Tag Archives: italian F-35

NATO Scrambled Fighters 370 Times in 2021

Via NATO Air Command:

NATO fighter jets scrambled around 370 times across Europe in 2021, mostly to check aircraft flying unannounced near Allied air space.

Around 80 percent of the missions, 290 in total, were in response to flights by Russian military aircraft.

Russia Air Force Ilyushin Il-78 Midas, RF-94269, and a German Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoon over the Baltic. In related news, Germany declared the MBDA-made Meteor missile ready for use by the Luftwaffe in the summer of 2021

An Italian F-35 intercepts a really modded Russian Ilyushin Il-18, the rare EW/COMINT sniffing Ilyushin IL-22PP Porubschik (RF-90786), near Allied airspace in the Baltic Sea Region. The Italian Air Force was the first to deploy 5th Gen fighters in Baltic Air Policing. Photo courtesy of Italian Air Force.

Classic-on-classic! Early 1980s F-16A Fighting Falcon fighter jets of the Portuguese Air Force out of Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, intercepted Russian military aircraft, including a newly modernized Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear bomber, during an Air Policing mission over the Baltic, November 2021.

Last year’s figures are actually down from 2020, as noted by the alliance in December 2020:

NATO air forces across Europe scrambled more than 400 times in 2020 to intercept unknown aircraft approaching Alliance airspace. Almost 90 percent of these missions – around 350 – were in response to flights by Russian military aircraft.

Italy Finally has an Aircraft Carrier

Italy got into the seaplane tender biz in February 1915 when they bought the aging 392-ft./7,100-ton Spanish-built freighter Quarto and, as Europa, converted the vessel to operate a half-dozen or so FBA flying boats. Taking part in the Battle of the Strait of Otranto against the bottled-up Austro-Hungarian fleet in 1917, she was discarded after the war.

In 1925, Rome bought the incomplete passenger/mail steamer Citta di Messina and, sending her to the La Spezia for completion, produced Giuseppe Miraglia.

Italian seaplane carrier Giuseppe Miraglia entering Taranto. Look at all those Macchis…

She wasn’t a giant ship, just under 400-feet long with a light draft of 4,500-tons. But Miraglia was fast enough for naval use (21 knots) and with enough room for as many as 20 seaplanes of assorted sizes. Her war was lackluster, ending it under British guns at Malta.

Meanwhile, Italy’s first planned aircraft carrier– a respectable 772-foot leviathan by the name of L’Aquila (Eagle) converted from an unfinished ocean liner– was left under construction at Genoa in 1943.

Italian aircraft carrier Aquila in drydock at Genoa in 1942. She would never be completed

Although it was envisioned she would carry up to 56 aircraft, the Italian eagle was never completed and finally scrapped at La Spezia in 1952. A sistership, Sparviero, never even got that far, making Miraglia the sole Italian aviation ship fielded in WWII.

After flirting with Vittorio Veneto in the 1970s and 80s, a so-called “helicopter cruiser” capable of carrying six SH-3D Sea Kings or larger numbers of smaller whirlybirds; the Italian government placed an order for several AV-8B Harriers in 1990 for use on the newly completed 13,000-ton ASW carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, returning the country’s fleet to a fixed-wing capability that it hadn’t seen since Miraglia steamed for exile in Malta in 1943.

Today, it is thought that the carrier 27,000-ton Harrier carrier Cavour will retire her aging AV-8Bs for a squadron of operational Italian F-35Bs by 2024, right at 99 years after Miraglia was conceived. Except the vessel won’t be beholden to seaplanes or Harriers, a first.

Speaking of which, on 30 July, the first Italian F-35B landed on Cavour while the now-Lightning carrier was operating in the Gulf of Taranto.

On the journey to get there: 

In related news, the current operational British Lightning carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), entered the tense waters of the South China Sea last week, with F-35Bs of RAF 617 Squadron and the USMC’s VMFA-211 taking to the air during the evolution. 

Italian Stallion

In Naples over the weekend, Fincantieri launched the Italian Naval Ship Trieste ( L9890), a “multipurpose amphibious unit.”

A big girl at some 33,000-tons and officially classed as a Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) she is expected to replace 1980s-vintage 13,000-ton 1980s Italian “Harrier carrier” Giuseppe Garibaldi around 2022.

Able to carry a battalion of troops, EH101 and NH90 helicopters, as well as at least a squadron of F-35B Lightning strike aircraft, Trieste will be Italy’s largest carrier, ever, and the largest warship for the country since the ill-fated Vittorio Veneto-class battleship Roma was commissioned in 1942.

She will also be the fourth largest carrier in NATO, behind the two new British Queen Elizabeth-class flattops and the aging French De Gaulle. In terms of amphibious assault ships, she will be the only LHD under a European banner, is the largest non-U.S. ‘phib in NATO, and is nearly the size of American Wasp-class vessels. Further, they are a good bit larger than Japan’s controversial Izumo-class light carriers multi-purpose destroyers which Tokyo is currently modifying to facilitate carrying F-35Bs.

Viva l’Italia!

And the first F-35 transatlantic crossing has gone to the Italian air force (Aeronautica Militare). As reported by FlightGlobal, an Italian made, maintained and flown F-35A Lightning II (#AL-1) made the puddle jump supported by an AM KC-767 tanker (with just 7 refuelings!)

The aircraft took off today from Lajes Field on Portugal’s Azores island group at 7.30am local time before turning south over Canada to touch down at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland at about 2.24pm on 5 February – approximately 7h and more than 2,000nm later.

At the controls was Italian test pilot Maj Gianmarco, callsign “Ninja” – a former Panavia Tornado pilot who graduated from the multinational F-35A pilot school at Luke AFB in Arizona in November and has accumulated 80h of flight time on the type.