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September 29, 2023 2:38 am

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Everything You Need To Know About The 61st Wing: The Italian Air Force’s Jet Pilot School

61st Wing

61st Wing
An Italian Air Pressure T-346A takes off for a coaching mission from Lecce-Galatina Air Base. (All pictures: Stefano D’Urso/The Aviationist)

First a part of our in-depth report on the 61° Stormo.

Lecce-Galatina Air Base, in southeastern Italy, is the house of the essential coaching of all Italian army pilots and the superior coaching of the longer term fighter pilots. The flight college of the 61° Stormo (Wing) primarily based there, can boast a 77-year long tradition of training younger aviators and make them absolutely fledged army pilots.

Throughout these 77 years, the varsity has all the time appeared on the future, present process many modifications to all the time be updated with the technological evolution. We just lately had an opportunity to go to the 61st Wing to see right now’s flight college and discuss concerning the transformation that’s going down with the relocation of the T-346 and the arrival of the brand new T-345.

Some transient historical past information

Whereas the air base was established in 1931, solely in 1945 it was determined to remodel it in a flight college. A 12 months later, on September 1st, 1946, the Scuola di Volo delle Puglie (actually “Flight Faculty of Apulia”, from the area the place the air base is situated) was born. The college was primarily dedicated to preliminary flight coaching, whereas superior and pre-operational coaching have been supplied in different places. Among the many plane assigned to the varsity have been the T-6 Texan, the Fiat G-59 and the P-51 Mustang.

In 1962 the varsity obtained the AerMacchi MB-326, changing into Scuola Volo Basico Iniziale Aviogetti (Preliminary Primary Jet Flight Faculty). The brand new coach was a part of the “jet ab-initio” components, which allowed pilots to be skilled for the reason that starting on jet plane. Given the wonderful outcomes and the effectivity of this new sort of coaching, this answer remains to be utilized till right now.

Two MB-339A carry out a formation takeoff.

After 20 years and over 400,000 hours of flight, the MB-326 was changed by the MB-339, which remains to be in service right now (though in an upgraded type). The supply of the brand new plane was adopted shortly by one other change of title, with the brand new one being 61^ Brigata Aerea (Air Brigade), earlier than getting the ultimate designation 61° Stormo in 1995. Since 2015, with the introduction of the T-346 and the adoption of a brand new coaching system, the Wing has centered within the coaching of future fighter pilots that might be assigned to 4th and fifth era fighter plane.

Now, after 40 years of honorable service, the MB-339 is making ready for a much-deserved retirement. Actually, in 2020, the first two T-345 jet trainers were delivered to the Italian Air Force: the sort is about to finish the developmental and operational coaching, with the ultimate introduction in service deliberate this 12 months.

The coaching of the Italian Air Pressure pilots

For some years now the Italian Air Pressure has been utilizing a brand new coaching mannequin divided into 4 phases. The scholars’ first introduction to flight occurs whereas they’re on the Air Pressure Academy, throughout Part I on the 70° Stormo at Latina Air Base, close to Rome, the place they fly on the SF-260 piston-prop coach and get their pilot license.

The Part II, which is widespread for all future army pilots after the Academy, is flown in Galatina, the place the scholars be part of the 61° Stormo and fly the MB-339A for the Main Pilot Coaching. In different to Galatina, college students is perhaps despatched to worldwide colleges overseas, such because the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Coaching at Sheppard AFB, Texas, the Undergraduate Pilot Coaching at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, and Columbus AFB, Mississippi, or Kalamata Air Base in Greece, the place they fly the T-6 Texan II turboprop coach.

The coaching overseas is totally equal to the Part II coaching in Italy, with the one distinction being the plane employed, which requires few months of jet familiarization earlier than the pilots transfer to Part III once they return in Italy. Throughout this part, pilots are repeatedly evaluated for the selection of their future project plane.

A MB-339CD taxies on the busy flight line on its solution to the runway.

Part III is now totally different primarily based on what sort of plane might be assigned to the pilots. Actually, pilots that can fly help plane, such as the C-130 or the KC-767, proceed their coaching at Pratica di Mare Air Base’s CAE Multicrew, whereas pilots assigned to helicopters transfer to the 72° Stormo at Frosinone airfield. Pilots assigned to tactical jets and Remotely Piloted Plane keep in Galatina, the place they proceed with the Specialised Pilot Coaching on the MB-339CD. Pilots who full Part III, upon commencement, acquire the Army Pilot License.

Pilots assigned to fighter plane proceed their coaching in Galatina with the Part IV or Lead In to Fighter coaching, flying the T-346.

The T-346 prompted a revolution within the coaching, because it not solely introduced an plane, however a whole built-in system related to simulators and a number of coaching aids. The efficiency of the plane, that are similar to 4th and fifth gen plane, make the transition from the coach to the Operational Conversion Unit extraordinarily easy, permitting additionally to offload training activities from the OCU to the Part IV.

