flyovers performed by the Legend Formation.

Another special display for the occasion was the reproduction of the WW2 flight line with a mockup of the Macchi C.202, as seen in the 1943-1945 timeframe at the nearby Leverano Airfield. This airfield, which now does not exist anymore, hosted a first flight school before the creation of the one at Lecce-Galatina. A static display of a FIAT G.46 trainer was also present, one of the first Italian-built trainers to be assigned to the flight school in 1948.

Following the celebration on the ground, flyovers with representatives from every Italian flight school lined up the in the skies above the air base. The flybys were started by a formation of three SIAI S.208M liaison and glider-towing aircraft of the 60° Stormo (one of which with the special tail that was painted last year for the 100th anniversary of the Rome – Tokyo raid), followed by a formation of three SF-260EA light trainers of the 70° Stormo, a TH-500B and an UH-139 of the 72° Stormo and a P-180 Avanti of the Centro Addestramento Equipaggi Multi Crew (Multi Crew Training Centre).

Then, it was time for the hosts to take the stage for themselves, with a mixed formation of one T-339A, two FT-339C and three T-346 which performed some passes before a T-346 broke formation for a quick solo display. The aircraft displayed its maneuverability with some high-performance turns and climbs, as well as both high-speed and low-speed passes. Interestingly, one of the Masters showed both the 61° Stormo and Reparto Sperimentale di Volo (Flight Test Unit) insignias, which possibly got it on load for some test activities. We couldn’t help but notice, however, that the new T-345 did not take part in the flying display.

One of highlights of the flying displays was the Legend Formation. This special formation, which debuted for the first time in 2015 when the 61° Stormo unveiled the new emblem, is made of the most representative trainer aircraft in the history of the Aeronautica Militare. Among the aircraft there are the privately owned North American T-6G Texan, FIAT G.46 and AerMacchi MB-326E, together with the 61° Stormo’s T-339A, FT-339C and T-346A and a S.208M leading the formation. The seven aircraft flew multiple formation passes before each one performed solo low passes over the runway (with some well appreciated aileron rolls by the T-6 and MB-326).

As the Legend Formation landed to clear the airspace for the big final, the fighters from the other Apulian units paid a visit with a flyby of four F-2000 Typhoons of the 36° Stormo led by an F-35A Lightning II of the 32° Stormo. The Lightning wowed the crowd gathered outside the air base and former members of the Flight School reunited inside, breaking the formation with a steep climb in full afterburner and flying a quick but aggressive display, ending with the “ classic” open weapon bay pass and a low high-speed pass over the runway.

- The Italian Air Force Celebrates The 75th Anniversary Of The Flight School At Lecce-Galatina Air BaseThe mixed Typhoon and F-35 formation that concluded the flyovers.

The big final was provided by the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian Air Force aerobatic display team which, by the way, will celebrate next week the 60th anniversary with an airshow at their home base in Rivolto. The ten MB-339PAN trainers, five of which with the special tail arts for their anniversary, took advantage of the occasion and of the good weather for a training session and flew their entire display, thrilling the spectators with their precise maneuvers and their trademark 5 km Italian flag painted in the Apulian skies.

- The Italian Air Force Celebrates The 75th Anniversary Of The Flight School At Lecce-Galatina Air BaseThe Frecce Tricolori solo “ignites” the Italian flag for the final pass over the air base, closing the celebrations for the Flight School’s anniversary.

1c874047463801220adcba061ba371a3?s=125&d=mm&r=g - The Italian Air Force Celebrates The 75th Anniversary Of The Flight School At Lecce-Galatina Air Base
Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

Italian Air Force Announces First Sub-orbital Research Mission With Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Italian Air Force Announces First Sub-orbital Research Mission With Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo
SpaceShipTwo and the logo of VIRTUTE 1 mission. (Composite image made by The Aviationist using Mars Scientific/Clay Center Observatory photo)

Next rocket-powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo Unity from Spaceport America, with three paying crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council will be the first commercial, human-tended research mission for Virgin Galactic and first mission of its kind led by European country.

