Italian Air Force

Italian Air Force
Aeronautica Militare

Coat of Arms of the Italian Air Force
Founded 28 March 1923 as Regia Aeronautica
Country  Italy
Size 43,000 personnel
545 aircraft
Part of Italian Armed Forces
Motto(s) Latin: Virtute Siderum Tenus
(English: With valor to the stars)
March Marcia di Ordinanza dell'Aeronautica Militare (Ordinance March of the Air Force) by Alberto Di Miniello
Anniversaries 28 March (Air Force Day)
Decorations 1 Cavalier Cross of the Military Order of Savoy
3 Cavalier Crosses of the Military Order of Italy
2 Gold Medals of Military Valor
1 Gold Medal of Aviation Valor
5 Silver Medals of Military Valor
2 Silver Medals of Civil Valor
1 War Cross of Military Valor
1 Silver Medal of Merit of the Italian Red Cross
1 Gold Medal of Benemerited Public Honor
1 Gold Medal of Merit for Public Health
Chief of Staff of Military Aviation Lieutenant General Enzo Vecciarelli

The Italian Air Force (Italian: Aeronautica Militare; AM) is the aerial defence force of the Italian Republic. The Air Force was founded as an independent service arm on March 28, 1923, by King Victor Emmanuel III as the Regia Aeronautica (which equates to "Royal Air Force"). After World War II, when Italy was made a republic by referendum, the Regia Aeronautica was given its current name. Since its formation the service has held a prominent role in modern Italian military history. The aerobatic display team is the Frecce Tricolori.


Early history and World War I

Among the earlier adopters of military aviation, Italy's air arm dates back to 1884, when the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) was authorised to acquire its own air component. The Air Service (Corpo Aeronautico Militare) operated balloons based near Rome.

Palazzo dell'Aeronautica, headquarters of the Italian Air Force.

In 1911, reconnaissance and bombing sorties during the Italo-Turkish War by the Servizio Aeronautico represented the first ever use of heavier than air aircraft in armed conflict.

The Regia Aeronautica and World War II

On 28 March 1923, the Italian air force was founded as an independent service by King Vittorio Emanuele III of the Kingdom of Italy (Regno d'Italia). This air force was known as the Regia Aeronautica (Royal Air Force). During the 1930s, the fledgeling Regia Aeronautica was involved in its first military operations, first in Ethiopia in 1935, and later in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939. After a period of neutrality, Italy entered World War II on 10 June 1940 alongside Germany. The Regia Aeronautica could deploy more than 3,000 aircraft, although less than 60% were serviceable. The Regia Aeronautica fought from the icy steppes of Russia to the sand of the North African desert losing men and machines.

After the armistice of 8 September 1943, Italy was divided into two sides, and the same fate befell the Regia Aeronautica. The Air Force was split into the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force in the south aligned with the Allies, and the pro-Axis Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana in the north until the end of the war. The end of the hostilities, on 8 May 1945, opened the gates to the rebirth of military aviation in Italy.

The birth of the Aeronautica Militare and the Cold War

Italian North American P-51D Mustang exhibited at the museum of Vigna di Valle

A popular vote by the people resulted in the end of the Kingdom of Italy and the establishment of the Italian Republic on 18 June 1946. Hence the Regia Aeronautica lost its "Royal" designation, and it became the Aeronautica Militare, a name that it has continued to hold ever since.

The Peace Treaty of Paris of 1947 placed severe restrictions on all of the Italian armed forces, but then the establishment of NATO in 1949 with Italy as a founding member brought about the necessity for the modernization of all of the Italian armed forces, including the Italian Air Force. American military aid sent by the Mutual Defense Assistance Program brought about the introduction of American-made P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang propeller-driven fighter planes. Then in 1952, the Italian Air Force was granted jet fighters for the first time, American F-84G Thunderjets and F-86D Sabre jets. Next F-84F jet fighters and C-119 Flying Boxcar transport planes were sent from the United States to the Italian Air Force. The reborn Italian aviation industry also began to develop and produce a few ingenious aircraft designs of its own, such as the Fiat G91, the Aermacchi MB-326, the Piaggio Aero P.166, and the line of Agusta-Bell helicopters.