Summarizing, college students which have by no means flown jets arrive on the 61st Wing and, after 2 years of coaching, they’re prepared to maneuver on to excessive efficiency fighter jets in operational situations. As a way to full the coaching syllabus for the fighter position and be assigned to the Twister, Eurofighter or F-35, the coed wants a complete of 30 months of coaching, which embrace about 255 flight missions, for a complete of 318 flight hours, and 166 simulator periods, for a complete of about 178 hours. It’s a posh, demanding however completely environment friendly coaching and it represents a hit mannequin internationally.

Worldwide college

Just a little-known reality is that the flight college at Lecce-Galatina Air Base has been worldwide since its starting. Actually, the varsity already had overseas college students in 1950, simply our years after its creation. Since then, greater than 400 overseas pilots graduated on the Italian flight college. This worldwide custom obtained a brand new important impulse with the introduction of the T-346, which prompted a revolution of the Part IV coaching and attracted plenty of worldwide consideration.

The Italian Air Pressure additionally created a steady cultural alternate with the ENJJPT at Sheppard AFB and the opposite flight colleges overseas, ensuring that the coaching system is repeatedly up to date whereas being aware of how associate nations work for the utmost interoperability. That is particularly essential so as to ensure that pilots, no matter college they graduate from, have all the identical capabilities and information.

Two T-346As wait for his or her taxi clearance.

There are at the moment a complete of 9 nations (together with Italy) with instructors and/or college students at Galatina Air Base: Argentina, Austria, Germany, Greece, Kuwait, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and the US, with Canada quickly changing into the tenth nation to hitch the coaching program. Many different nations are additionally within the college and infrequently go to the bottom to get a greater information of the coaching system.

All of the worldwide coaching agreements have totally different options, with some countries sending students to Galatina for your entire coaching program and others just for the LIFT coaching, some nations sending solely instructors and a few others sending each college students and instructors. A degree of power of the varsity is the aptitude to adapt and tailor the coaching primarily based on the particular wants of the associate air forces, due to a modular syllabus.

The 61° Stormo

A subordinate unit of the ItAF’s Coaching Command, the 61st Wing, since 2015, is articulated on three squadrons:

  • 212° Gruppo (Squadron), flying the T-346A, specialised within the Part IV coaching propaedeutic to the project to tactical jets. The unit can also be in control of the instructors’ coaching.
  • 213° Gruppo, flying the MB-339CD (FT-339C), accountable of the Part 3 coaching, which ends up in the commencement of army pilots to be assigned the fighter and RPA roles.
  • 214° Gruppo, flying the MB-339A (T-339A), in control of the nationwide Part 2 coaching.

The 61° Stormo additionally contains the Centro Addestramento Equipaggi (Aircrew Coaching Heart), the 961st Gruppo Efficienza Aeromobili (Plane Effectivity Unit), logistics unit, pressure safety, and all of the totally different specializations wanted by a Wing to function usually.

Notably essential is the exercise of the GEA, which is in control of the upkeep wanted to provide the squadrons with the required flight hours. That is achieved by way of the administration of the effectivity of the plane fleet of the 61st Wing, the first and 2nd degree odd upkeep, the coaching of the personnel, the standard management of the procedures and gear, the upkeep and administration of the emergency and survival gear. Due to the efforts of the upkeep personnel, greater than 40 missions are flown day-after-day, with greater than 10,000 annual flight hours.

A disassembled MB-339 present process an inspection within the GEA hangar.

For example, the actions of the GEA for the administration of the MB-339 fleet embrace the HPFI (Hourly Submit Flight Inspections) each 150 flight hours on each plane and engine, the periodic inspections each 250 flight hours till the two,000 hours deadline after which the plane is distributed to Leonardo for the IRAN (Inspection and Restore As Crucial). The GEA can also be in control of the HPFI each 100 hours for the T-346, in addition to all the opposite corrective and programmed upkeep actions. This permits to grant the biggest doable variety of environment friendly plane that may be assigned to coaching missions day-after-day.

One other unit which relies in Galatina is the ten° Reparto Manutenzione Velivoli (Plane Upkeep Centre), which is complementary to the GEA for the higher-level upkeep operations. The RMV, just like the GEA, is in control of a fleet of greater than 40 MB-339 plane, together with those operated by the Frecce Tricolori, in addition to the T-345 and the T-346. Within the particular, the RMV operates the third and 4th degree upkeep, that are among the many most advanced as they require the entire disassembly of the plane.

The plane

The 61st Wing makes use of extremely superior flight coaching programs in comparison with different colleges. These applied sciences, by the built-in use of plane and simulators, permit to cut back the flight hours required to succeed in coaching objectives and decrease the prices, whereas exponentially enhancing the standard of the coaching which is now tailor-made to pilots that can fly on 4th and fifth gen plane.

