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Italy’s F-35 stealth fighter purchase review signals more cuts ahead. June 27, 2013

Posted by David Cenciotti in : F-35 , 2comments

Even if the Italian Air Force considers it “essential” for the future of the service in the next 20 years, the F-35 program will be reviewed for 6 months, as a consequence of the lower-house motion supported by the Letta cabinet presented on Jun. 26, 2013.

Based on the new motion, Italy’s participation in the program will not be cancelled, but parliament will have to approve any further stage of the 5th generation multi-role fighter jet purchase.

The new motion, passed 381 to 149 votes, calls on the government to push for more European Union defense projects integration to reduce military spending and defeated an opposition motion in favor of quitting the program.

On Feb. 15, 2012 former Italian Minister of Defense announced Italy’s plan to purchase 90 F-35s out of the original 131.

41 aircraft were be scrapped leaving the Italian Air Force and Navy with less than F-35 in the A and B version to replace about 300 current aircraft, including the Air Force’s Tornado and AMX, and the Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier II on board the Cavour aircraft carrier, both involved in the Air War in Libya.

Italy plans to spend about 12 billion Euro on the aircraft over 45 years, starting in 2015. Considered the mounting pressure around the program, both within the coalition party and the opposition, and the need for the government to address the huge public debt and limit the budget deficit, a further reduction in the amount of planes that will be eventually procured seems to be not only likely but inevitable.

F-35B and C

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

Delays and cost overruns have raised the projected unit price from 75 million to 133 million USD, even if, in February 2012, Italian head of the agency that is responsible for the procurement of new armaments said that the unit price will be around 70 million each (Lockheed Martin estimated 65M USD for the F-35A and about 73M USD for the F-35B), less than the 79 million USD currently paid for the Eurofighter Typhoon and much less of the 121 million USD per aircraft anticipated in 2011.

Unit price depends also on the foreign sales. U.S. have commitments from allies to buy as many as 500 jets. Last year, The Economist warned that the program is in danger of slipping into the “death spiral” where increasing unit costs would lead to cuts in number of ordered plane, leading to further costs that would boost order cuts.

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These are the first images of the Italian Typhoons providing NATO air defense capability to Iceland June 19, 2013

Posted by David Cenciotti in : Italian Air Force, Military Aviation , add a comment

As explained on a previous post, on Jun. 11 (a day after it was originally planned), Italian Eurofighter with 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (Wings)  deployed to Keflavik Airbase, Iceland to provide a NATO air defense capability to the Northern European country that does not operate autonomous airspace surveillance aircraft.

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“Operation Icy Skies” includes maintenance and support personnel as well as air defence controllers from GRCDA (Air Surveillance Squadron), 21st and 22nd Radar Squadron, respectively, based in Poggio Renatico (Ferrara), Poggio Ballone (Grosseto)  e Licola (Naples), that provide reporting and control services and airspace surveillance services within the Iceland AOR (area of responsability).

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The Italian involvement in Iceland’s air defense is a clear example of the new NATO strategic concept that encourages asset and cost sharing, as well as capability pooling.

Two KC-767A aerial tankers (MM62227 and MM62228) ferried the Italian Typhoons to Iceland on 11 June, in two flights; both departed the following day.

The following images were taken by Eggert Norðdahl at Keflavik, as the Typhoons (F-2000A according to the Italian Mission Design Series) performed the first orientation and dedicated training sorties required for the subsequent NATO validation of the Italian Air Force assets.

F-2000 ground

Image credit: Eggert Norðdahl

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Italy’s Typhoon fighter jets secure airspace of Iceland June 10, 2013

Posted by David Cenciotti in : Italian Air Force, Military Aviation , add a comment

On Jun. 10, six Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets of the Italian Air Force deployed to Iceland to provide air policing of the airspace around the northern European island.

Supported by two KC-767A aerial refuelers and a C-130J cargo plane, the Italian jets will provide QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duties for the NATO from Keflavik airbase.

About 150 military deployed to Iceland within Operation Icelandic Air Policing 2013.

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Image credit: The Aviationist/Alessandro Fucito

The Italian Air Force, that already provides air policing of Slovenia and Albania airspaces, will take over the control of the airspace in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in January-April 2015.

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Italian Air Force Tornado attack planes attend “Bold Quest 2013″ at Cherry Point June 10, 2013

Posted by David Cenciotti in : Military Aviation , add a comment

Accompained by a C-130J, that provided oceanic Search Air Rescue, and by a KC-767A aerial refueler, three Tornado IDS attack planes of the 6° Stormo of the Italian Air Force deployed to MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Cherry Point, North Carolina, to take part to Bold Quest 2013 (BQ-13) exercise.

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The joint multinational drills foresee the involvement of air and ground units with the aim to validate new technologies related to the survivability and blue-on-blue fire avoidance within a combat scenario. Among such technologies, new IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) and NGIFF (New Generation IFF) that can be also used by aerial assets to query ground assets in the so-called ASID (Air to Surface IDentification).

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Kicking off on Jun. 10, BQ-13 will be attended by units belonging to Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, UK and US.

The Italian contingent includes also a C-27J of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Test Wing of the ItAF), one DADR (Deployable Air Defence Radar), as well as military and assets of the Italian Navy and Army.

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Image credit: The Aviationist/A. Caglieri

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Lockheed Martin’s “Dragon Star” Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory at work June 7, 2013

Posted by David Cenciotti in : Italian Air Force, Military Aviation , add a comment

Even if the news has not been advertised too much, the Italian Air Force has been operating the Lockheed Martin’s Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory (AML) since 2012.

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Known as “Dragon Star”, the Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory (AML) is a specially configured Gulfstream III (registered N30LX) transformed into a flying test bed with a wide array of sensors forseen by a configuration developed by LM for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) persistent operations.

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Since it was deployed to Pratica di Mare, the aircraft has been used by the Italian Air Force in a live operational environment. Lockheed Martin signed a use agreement with the Italian Ministry of Defence (MoD) to provide the AML plane along with three ground intelligence processing systems as well as flight crew and maintenance personnel for the plane.

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According to the press release issued in Jan. 2012, the initial agreement was for one year, with an option to extend to two years: since the aircraft has taken part to the recent Star Vega 2013, the option was confirmed, at least for the first year.

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The experimental ISR platform (offered as an “ISR as a Service” concept”) is actually an open architecture that gives the customer (currently the ItAF) the opportunity to configure C4ISR components (software and hardware) in a matter of hours, to integrate it with other national or coalition systems.

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The use of the ISR service has given Italy the possibility to retire its G-222VS SIGINT plane while keeping an effective (niche) intelligence capability alive with the Air Force.

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Image credit: The Aviationist/ Caglieri – Maduli

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