The Italian Air Force and the CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche – National Research Council) along with Virgin Galactic outlined the first commercial suborbital mission with SpaceShipTwo, during a press conference held in Rome, Italy, on Sept. 2, 2021.

The mission is dubbed VIRTUTE 1, both an acronym for Volo Italiano per la Ricerca e la Tecnologia sUborbiTal– Italian Flight For Sub-Orbital Research and Technology, and the Latin word for Valor, that is also in the Italian Air Force motto “Virtute Siderum Tenus” – “With Valor To The Stars”. The mission motto is a famous sentence from Ulysses in the Divina Commedia, Canto XXVI of The Inferno: “Fatti non foste a viver come bruti ma per seguire VIRTUTE e canoscenza” (“You were not made to live like brutes but to follow valor and knowledge”).

The mission, that will be live streamed on Virgin Galactic website, will launch with SpaceShipTwo from Spaceport America, in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in late September or early October 2021, pending technical checks and weather.

“Unity 23”, the 23rd flight for VSS Unity spacecraft will have three paying crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council. The goal of the mission is to evaluate and measure the effects of the transitional phase from gravity to microgravity on the human body. Other payloads on board will study the effect of the microgravity environment on a range of chemical and physical properties. By testing and evaluating physiological and technological responses in sub-orbital flight, the mission aims to produce insights relevant to current and future spaceflight systems and technologies.

The Italian team will carry out 12 tests in about 3 minutes during the flight that is slated to reach an apogee at 295,000 feet.

- Italian Air Force Announces First Sub-orbital Research Mission With Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwoVIRTUTE 1 mission profile. (Image credit: Italian Air Force)

The crew will be:

Col. Walter Villadei, Italian Air Force. Col. Villadei, a space engineer and cosmonaut, will serve as mission lead, tending to the rack-mounted payloads during the weightless portion of the flight. He will wear a cutting-edge smart suit, incorporating Italian fashion style and technology, to measure his biometric data and physiological responses.

Lt. Col. Angelo Landolfi, Physician, Italian Air Force. Lt. Col. Landolfi will conduct tests measuring cognitive performance in microgravity. In addition, he will activate syringe payloads from his seat to investigate how certain liquids and solids mix in microgravity.

Pantaleone Carlucci, Aerospace Engineer and National Research Council researcher. Mr. Carlucci will wear sensors that examine heart rate, brain function and other human performance metrics in microgravity.

- Italian Air Force Announces First Sub-orbital Research Mission With Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwoThe three Italian crew members during the press conference. (Image credit: Italian Air Force)

Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor, Virgin Galactic. Ms. Moses will serve as cabin lead in space, calling out key mission phases and cabin instructions and overseeing the safe and efficient execution of the flight timeline. She will not interact directly with the Italian experiments.

The pilots for this mission are Michael Masucci and CJ Sturckow flying VSS Unity and Nicola Pecile and Kelly Latimer flying VMS Eve mothership.

“What we present today is an example of a double binomial: the one between the private and public world, but also the one between the civil and military world,” said Lt. Gen. Alberto Rosso, Italian Air Force Chief of Staff. “It is a form of collaboration between institutions serving the country, which team up to develop an incredible opportunity from many points of view: technological research, commercial development, economic growth, also in terms of job offers for young people.”

“I want to use the word “pioneers”, a term that applies to the companies of the past, but which is also suitable for what we are doing today: the exploration of a new environment, full of extraordinary opportunities. I think that the Air Force, despite being pragmatically immersed in everyday reality, “with its feet on the ground”, cannot fail to have an eye on the future, on innovation, on the challenges and perspectives offered by the new environments.”

“It is our precise responsibility to provide support to the country with our capabilities and our preparedness (as demonstrated during the pandemic or with the recent airlift to rescue civilians from Afghanistan), but also to look forward to innovation and research, through the expansion of a domain in which we have been present from the beginning and in which we intend to continue to make a difference, offering our skills and professionalism alongside other institutions, industry, start-ups and forces healthiest in the country.

All this without ever forgetting the proper function of the Air Force, namely Air Defense, which in the near future we will be able to guarantee well beyond the altitude at which we normally operate today.”

Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said: “Being selected by the Italian Air Force to support their microgravity research is a testament to the unique scientific capabilities of our spaceflight system. We’re proud to be facilitating cooperation between spacefaring nations and industry pioneers to expand human knowledge, and demonstrate the intrinsic value of our offering to government and scientific partners. This flight will be remembered as an important milestone in unlocking the transformative potential of repeatable and reliable access to space for years to come.”

As most of our readers already know because it made the news less than two months ago, on July 11, 2021, during Unity 22, the 22nd flight, Virgin Galactic launched its first fully crewed flight of its SpaceShipTwo space plane with a special passenger on board: the company’s billionaire founder Richard Branson.

- Italian Air Force Announces First Sub-orbital Research Mission With Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwoVirgin Galactic’s passenger rocket plane VSS Unity, carrying Richard Branson and crew, begins its ascent to the edge of space above Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, U.S. July 11, 2021 (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

Few hours after the Italian Air Force press conference, SpaceShipTwo was grounded following the July 11 flight, when it deviated from its Air Traffic Control clearance and flew outside its designated airspace for 1 minute and 41 seconds according to FAA.

“Virgin Galactic may not return the SpaceShipTwo vehicle to flight until the FAA approves the final mishap investigation report or determines the issues related to the mishap do not affect public safety,” the FAA said in a statement to CNBC.

“The FAA is responsible for protecting the public during commercial space transportation launch and reentry operations. The FAA is overseeing the Virgin Galactic investigation of its July 11 SpaceShipTwo mishap that occurred over Spaceport America, New Mexico. SpaceShipTwo deviated from its Air Traffic Control clearance as it returned to Spaceport America,” the regulator added.

Let’s see if the grounding affects the targeted launch window of Unity 23.

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Italian Air Force Announces First Sub-orbital Research Mission With Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Italy Increasing Tempest Funding And Planning New Support Aircraft Acquisitions

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Italian Defence Planning Tempest Funding 1 - Italy Increasing Tempest Funding And Planning New Support Aircraft Acquisitions
The mockup of the Tempest 6th generation fighter aircraft. (Photo: BAE Systems)

The Italian Air Force will get new tankers, SIGINT, and CAEW assets while also continuing the development of special C-27J variants, as disclosed in the new multi-year defense planning document.

The Italian government published the new multiyear defense planning document (Documento Programmatico Pluriennale della Difesa) for 2021-2023, which illustrates the funding needed by the Italian military to sustain and modernize its forces. Many important investments can be found in the document, but let’s proceed in order.

The strategic situation is based on a reference scenario, called the “extended Mediterranean” region, which is currently subject to many important geopolitical changes. Among the critical aspects of the region, the document mentions the Libyan situation, the tensions between coastal countries that are rearming their military forces, the disputes about sea boundaries and commercial routes. These challenges add up to the global situation, with COVID-19 and the new role of Russia and China becoming increasingly important.

The Italian Ministry of Defence is focused on maintaining a balanced military power, while also renovating and potentiating it with new capabilities. Important novelties are the space and cyber domains, which are set to provide new space for innovation in the informational and decisional sectors.

The first major program mentioned in the document is the Tempest 6th generation fighter aircraft and the wider Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program. Tempest is intended to preserve the dominance of the air combat power by capitalizing on the Italian and British participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. FCAS is described in the program summary as a system of systems, with an optionally unmanned aircraft, manned-unmanned teaming, advanced sensors, and related technologies.

The planning sees a new investment of 2 billion euros by the Italian government over the next 15 years, financing the research and development activities. The document mentions a total of 6B Euro for the completion of the research and development. This Italian investment follows the disclosure of a £250 million contract by the United Kingdom to formally begin the Concept and Assessment Phase, as part of a bigger £2 billion investment over the next four years.

This next phase of the Tempest program will see investment in both digital and physical infrastructure on which the system will be developed, giving priority to the digital aspect as simulated design and testing can significantly reduce costs, time and emissions. The industry partners of Team Tempest will develop this way a range of digital concepts, embedding new tools and techniques to design, evaluate, and shape the final design and capability requirements of Tempest.