As we frequently reported, the introduction into service of the T-346 revolutionized the coaching. The M-346 isn’t just an plane, however an built-in system related to simulators and a number of coaching aids. It’s the best system to coach future fighter pilots which aren’t solely required to be good pilots, however additionally they must handle your entire weapon system with all its sensors and weapons in situations that are getting extra advanced, much less permissive and with loads of threats. We’ll go additional within the particulars about using the T-346 by the 61st Wing within the second a part of this report which might be quickly on-line.

An plane that has been for a very long time a synonym of the 61° Stormo is the MB-339. Within the final 40 years, the MB-339 “Macchino” graduated 2,500 pilots and flew for 400,000 hours. Even when it’s closing to the tip of its service life, the MB-339 continues to show itself as an distinctive, secure, dependable machine, and remains to be used within the “analog” A variant for the Part 2 and within the “digital” CD variant for the Part 3.

A MB-339CD takes off from Lecce-Galatina Air Base in a windy day.

The MB-339 was born as a substitute for the MB-326 and designed with nearly all Italian know-how,  except for the Rolls-Royce Turbo Viper 632 engine. The MB-339 flew for the primary time in 1976 and was launched in service in 1981, instantly demonstrating nice capabilities each as superior coach and as floor assault plane. In comparison with the MB-326, the MB-339 has extra energy, higher maneuverability and management’s precision. The ahead half can also be utterly redesigned to have totally different heights for the pilot and teacher, permitting a greater visibility from the rear seat.

The MB-339 turned much more common due to its adoption by the Frecce Tricolori Nationwide Aerobatic Staff in 1982. The plane additionally had good business success outdoors of Italy, and has been in service in Argentina, Peru, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, Eritrea and Ghana. Some MB-339s from New Zealand now discovered a second life with Draken Worldwide, which makes use of them to help coaching of allied air forces.

The MB-339 is now about to get replaced by the new T-345 High Efficiency Trainer. The T-345 is the brand new fundamental jet coach of the Italian Air Pressure and can regularly exchange your entire MB-339 fleet, starting from the A variant and later persevering with with the CD variant. Actually, due to its traits, the plane can be utilized for your entire coaching syllabus, from the Main Pilot Coaching to the Specialised Pilot Trainig.

The T-345 will deliver a number of benefits. Equally to the M346, the brand new plane might be a part of an built-in netcentric system, which can permit to shrink the time wanted for the coaching whereas enhancing its high quality and effectivity. The T-345 coach affords efficiency typical of a jet plane, reminiscent of the utmost altitude and velocity, with operational prices akin to those of a turboprop plane.

The T-345 is supplied with easy and important onboard programs, which require minimal upkeep and permit the utmost security and reliability. The Williams FJ44-4M-34 turbofan engine is supplied with a contemporary digital management system and gives a very good thrust with low gas consumption. The acquisition prices are akin to those of turboprop trainers, permitting a protracted service lifetime of 15,000 flight hours.

The swept excessive wing gives a higher maneuverability and a better restoration from harmful attitudes, whereas its profile additionally creates a better raise. The plane is supplied with the most recent applied sciences, reminiscent of touchscreen multi-functional shows, exposing the scholars to those applied sciences, much like those of front-line plane, early within the coaching, to allow them to regularly enhance their competencies with such superior avionics earlier than reaching the OCUs.

A Part III scholar throughout a coaching occasion within the MB-339CD simulator.

The longer term

The introduction of the T-345, which can regularly exchange the MB-339 within the Part II and III, will consolidate much more the brand new coaching mannequin of the Italian Air Pressure and can permit a extra fluid transition from fundamental coaching to superior coaching. Actually, as we talked about, the T-345 will be seen as an built-in coaching system much like the one of many T-346, as they’re each primarily based on the identical logic however with the most recent technological advances for each avionics and floor coaching aids.

Permitting college students to instantly get in contact with probably the most fashionable applied sciences and avoiding the transition to a different plane, even when extremely related, for the Part III coaching, will enhance the effectivity and cut back much more the interval required for the coaching. The T-345, having accomplished developmental and operational take a look at and analysis, will resume deliveries to the 61st Wing later this 12 months.

In the mean time, the T-346 fleet is now relocating to the brand new amenities constructed at Decimomannu Air Base, the place the 212° Gruppo will proceed to function along with the joint ItAF-Leonardo International Flight Training School. The amenities freed up by the T-346 at Lecce-Galatina Air Base might be repurposed for the T-345, including to the brand new ones particularly constructed for the brand new plane.

The second a part of this report will concentrate on the T-346, LIFT and IFTS. Keep tuned!

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist primarily based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally learning to realize a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT strategies utilized to the world of army operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.

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