On the other hand, as stated in the ACO Manual 080-071, RESCORT main objective is to protect the Recovery Vehicles, and to neutralise any threat both en-route and on the Objective Area. It is worth noting the specific training needed for this role includes: reconnaissance and “sweep” of the insertion route, being able to cope with en-route threats; join the RVs in route changes; locate and identify the isolated personnel; serve as a communications relay; and operate precisely in the objective area (ISOP position). The main challenge for the jets will be to get and keep visual with the slow movers using reference (Spider) points.
The end of the A-10 Thunderbolt II life-cycle, known for their RESCORT and Rescue Mission Commander (RMC) role as “Sandy”, will leave a gap as the most suitable fixed wing platform for this duties. This gap does not seem to be easily filled-in by any other current aircraft. The USA has a broader range of capabilities than the other nations. They are also seeking an optimal aircraft to replace their A-10s in the near future. They have made some endeavours with other platforms, for example with the F-16, but it looks like they haven’t found yet the formula to grant the role of RESCORT based on other suitable FW aircraft. Most likely, other FW aircraft different from A-10 will have to operate from (at least) medium altitude. Higher altitude and speed may cause positive targets identification to be more difficult, requiring the use of Recce/Targeting pods with weather playing a more severe influence too.
Certainly, RESCORT mission is still a pending challenge for NATO, and Rotary Wing (RW) RESCORT might be foreseen as the most likely option. Indeed, helicopters provide certain advantages. For example, they can keep better visual contact with the RW Recovery Vehicles since they are able to maintain similar speeds. Besides, they normally better fit for passive defence (armouring) and they react quicker to ground targets than fixed wing. On the other hand, fixed-wing aircraft inherent characteristics provide other important advantages. For instance, in certain scenarios, FW offers the capability of show-of-force and/or neutralizing the threats well-ahead of the Recovery Vehicles while operating detached. This prevents the detection of the RV and avoids modifying their planned route. Likewise, FW are normally better equipped with air-to-air weapons. It allows eliminating leakers (enemy fighters able to sneak through RESCAP).
On the other hand, fighters, as some of the RV, may perform air-to-air refuelling while attack helicopters usually lack this capability. This obviously extends the range and duration of missions. Additionally, fighters offer very varied array of weapons compared to that of attack helicopters. This offers a better combination with the RV capabilities to cope more effectively with the ground threats. Consequently, this wide range of capabilities provides the commander with different courses of action for the execution of the mission.
Italy has lately shown great interest in developing their own Personnel Recovery capabilities. For example, their AMX units used to have RESCORT duties as a secondary role. As a consequence, they have taken part in the EPRC Air-Centric Personnel Recovery Operators Course (APROC), formerly European Air Group (EAG) Combined-Joint Personnel Recovery Standardization Course (CJPRSC). With AMX approaching phase-out, Italy has explored the possibility to employ EF-2000 Typhoon to perform RESCORT tasks. Obviously, ITAF EF-2000 capabilities significantly differ from those of the USAF A-10, and procedures have to be modified accordingly. To this purpose, the EPRC has been collaborating with ITAF, providing a tailored theoretical module. In any case, this is just the first step of a more comprehensive study that should include the development of procedures, simulators practices and, eventually, actual sorties for that only purpose. At a first glance, it seems like that, the number EF-2000 carrying the same air-to-ground weaponry of a 4-ships of A-10s, may significantly differ, as well as their operating altitude.