CONSTANTA, Romania – On July 1, 2022, the Italian Air Force Eurofighters completed their deployment to Romania in support of NATO's enhanced Air Policing (eAP) in the south; they are scheduled to continue their Allied mission in the North in Poland beginning in August 2022.
When we handed over enhanced Air Policing to the Royal Air Force Typhoons in April, our Eurofighters' mission changed to executing NATO's enhanced Vigilance Activity
"Italy's operation to strengthen Air Policing on NATO's eastern flank in Romanian airspace began in December 2021 with the establishment of the Task Force Air - Romania (TFA-R) "Black Storm" at Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base in Constanta," said, TFA-R Commander Colonel Roberto Losengo. "It ended today after seven months of securing the skies in the region with our Romanian colleagues," he added.
After reaching Full Operational Capability in early December, eAP South operations began with four Eurofighter EF-2000A aircraft; command and control of the Italian fighter jets was transferred to NATO's Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany, acting via its southern Combined Air Operations Centre at Torrejón, Spain.
An Italian Eurofighter approaching the runway at Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base in Constanta, where Italy conducted Air Policing and, subsequently, Air Patrols with the Romanian Air Force. Photo courtesy Italian Air Force.
View from an Italian Air Force Eurofighter cockpit with two Romanian Air Force F-16s breaking during aerial manoevures in Romanian airspace. Photo courtesy Italian Air Force.
In April 2022, two German Eurofighters joined the Italian detachment to conduct combined Air Policing flights in support of NATO deterrence and defence on the eastern flank. Photo courtesy Italian Air Force.
In response to Russia's actions in Ukraine, NATO decided – at the end of February 2022 – to implement additional reassurance measures fostering a persistent and strengthened posture of deterrence and defence at the Alliance's eastern borders. According to this decision, Italy immediately doubled the air assets employed by TFA-R.
"When the detachment handed over the eAP mission in Romania to the Royal Air Force Typhoons in April, the Italian Eurofighters' mission changed to the so-called enhanced Vigilance Activity (eVA)," said Colonel Losengo. "This set of measures was designed to send a message of cohesion and solidarity among Allies by increasing readiness and deterrence and to demonstrate NATO's firm commitment to the defence of all Allies," he added. The TFA was composed of about 160 military personnel mostly from the Italian Air Force. The Eurofighters and crews that participated in the operations in Romania came from all Italian Air Force Wings employing this fighter jet.
"In these seven months, our team and the Italian Eurofighters achieved about 1,400 flight hours, generating over seven hundred sorties, more than half of them flown as eVA Combat Air Patrol missions, and about 50 alert scrambles," summarised Colonel Losengo the achievements in support of the Alliance.
In parallel to the main mission, a high degree of interoperability with Alliance air assets deployed in the area has been achieved. In addition to Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duty jointly executed with German Eurofighters in April, the TFA held Personnel Recovery and Slow Mover Interceptor exercises with Romanian and U.S. air forces and carried out more joint activities with the French and Romanian Navy, and, finally, flew Close Air Support missions for Belgian, French, Romanian and U.S. Army contingents.
"Over the past months we conducted intense operations in support of the Alliance," said Colonel Losengo. "It would have been impossible to safely achieve the Task Force goals without the professionalism and commitment of the team. I commend you for your great performance," he added. "And I also want to express my heartfelt appreciation for the support the Host Nation offered us; in particular the leadership and personnel of the Romanian Air Force 57th Air Base where TFA-R has been stationed since its establishment," he concluded.
The Italian Typhoons will continue executing NATO's eAP operations in Poland at the beginning of August as a new TFA will be established up north.