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09 March 2016

Italian Eurofighter TYPHOONS join Red Flag 16-2

This year, Nellis Air Force Base again hosts Red Flag 16-2 from .
A first detachment of Italian Eurofighter TYPHOONs (Eurofighter F2000-As from Grosseto, 4th fighter wing) is flying at Reg Flag exercise 16-2 (29 February to 11 March 2016 in Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada USA) with Detachment Commander Col. Marco Bertoli.

Italian Eurofighter F2000-A at Red Flag 16-2. (All photos: DPM)

Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air, space, and cyber forces of the US and its allies. The exercise is hosted north of Las Vegas on the Nevada Test and Training Range -- the US Air Force's (USAF) premier military training area with more than 15,000sqmi of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land. With 1,900 possible targets, realistic threat systems and an opposing enemy force that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world, Nellis AFB and the NTTR are the home of a simulated battlefield, providing combat air forces with the ability to train to fight together in a peacetime environment, and to survive and win together. The 414th Combat Training Squadron is responsible for executing Red Flag. The exercise is one out of a series of advanced training programmes administered at Nellis AFB and on the NTTR by organisations assigned to the USAF Warfare Center. More than 76 aircraft are scheduled to depart Nellis twice a day and aircraft may remain in the air for up to five hours. Flying times are scheduled to accommodate other flying missions at Nellis AFB and provide Red Flag participants with valuable training in planning and executing a wide variety of combat missions. The exercise includes US forces and aircraft, as well as Turkish F-16s.

For the Italian Air Force, it’s the first time its fighter pilots and aircraft have flown in Red Flag’s 41-year history. It also marks the longest overseas deployment for the TYPHOON detachment. At a press conference, Col. Bertoli explained that Red Flag is, "one of the best combat training environments our pilots can find; giving them great training for future challenges with our NATO partners."

Bertoli spoke during the panel discussion at Nellis before dozens of fighter jets, bombers, air-fueling tankers, air-traffic-control aircraft, and Marine helicopters launched for an afternoon session of finding and engaging would-be enemy aggressor aircraft. "Participating in this operation we face many challenges," Bertoli said. "One, of course, is to bring here eight aircraft and almost 200 people, 6,000 miles away from home.”

On 19 February, seven Italian Air Force Eurofighter F-2000s left Grosseto airbase, Italy,  for Nellis Air Force Base.  The aircraft, belonging to the 4° Stormo, based at Grosseto, and 36° Stormo (Wing) based at Gioia del Colle, with personnel taking part in the mission come from all the units flying the aircraft, including the 37° Stormo based at Trapani, will join a two-seater EUROFIGHTER. The aircraft, divided into two flights, are supported by two KC-767A tankers from the 14° Stormo and three C-130J Super HERCULES with the 46° Brigata Aerea (Air Brigade) from Pisa.
The aircraft will employ the F-2000s’s latest software package and the Helment Mounted Display System (HMDS).

As the Italian F2000-As will mainly be focussing on air-to-air combat, Col. Bertoli explained that in order to successfully train, air-to-ground will of course also be part of the exercise. Earlier detachments of Eurofighter TYPHOONs (Germany, UK) have given the Italians earlier lessons learned, as there is a continuous exchange among the Eurofighter community. As the Italian Swing Role capability has just been developed according to the Colonel, the Italian detachment is, "mainly here to support industry exports."

"Our pilots will be ready to face challenges of the future," the detachment commander concluded. "We have brought young pilots to this, in order to transfer the Red Flag experience to the Italian Air Force."