Typhoon Flag 2023
Report and photos by Gabriele Rivera
October 22, 2023
It’s common, while reading the slate of participants of an exercise, to list different models of aircraft among those taking part; in this case the list is very short, being limited to a unique airplane, the Eurofighter F-2000, better known as Typhoon.
The Typhoon Flag is a domestic exercise staged by Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), whose main goal is to increase the adoption of standard procedures to operate this important asset of the air force. This is the second edition of the exercise, hosted by 4th Stormo (Wing) in Grosseto (Tuscany), while the first one, held in 2022 in Gioia del Colle (Puglia), has been arranged by 36th Stormo.
The exercise involves the participation of pilots, crews and planes of the four Wings which operate the Typhoon in the ItAF; besides the 4th and the 36th Stormi, also the 37th Stormo (based in Trapani, Sicilia) and the 51th Stormo (Istrana, Veneto). Since 2009 the Italian Typhoons have started to been redeployed abroad; in Estonia, Lithuania and Iceland to provide air policing for those states, then in 2019 four F-2000s have been based in Kuwait to provide assets for the Inherent Resolve operation, while the Ukrainian crisis has requested, on rotation, a redeployment in Costanza, Romania, to increase the air defense of the eastern flank of NATO airspace.
For these missions, which are currently running, the ItAF tasks personnel and aircraft from all the four cited Wings; so it’s correct to think of them as a community of Typhoon’s pilots and specialists; that’s the reason generating the need for an exercise strictly dedicated to this community.
Standardisation of procedures, combat tactics, maintenance checklists and so on is obviously a mantra for every air force and hundreds of other complex realities, but a community like the Typhoon’s one demands a further effort in reaching ever-increasing levels of those standards. And so it’s easy to understand the image that Colonel Filippo Monti, 4th Wing Commander, has used while welcoming us at the beginning of a perfectly managed media day: “The Typhoon Flag is the perfect opportunity for all of us in this community to wash our dirty laundry in-house. We understand where we fail, where we can improve, which tactics adopt, consolidate standardisation, and align maintenance procedures among the squadrons”.
The exercise, providing continuous occasions of shared work in the briefing room, before and after the flight, and under the aircraft, allow everyone involved to contribute to the refinement of a good habit in order to have it becoming a standard way to cope with a situation. The following step, of course, is having it adopted by each member of the community.
Lieutenant Colonel G. (name witheld for security reasons), 4th Wing XO and consequently exercise director, has further elaborated on the “dirty laundry” paradigm introduced by the Commander, underlining the potential of sharing experiences with colleagues assigned to other Squadrons: “We fly together, the wing or the squadron patches don’t matter. Today I have a callsign, tomorrow another one. Our task is to fly the Typhoon the best we can, exploiting the aerodynamic performance of the aircraft, but even further the avionics!”.
Lt. Col. G. has then deepened the opportunity, during an exercise like this one, to carry out operational assessments of new software features and, occasionally, new weapons. For instance, some missions of this exercise are dedicated to explore, in a simulated environment, new tactics tailored on the MBDA Meteor, the latest in the BVRAAM arena (Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile).
As already mentioned, the effort to increase the standardisation among the Wings is not only brought forward by the pilots, but likewise by the crew responsible for the aircraft maintenance; specialists from different Squadrons will perform the same checklist on a plane, so assuring the same expected result. If someone proposes a new way to fix a problem, after testing whether it is an improvement compared to the pre-existing procedure, the new method is incorporated in the shared knowledge base of the entire Typhoon maintainance community.
Another advantage of an exercise like the Typhoon Flag is the training that a single pilot can experience during the transition from flight leader to formation leader, or more complex tasks; seizing the opportunity to fly with pilots and, especially, instructors from other Squadrons, is surely an added value in the professional growth of the evaluated pilot, not to mention the chance to fly with a number of assets not easily available on ordinary days.
As proof of the points remarked by Col. Monti and Lt. Col. G., the morning wave and the afternoon one have been concluded by a four-ship diamond formation, one aircraft per Wing, and the leader was not always a pilot of the host Wing!
The author wants to express an heartfelt thanks to Col. Monti, Lt. Col. G., Lt. De Marchi (4th Wing PAO) and all the women and men involved in the management of a truly appreciated media day!