The first supersonic fighters to serve in the Italian Air Force were American-designed F-104 Starfighters that were produced by a group of several European aircraft companies that included Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm, Dornier, Fiat, Fokker, and SABCA. During the 1970s, the Air Force acquired the Italian Aeritalia G222 and the modern American C-130 Hercules tactical transport planes, capable of carrying cargo or paratroopers. It also received the new Lockheed-Aeritalia F-104S Starfighter fighters for ground attack and air-defense purposes.

Italian Air Force Hercules C-130J-30 departs the 2014 Royal International Air Tattoo, England

A push to expand the Italian aircraft industry led Italy into the trilateral project that developed the Panavia Tornado fighter-bomber and air-defense fighters along with West Germany and the United Kingdom. This was a huge development and production project. Tornado fighters are still in service with all three countries, plus a few more, as of 2012. Also, Italian companies worked together with the Embraer Company of Brazil in the smaller project of developing and producing the AMX International AMX aircraft.

From the end of the Cold War to 2013

In 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Italy joined the coalition forces, and for the first time in 45 years Italian pilots and aircraft were assigned to combat operations. With the need to replace the obsolescent F-104 Starfighters, Italy joined with Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom in the development of the Eurofighter Typhoon. With the Eurofighter Typhoon still some years from introduction to service, in 1994, 24 Air Defence Versions of the Panavia Tornado were leased from the United Kingdom for a period of 10 years. The ADV Tornados served as fighter-interceptors to supplement and then to replace the old F-104 Starfighters. The last of the Italian F-104s was removed from service in 2004.

Armed conflicts in Somalia and Mozambique, and on the nearby Balkan Peninsula, led to the Italian Air Force becoming a participant in multinational air forces, such as the NATO force over the former Yugoslavia. This latter one occurred just a few minutes flying time east of the Italian peninsula, and the commanders-in-chief of the Italian Air Force soon saw the need to improve the Italian air defenses.

The Eurofighter Typhoons were originally expected to enter service beginning in the year 2000, but this did not happen on time. Hence the Italian Air Force needed to search for a supplement, and then a replacement for the Panavia Tornado Air Defence Version fighters that the Italian government had leased from the United Kingdom. This lease was expiring in 2004, and the Italian government did not want to take on the high expense of extending the lease. Hence the Italian government turned to the United States, and it leased from the Americans 34 F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole fighter planes for the Italian Air Force on multi-year leases. The last of these fighters was returned to the United States in May 2012, following the Air Force's acquisition of a sufficient number of Eurofighter Typhoons over a period of several years. These Typhoons will serve at first in the mission of air-defense fighters after finally having replaced all of the F-104s, all of the Tornado ADVs, and all of the F-16s.

The capability of the Italian Air Force in air transportation has been improved with the acquisition of 22 American C-130J tactical transports, and 12 Alenia C-27J Spartans, which have replaced all of the G222s. In 2003, the Italian Air Force extended its capabilities to small-scale land warfare by small special forces units. This was done by forming the 17º Stormo Incursori ("17th Special Operations Wing"), also known as RIAM, Reparto Incursori Aeronautica Militare (Air Force Raiders Group). This is a unit that is aimed primarily towards missions such as raids on land-based aeronautical compounds, on Forward Air Control units, and in Combat Search and Rescue operations.[1]


As of 2014, the Italian Air Force[2] operates a total active fleet of 557 aerial vehicles,[3] of which 209 are manned combat aircraft and 12 Unmanned combat aerial vehicle. In addition there are 14 more Eurofighter Typhoon on order and 75 F-35 planned for the Italian Air force. These figures have been taken from[4][5] and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.[6][7][8]

Organisation and formations

Major Commands

Air Fleet Command

The Air Fleet Command (Comando della Squadra Aerea or CSA) controls all operative units, the intelligence and electronic warfare capabilities, and the operational headquarter of the air force. The CSA ensures that unit is equipped, trained and prepared for combat duty and controls them during combat operations.

Air Operations Command

The Comando Operativo delle Forze Aeree (Air Operations Command or COFA) conducts all operations of the Aeronautica Militare. The COFA controls all military radar installations in Italy and its Gruppo Riporto e Controllo Difesa Aerea coordinates the control of and if necessary the defence of the Italian Air-space. If needed the COFA can directly employ and command all units of the Air Fleet Command.

Combat Forces Command
Support and Special Forces Command
9th (I.S.T.A.R.-E.W.) Air Brigade

Air Force Logistic Command

The Air Force Logistic Command provides operational units with all the required necessary logistics, combat support and service support functions.

