Italian Air Force

The Italian Air Force (Italian: Aeronautica Militare; AM) is the air force of the Italian Republic. The Italian Air Force was founded as an independent service arm on 28 March 1923 by King Victor Emmanuel III as the Regia Aeronautica ("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.

Italian Air Force
Aeronautica Militare
Coat of arms of the Italian Air Force
Coat of Arms of the Italian Air Force
Founded28 March 1923 as Regia Aeronautica
Country Italy
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size43,000 personnel
716 aircraft
Part ofStemma araldico e distintivo dello Stato Maggiore Difesa.svg Italian Armed Forces
Motto(s)Latin: Virtute Siderum Tenus
(English: With valor to the stars)
MarchMarcia di Ordinanza dell'Aeronautica Militare (Ordinance March of the Air Force) by Alberto Di Miniello
Anniversaries28 March (Air Force Day)
Decorations1 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 AviationLieutenant General Alberto Rosso
LV Italian Air Force roundel


Early history and World War I

Italy was among the earliest adopters of military aviation. Its 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 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. This air force was known as the Regia Aeronautica (Royal Air Force). During the 1930s, the fledgling 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 fewer than 60% were serviceable. It 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. On 8 May 1945, the hostilities ended, beginning the rebirth of military aviation in Italy.

The birth of the Aeronautica Militare and the Cold War

P-51D Mustang&SM.82 Marsupiale
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 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 Sabres, followed by F-84F fighters and C-119 Flying Boxcar transport planes from the United States. 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 added to the Italian Air Force were American-designed F-104 Starfighters that were produced by a group of several European aircraft companies, including 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-defence purposes.

Italian Air Force Hercules C-130J-30 departs RIAT Fairford 14thJuly2014 arp
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 huge trilateral project that developed the Panavia Tornado fighter-bomber and air-defence fighters along with West Germany and the United Kingdom. Tornado fighters were still in service with all three countries, plus a few more, as of 2012. Italian companies worked with the Embraer Company of Brazil in a smaller project to develop and produce 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. Needing to replace the obsolete F-104 Starfighters, Italy joined with Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom in the development of the Eurofighter Typhoon, which was expected to enter the Italian Air Force in 2000. In 1994, with the Typhoon still some years from introduction to service, 24 Panavia Tornado Air Defense Variant (ADV) interceptors 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. However, delays in the production of the Typhoon forced the Italians to seek a supplement, and then replacement, for the leased Tornado ADVs. With the UK lease due to expire in 2004, the Italian government wished to avoid a costly lease extension and instead opted to lease 34 F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role fighter planes on multi-year leases from the US. The last of these fighters was returned to the United States in May 2012, following the Italian Air Force's acquisition of a sufficient number of Typhoons over a period of several years. The Typhoons are intended to replace all of the F-104, Tornado ADV and F-16 aircraft. The last of the Italian F-104s was withdrawn from service in 2004.

Armed conflicts in Somalia, Mozambique and the nearby Balkan Peninsula led to the Italian Air Force becoming a participant in multinational air forces, such as that of NATO over the former Yugoslavia, just a few minutes flying time east of the Italian peninsula. The commanders of the Italian Air Force soon saw the need to improve the Italian air defences.

The capability of the Italian Air Force as a transportation unit 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 accomplished by forming the 17º Stormo Incursori ("17th Special Operations Wing"), also known as RIAM (Reparto Incursori Aeronautica Militare, "Air Force Raiders Group"), a unit that is primarily responsible for raids on land-based aeronautical compounds, forward air control missions and combat search and rescue operations.[1]


As of 2014, the Italian Air Force[2] operates a total active fleet of 557 aerial vehicles,[3] including 209 manned and 12 unmanned combat aircraft, with eight more Eurofighter Typhoon on order and 75 more F-35s planned.[4][5][6][7][8]

Rank structure

NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
Italy Italy
IT-Airforce-OF-10.png IT-Airforce-OF-9s.png IT-Airforce-OF-9.png IT-Airforce-OF-8.png IT-Airforce-OF-7.png IT-Airforce-OF-5.png IT-Airforce-OF-4.png IT-Airforce-OF-3.png IT-Airforce-OF3s.png IT-Airforce-OF3.png IT-Airforce-OF2.png IT-Airforce-OF1.png No equivalent
awarded only to the Chief of Defense Staff
Generale di Squadra Aerea con Incarichi Speciali Generale di Squadra Aerea Generale di Divisione Aerea Generale di Brigata Aerea Colonnello Tenente Colonnello Maggiore Primo capitano Capitano Tenente Sottotenente
NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Italy Italy
Rank insignia of primo maresciallo luogotenente of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of primo maresciallo of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of maresciallo di prima classe of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of maresciallo di seconda classe of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of maresciallo di terza classe of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of sergente maggiore capo of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of sergente maggiore of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of sergente of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of primo aviere capo scelto of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of primo aviere capo of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of primo aviere scelto of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of aviere capo of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of primo aviere of the Italian Air Force.svg Rank insignia of aviere scelto of the Italian Air Force.svg No insignia
Luogotenente Primo Maresciallo Maresciallo di Prima Classe Maresciallo di Seconda Classe Maresciallo di Terza Classe Sergente Maggiore Capo Sergente Maggiore Sergente Primo aviere Capo Scelto Primo Aviere Capo Primo Aviere Scelto Aviere Capo Primo Aviere Aviere Scelto Aviere

