In recent days, the Italian Air Force, as part of the FIT (Force Integration Training) and Tende Scaglia 2020 exercises, has tested some of the precious capabilities that allow it to extend the operational reach of the HH-101 helicopters, notably by dropping aviation fuel containers (in this case, using non-flammable liquids for exercise purposes).
This is a further development of the FARP (Forward Arming and Refueling Point) concept, a peculiar capability in the Defense sector which - in addition in-flight refueling - allows a high degree of effectiveness in the conduct of Special Operations, Personnel Recovery, Search and Rescue (SAR) and to aid the civilian population by ensuring the availability of fuel even in isolated areas and in logistically complex contexts.
The activity, coordinated by the SOATG (Special Operation Air Task Group) of the 1st Special Operations Air Brigade, deployed on Grazzanise air base (CE), took place at the Ampugnano airport (Siena) and involved aircraft assets and personnel from different Departments of the Armed Forces.
The FARP system was air-launched by a C-27J aircraft of the 46th Air Brigade of Pisa with CDS (Cargo Delivery System) mode, followed by the parachuting of the FARP operators from a C-130J aircraft. Once on the ground, the operators were able to set up the system and quickly refuel an HH-101 helicopter within minutes.
The FARP capability, attested to the 3rd Wing of Villafranca (VR), dependent on the Support Service of the Logistic Command, essentially allows ground refueling of aerial assets even in isolated areas and in semi-permissive contexts, where it is impossible for vehicles to reach the refueling point, as for example occurred during the rescue operations following the earthquake that hit Central Italy.
There are, among other things, different types of refueling possible: with engines off or on (cold / hot refueling), day or night using NVG systems (Night Vision Goggles), with pressure or gravity drop systems, of a single aircraft or simultaneously of multiple assets.
Another mode for ground refueling is the ALARP (Air Landed Aircraft Refueling Point), which allows fuel to be taken directly from the tanks of the C-130J aircraft, via SPRP (Single-Point Refuel Panel) or from the RGR (Rapid Ground Refuel). Among other things, this system was also recently tested in the "Proof of Concept Expeditionary" exercise, which took place on the island of Pantelleria, as a demonstration of the refueling capacity of the F-35B aircraft STOVL (Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing) from austere bases.
It should be emphasized that the Air Force is the only one in Italy, and among the very few air forces in the world, to have the in-flight refueling capability by KC-130J tanker aircraft of the 46th Air Brigade in favor of the HH-101A Cesar helicopters of the 15th Stormo, recently also delivered to the 9th Stormo.
This in-flight refueling capability, like the FARP system, which can be used in particular tactical conditions, ensures that the Armed Force have additional operational capabilities for the projection of forces, and which are also available for other components of national Defense.