Last year, the UK, Italy, and Sweden signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on the project, transforming the British FCAS project into a major international endeavor. Together, the three countries aspire to develop the concepts, sharing workload while maximizing their national expertise as they strive towards a common goal. The goal of the MoU is to have equal participation of the signatory countries in the activities related to Tempest, with positive effects on each own defense industry, small and medium enterprises, research institutes, and universities.

Italian Defence Planning Tempest Funding 2 - Italy Increasing Tempest Funding And Planning New Support Aircraft Acquisitions
The EC-27J JEDI flying over Iraq. (Photo: Italian Air Force)

The next program mentioned in the multiyear defense planning document is the continuation of the development of the dedicated Special Operations variant of the C-27J Spartan, called MC-27J Praetorian. A total fleet of three aircraft is planned to serve with the Italian Air Force. A total investment of € 99 million is estimated, with the first tranche over the next five years, worth 80 million, currently being approved.

The MC-27J development was first started in 2013, with the Italian Air Force envisioning palletized support and fire systems that would be used to convert three C-27Js already in service. The fire support configuration sees the aircraft equipped with a side-firing GAU-23 30 mm gun, the same used by the USAF AC-130J, mission systems, and C3ISR equipment. The aircraft will provide support for the Special Forces of the Commando Operativo Forze Speciali (COFS) and was already tested during Special Operations exercises.

The defense planning provides funds also for the other special variant of the Spartan, the EC-27J JEDI (Jamming and Electronic Defense Instrumentation). The first tranche of 27 million euros, out of a total required investment of 29 million euros, is being distributed over the next four years for the Risk Reduction Phase 2, focused on the development of the final configuration of the JEDI Electronic Warfare system and the serialization of the fleet.

The JEDI differs from the baseline Spartan because it has been extensively modified to perform Electronic Warfare missions: along with a characteristic antenna on the tail, the EC-27J carry an internal JEDI system that is used to create an “umbrella” of electronic emissions that protect personnel on the ground from IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). To be more precise, the program description mentions that the JEDI can perform convoy escort missions to increase the protection against radio-controlled IEDs.

The JEDI system has been completely designed by the ReSTOGE (Reparto Supporto Tecnico Operativo Guerra Elettronica – Electronic Warfare Technical Support Department), based at Pratica di Mare airbase. This unit is responsible for compiling, updating, and managing the EW (Electronic Warfare) and self-protection libraries of all the Italian Air Force aircraft. The JEDI package can be installed on standard NATO pallets so as to quickly reconfigure the capability by means of a “roll-on and roll-off” procedure.

Two airframes are believed to have been converted to the EC-27J variant (or YEC-27J in accordance with Italy’s MOD Mission Design Series), with the type reaching earlier this year the 5,000 flight hours mark since Aug. 10, 2016, when it was first deployed to Iraq for “Prima Parthica” (as the Italian Armed Forces contingent supporting Operation Inherent Resolve is dubbed at the national level). Interestingly, the EC-27J of the Italian Air Force is the only non-American asset flying the Electronic Support and Protection mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Another priority program for the Italian Defence is the new multi-mission/multi-sensor aircraft, also known as JAMMS (Joint Airborne Multi-sensor Multi-mission System). This program, which was already mentioned in the Defense Policy Document last year, envisions a “multi-mission Gulfstream G550-based system with modern sensors for strategic intelligence and electronic superiority, able to integrate into a C4ISTAR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance) architecture for real-time information sharing and to operate both in autonomous and joint environments, with future provisions for Multi-Domain Command and Control and Electronic Protection”.

A total investment of 1,223.1 million Euro is being financed for this program which, as we already reported, should cover the acquisition of the first two Full Mission Capable (FMC) aircraft and six “green” airframes that can be converted at a later stage to either JAMMS or CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) configurations, together with logistic and infrastructural support. According to the available info,  the new Gulfstream, whose designation is still unknown (supposedly E-550B or R-550), might be similar to the MC-55A Peregrine that the Royal Australian Air Force is purchasing for SIGINT (Signal Intelligence). Both aircraft also have L3Harris as prime contractors.