See also


  1. ^ Italy opens F-35 assembly line, as political opposition grows Archived 21 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine. (2013-07-18). Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  2. ^ Italian Air Force Archived 8 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine. The Aviationist. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  3. ^ Aeromobili Aeronautica Militare.
  4. ^ World Air Forces 2014 Archived 7 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine December 10, 2013
  5. ^ "World Air Forces 2013". Archived 2 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine, 11 December 2012.
  6. ^ "The Military Balance 2013". Archived 1 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine, 14 March 2013.
  7. ^ " Italy's ruling party divided over order for F-35 combat jets" Archived 19 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine, 30 May 2013
  8. ^ "Defence Statistics 2014" Archived 19 October 2017 at Archive-It May 15, 2014


  • International Institute for Strategic Studies; Hackett, James (ed.) (3 February 2010). The Military Balance 2010. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-85743-557-3.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Malizia, Nicola. F-47D "Thunderbolt" (Aviolibri Records n.6) (Bilingual Italian/English). Rome, Italy: IBN Editore, 2005. ISBN 88-7565-021-7.
  • Mattioli, Marco. Lockheed P-38 Lightning in Italian Service, 1943–1955 (Aviolibri Records n.4) (Bilingual Italian/English). Rome, Italia: IBN Editore, 2004. ISBN 88-7565-010-1.

External links

17º Stormo Incursori

The 17º Stormo Incursori (English: 17th Raiders Wing) is the Italian Air Force special forces unit. It is the youngest special force created in Italy. It is based in Furbara, near Rome and part of the Comando interforze per le Operazioni delle Forze Speciali (COFS—Special Forces Operations Command). Until April 8, 2008 the unit was named Reparto Incursori Aeronautica Militare (RIAM—Air Force Raiders Group) but with the expansion and evolution of the unit's assignments and its size, the name was changed to "17° Stormo Incursori".

Accademia Aeronautica

The Accademia Aeronautica is the Italian Air Force Academy, the institute for the training of Air Force officers. It's located in Pozzuoli in the province of Naples, in the Italian region of Campania. Among the oldest aviation academies in the world, it was founded in 1923.

In its academic programs, the Academy coordinates with the nearby University of Naples Federico II. Admission to the Academy is subject to the passing of a test open to all Italian citizens between 17 and 22 years old, with a high school diploma. The selection process, which happens between February and September, includes an examination, a medical check, and written and oral tests.

Aeritalia G.222

The Aeritalia G.222 (formerly Fiat Aviazione, later Alenia Aeronautica) is a medium-sized STOL military transport aircraft. It was developed to meet a NATO specification, but Italy was initially the only NATO member to adopt the type. The United States purchased a small number of G.222s, designating them the C-27A Spartan.A modernised variant, the Alenia C-27J Spartan, has been developed. While it retains many aspects of the original aircraft, the C-27J adopts the same engines and many of the systems used on the larger Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules.

Agrigento Airfield

Agrigento Airfield was a military airfield in Sicily, just to the northwest of Agrigento; approximately 5 km northeast of Porto Empedocle.

A pre-war Regia Aeronautica Italian Air Force base, the airfield was a primary objective of the Operation Husky landings. After being secured, it was used by the United States Army Air Forces Twelfth Air Force 31st Fighter Group, equipped with three squadrons (307th, 308th 309th) of Supermarine Spitfires. Later, it was a command and control base for the 52d Troop Carrier Wing from 1 September 1943-13 February 1944.

The airfield is also notable because many Italian Air Force airplanes landed at Agrigento in the days immediately following the armistice between Italy and the Allied armed forces in early September 1943. The Regia Aeronautica 8° Gruppo Macchi C.200 fighters landed at Agrigento on 13 September. Most were worn out and obsolete, no longer useful for combat, however Italian crews scrounged any parts that they could to keep their aircraft flying against the Germans. Later, the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force (ICBAF or ACI) was formed and incorporated these aircraft.

After the American use of the base ended, it was turned over to the Italian Air Force for its use. Today, the site of the airfield is abandoned, although several runways and what appears to be a former sports facility (also abandoned) is visible at the former airfield site.