1st Division – Test Flight Center
2nd Division – Avionic and Armaments Support
3rd Division – IT Support

1st Air Region

The 1st Air Region provides territorial functions and liaisons with communal, provincial and regional administrations in the North of Italy.

Air Force Schools Command - 3rd Air Region

The Comando Scuole dell'Aeronautica Militare is responsible for the formation and training of all members of the Aeronautica Militare. It controls all schools and three training wings:

Air Force Structure Graphic

Aeronautica Militare Structure (Click to enlarge)

Chiefs of the Air force, rank structure

Ufficiali generaliGeneral officers
generale di squadra aerea generale di divisione aerea generale di brigata aerea
Lieutenant general Major general, Divisional General Brigadier general
Ufficiali superioriSenior officers
colonnello tenente colonnello maggiore
Colonel Lieutenant colonel Major
Ufficiali inferioriJunior officers
capitano tenente sottotenente
Captain First Lieutenant, Lieutenant Second Lieutenant
SottufficialiNon-commissioned officers
primo maresciallo luogotenente
1st Lieutenant marshall
primo maresciallo maresciallo di prima classe maresciallo di seconda classe maresciallo di terza classe
1st marshall 1st class marshall 2nd class marshall 3rd class marshall
sergente maggiore capo sergente maggiore sergente
Chief sergeant major Sergeant Major Staff Sergeant
TruppaEnlisted personnel
No insignia
primo aviere capo primo aviere scelto aviere capo primo aviere aviere scelto aviere
First chief Airman First Senior airman Chief Airman Airman First Class Senior Airman Airman Basic
Name Term start Term end
Pier Ruggero Piccio 1 January 1926 6 February 1927
Armando Armani 10 February 1927 13 October 1928
Giuseppe Valle 22 February 1930 23 November 1933
Antonio Bosio 23 November 1933 22 March 1934
Giuseppe Valle 22 March 1934 10 November 1939
Francesco Pricolo 10 November 1939 15 November 1941
Rino Corso Fougier 15 November 1941 27 July 1943
Renato Sandalli 27 July 1943 18 June 1944
Pietro Piacentini 19 June 1944 13 December 1944
Mario Ajmone Cat 13 December 1944 5 February 1951
Aldo Urbani 5 February 1951 10 November 1955
Ferdinando Raffaelli 10 November 1955 1 February 1958
Silvio Napoli 1 February 1958 1 September 1961
Aldo Remondino 1 September 1961 28 February 1968
Duilio S. Fanali 28 February 1968 1 November 1971
Vincenzo Lucertini 1 November 1971 27 February 1974
Dino Ciarlo 27 February 1974 20 June 1977
Alessandro Mettimano 20 June 1977 1 April 1980
Lamberto Bartolucci 2 April 1980 12 October 1983
Basilio Cottone 19 October 1983 17 September 1986
Franco Pisano 18 September 1986 15 April 1990
Stelio Nardini 16 April 1990 24 March 1993
Adelchi Pillinini 25 March 1993 3 June 1995
Mario Arpino 4 June 1995 5 February 1999
Andrea Fornasiero 5 February 1999 5 August 2001
Sandro Ferracuti 5 August 2001 4 August 2004
Leonardo Tricarico 5 August 2004 19 September 2006
Vincenzo Camporini 19 September 2006 30 January 2008
Daniele Tei 30 January 2008 25 February 2010
Giuseppe Bernardis 25 February 2010 25 February 2013
Pasquale Preziosa 25 February 2013 30 March 2016
Enzo Vecciarelli 30 March 2016...

See also


  1. Italy opens F-35 assembly line, as political opposition grows. (2013-07-18). Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  2. Italian Air Force. The Aviationist. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  3. .Schede Aeromobili Aeronautica Militare.
  4. World Air Forces 2014 December 10, 2013
  5. "World Air Forces 2013"., 11 December 2012.
  6. "The Military Balance 2013"., 14 March 2013.
  7. " Italy's ruling party divided over order for F-35 combat jets", 30 May 2013
  8. "Defence Statistics 2014" May 15, 2014
  9. "Air Force Organisation". Aeronautica Militare. Italian Air Force. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  10. "Il portale dell'Aeronautica Militare - Chiuso 5° Stormo, giunti HH-3F 15° Stormo". Retrieved 23 December 2014.


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