In continuity with the JAMMS program, the defense planning financed with 925 million Euro over 12 years the implementation of the CAEW system on a part of the “green” airframes mentioned before. The description further mentions that the two variants will be defined as CAEW and Electronic Combat, with the former providing Airborne Early Warning and Battlefield Management and Communication as Command and Control (C2) multiplier, and the latter focused on the inhibition of enemy C2 capabilities and the use Electronic Support Measures (ESM) to support friendly forces.

An interesting mention goes to the joint Future Fast Rotorcraft program, which has the objective of studying new helicopter technologies for the development of a Next-Generation Fast Helicopter. More precisely, the planning document mentions the beginning of the second phase next year, looking for synergies with international programs. As already reported, Italy is one of the countries interested in the US Future Vertical Lift program, with Leonardo reportedly in talks with Lockheed Martin, which is looking for a European partner to handle European sales and share risk costs.

Another interesting mention goes to Loitering Ammunitions, which are getting a 3.88 million Euro investment over the next five years. This should be the first time that this new capability is being discussed for acquisition by the Italian military. The loitering ammunition, which in the photo are represented by the Hero-30 developed by Israeli UAV manufacturer Uvision, will provide surveillance, reconnaissance, and engagement capabilities to augment the protection of the forces deployed abroad. The program also mentions a focus on the reduction of the risks of collateral damage.

Italian Defence Planning Tempest Funding 3 - Italy Increasing Tempest Funding And Planning New Support Aircraft Acquisitions
A rendering of the European MALE RPAS. (Photo: Leonardo)

The next program that we are going to talk about is quite unexpected. Among the measures to preserve the national Air-to-Air Refueling capability, the Italian Air Force is acquiring two new KC-767 tankers in their latest version and to upgrade the aircraft already in service to the equivalent U.S. Air Force standard. While not explicitly stated, this should mean that the Italian Air Force will become the next operator of the KC-46 Pegasus tanker, although it is not known if the Italian tankers will assume the new designation or retain the older KC-767 one, maybe as KC-767B to differentiate from the original KC-767A currently in service.

With this program, Italy will join Israel and Japan as export operators of the KC-46 Pegasus, with the latter also operating the KC-767A. The Italian government will invest 1,410 million euros in the program, even if the total funds needed are still being defined. Following the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw extensive use of the KC-767 to evacuate Italian citizens, the tanker program also includes new StratEvac (Strategic Evacuation) kits to safely transport patients who need intensive care.

The defense planning includes once again the European MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) being developed by Leonardo, Airbus and Dassault. The program will fund the development, acquisition, and logistical support of the aircraft as part of a European consortium focused on the incrementation of the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities. The drone will feature an open architecture with modular systems, easily upgradable and capable of safely flying in non-segregated airspace with other traffic.

Among its missions, the RPAS will provide Defence and Homeland Security, intelligence support, prevention and contrast of illicit activities, the contrast of illegal exploitation of migrants, the contrast of illicit overseas traffic, and control of the national soil for the prevention of natural calamities. 1,872.72 million euros are being funded for the European MALE RPAS, which is deemed strategic for the national industry and thus funded also by the Ministry for Economical Development.

Another program related to RPAS assets is the one regarding the MQ-9 payload. This program is funding 59 million euros, out of a total of 168 million, for the upgrade of sensors, payload, and command and control systems to the latest standard. Considering the presence of the generic mention of payload and the image of an armed U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper, some analysts pointed to a possible weapon integration on the Italian MQ-9 fleet, a topic that has been in the talks for years. A quite generic description accompanies the investment, leaving the program’s goal open to interpretation: “The aircraft will provide incremented security levels and protection during convoy escort missions, making available [for ground troops] a flexible defense capability from the air. Moreover, [the aircraft] will introduce a new option for protection of ground troops and air assets during high-intensity operations.”

 

1c874047463801220adcba061ba371a3?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Italy Increasing Tempest Funding And Planning New Support Aircraft Acquisitions
Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for The Aviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time, he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.
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