With a solemn ceremony of the flag of NATO, held at Keflavik airport in Iceland, the "Northern Lightning" mission, which saw men and women of the Task Force Air (TFA), officially ended after about a month 32nd Wing of the Italian Air Force to ensure the defense of Icelandic airspace, as part of NATO's Air Policing activities.
To attend the solemn ceremony, which saw Italy be the first country of the Alliance to use a F-35 asset in a NATO operation, the commander of the Combat Forces Command of the Air Force, the Air division general Francesco Outfit , which thanked the Italian staff for their excellent work, underlining Italy's great commitment to safeguarding the security of the Alliance and underlining the importance of having started the integration of fifth generation aircraft within the Alliance .
Starting from the first of October, following the achievement of the Full Operational Capability, that is the full operational capacity for the mission, by the NATO evaluator team, for three weeks the Italian detachment has ensured the integrity of the Alliance's airspace, strengthening the surveillance activity of the skies of Iceland that it does not possess capacity and structures for autonomous air defense.
Six fighter aircraft F35-A and about 130 the men and women of the Air Force, together with two belonging to the Carabinieri, deployed at the air base of the Icelandic Coast Guard of Keflavik, to guarantee the operation of Air Policing for the Defense of NATO Airspace over the skies of Iceland and to carry out, at the same time, joint training activity with the Icelandic Coast Guard and with the Danish Navy with which "slow mouver interception" missions were carried out.
The participation of the F-35 of Amendola's 32 ° Stormo in this operation was in fact an opportunity that allowed us to test not only the operational capabilities of the aircraft, but also the projection logistics, sustainability and use in a context operational, climatic and environmental particular and "far" from the home base.
20 the training scramble, the so-called Tango Scramble and about 150 the hours flown with a degree of efficiency close to 100% confirming, in addition to the great reliability of the F-35, also of the high level of professionalism achieved by the whole maintenance team and the effectiveness of the logistics component, which even in adverse weather conditions and thousands of kilometers from the homeland, have always been able to operate at its best.
"I am proud to have had the privilege of leading this fantastic team - Colonel Spreafico declared to all TFA staff - each of you has given the maximum so that everything went well and that is why I thank you very much. Even though most of us come from different fields of work, we worked as one team. The comparison and the exchange of ideas between the different realities has allowed the whole Task Force Air to grow further, thus bringing home a significantly enriched wealth of experience. "
The operation was attended by pilots, technical officers, specialists and logistic and operating personnel coming mainly from the 32 ° Stormo of Amendola, as well as a team of controllers of the Air Defense of the Command Operations of Poggio which ensured the tactical management of the operation guaranteeing the surveillance, reporting and control service in the Area of Responsibility (AOR - Area of Responsibility) and connections with the CAOC (Combined Air Operation Center) of Udem.
The difficulties faced are not negligible, mainly due to the fact of having to operate at such a great distance from the motherland and, above all, to the prohibitive climatic conditions with strong winds, precipitations and low temperatures.
Nonetheless, the full operation of Italian fighter jets was ensured by an efficiency rate close to 100%, demonstrating the great reliability of the aircraft and the goodness of the maintenance logistic structure.
The contribution made by the ReSTOGE which participated in the operation with a dedicated cell to which it was assigned the task of providing operational support to the aircraft used in carrying out flight missions and for the first time by a Command team was also of great importance. Joint Operations for Cybernetic Operations (CIOC)
To guarantee the necessary safety framework around the aircraft, a team composed of personnel of the 32 ° Stormo Force Protection Group and a rate of "Fucilieri dell'Aria" of the 16 ° Stormo, also enabled to contrast any threats arising from the use of drones, the so-called Counter Unmanned Aerial System (C-UAS).
The phases of re-deployment, as happened for those of initial redevelopment, were guaranteed by the personnel and the C-130J airplanes of the 46 ^ Pisa Air Brigade and by the KC767 of the 14 ° Stormo of Pratica di Mare, assisted by a team of the Air Mobility Unit (AMOU), ensured the correct management of material and passenger loads on board the aircraft. As for the outward journey, even on return the functions of oceanic SAR during the fighter flight were guaranteed by a P-72 aircraft from the 41 ° Stormo of Sigonella.
All the technical and operational infrastructures connected to telecommunications have been prepared and managed by the staff of the 4ª Brigade Telecommunications and Systems for Air Defense and Flight Assistance, of the ReSIA (Automated Computer Systems Department) and of the ReGISCC (Systems Management and Innovation Department command and control).
As for the initial stages of redeployment, the contribution made by the team in charge of operations coordination of the Air Squad Command, which dealt with all the logistical and operational arrangements for the establishment of the Air Task Force, was also completed. ensuring full efficiency in very short times.
The Italian Air Force participates continuously in the Interim Air Policing of Albania, starting from 2009, of Slovenia, from the 2004, alternating in this service respectively with Greece and Hungary, from Montenegro by 2018 and has already been committed in Iceland four times starting from the 2013.
The Air Policing (AP) is a capacity that NATO has endowed since the mid-fifties and consists in the integration in a single NATO air and missile defense system of the respective and similar national systems made available by the NATO member countries. The activity of Air Policing is conducted since the time of peace and consists in the continuous surveillance and identification of all the violations of the integrity of the NATO airspace to which it is faced by taking the appropriate actions useful to counter them, such as the rapid take-off of interceptor fighter aircraft, the so-called scramble.
The AP is carried out within the area of responsibility of the Allied Command Operation of NATO (Allied Command Operation - ACO) based in Brussels and is coordinated by the Headquarters of the Allied Air Command (Allied Air Command) of Ramstein (GER ).