Amendola Air Base

Amendola Air Base (ICAO: LIBA) is a military airfield of the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana). It is the home of 32nd Wing.

Boeing KC-767

The Boeing KC-767 is a military aerial refueling and strategic transport aircraft developed from the Boeing 767-200ER. The tanker received the designation KC-767A, after being selected by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) initially to replace older KC-135Es. In December 2003, the contract was frozen and later canceled due to corruption allegations.

The tanker was developed for the Italian and Japanese air forces, who ordered four tankers each. Financing of the development of the aircraft has largely been borne by Boeing, in the hope of receiving major orders from the USAF. Boeing's revised KC-767 proposal to the USAF was selected in February 2011 for the KC-X program under the designation KC-46.

Cervia Air Base

Cervia Air Base (ICAO: LIPC) is an air base of the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare). It is located in northern Italy, approximately 6 km (3.2 NM) southwest of Cervia, in the province of Ravenna (Emilia-Romagna). It was the home of the 5th Fighter Wing, which flew leased US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16 Falcon. It is also a NATO air base and is visited by other NATO air forces on a routine basis. After Italy returned the leased F-16 to the US Air Force the 5th Fighter Wing was disbanded and in its place the 1st Special Air Brigade moved to Cervia. Along with the 1st Special Air Brigade arrived the 15th CSAR Wing - the Italian air force's Combat Search and Rescue wing.

Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force

The Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force refers to the Chiefs of Staffs of the Royal Italian Air Force from 1926 to 1946 and the Italian Air Force from 1946 to the present.

Decimomannu Air Base

Decimomannu Air Base (IATA: DCI, ICAO: LIED) is an Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) air base located approximately 5 km (2.7 NM) north of Decimomannu a comune in the Province of Cagliari on the island of Sardinia in Italy.

It is a military airport located northwest of the city of Cagliari, Sardinia, in a vast area between the towns of Decimomannu, Decimoputzu, San Sperate and Villasor.

The airport is named after Colonel pilot Giovanni Farina, Gold Medal for bravery, died in combat in the skies of Sardinia 14 June 1942.

The airfield is a front-line NATO training facility primarily used since 1979 for Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) of various NATO air force fighter aircraft.

Decimonannu is also the Home Base for the Taktisches Ausbildungskommando der Luftwaffe Italien and the Base is used for Training flights.

Falconara Airbase

Falconara Airbase (IATA: AOI, ICAO: LIPY) is a joint-use civil airport and Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) facility in Italy, located approximately 3 km west of Falconara Marittima in the province of Ancona, about 200 km north-northeast of Rome.

The airport is used for general aviation, with no commercial airline service. Along with the Italian Air Force, It is also the headquarters of the Italian Army's 84th Infantry Battalion.

Frecce Tricolori

The Frecce Tricolori ([ˈfrettʃe trikoˈloːri]; literally "Tricolour Arrows"), officially known as the 313° Gruppo Addestramento Acrobatico, is the aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian Aeronautica Militare, based at Rivolto Air Force Base, province of Udine, in the north-eastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. They were formed in 1961 as an Air Force team, replacing unofficial teams that had been sponsored by various commands by the end of the 1920s.The team flies the Aermacchi MB-339-A/PAN, a two-seat fighter-trainer craft capable of 898 km/h at sea level.With ten aircraft, nine in training and a soloist, they are the world's largest acrobatics patrol, and their flight schedule, comprising about twenty acrobatics and about half an hour, made them very famous.The team's official name is: 313° Gruppo Addestramento Acrobatico, Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (PAN) Frecce Tricolori.

Ghedi Air Base

Ghedi Air Base (Italian: Base aerea di Ghedi, ICAO: LIPL) is a base of the Italian Air Force in Ghedi, about 15 kilometres from Brescia, northern Italy.

It is home to the 6º Stormo of the Italian Air Force with the 102º Gruppo (Papero), il 154º Gruppo (Diavoli Rossi) e il 155º Gruppo (Le linci) equipped with the Tornado IDS.

It houses more than 40 nuclear weapons type B61.The commander since 2017 is the Italian Air Force Colonel Luca Maineri.

Gioia del Colle Air Base

Gioia del Colle Air Base (ICAO: LIBV) is an Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) base located in the province of Bari, Apulia, Italy, located approximately 1 km south-southeast of Gioia del Colle.

Grosseto Airport

Grosseto Airport (Italian: Aeroporto di Grosseto) (IATA: GRS, ICAO: LIRS) is an airport in central Italy, located 3 km (1.6 NM) west of Grosseto in the Italian region of Tuscany.

Although it is classified as a "joint use" facility, Grosseto Airport is primarily an Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) Base, home of the 4th Stormo, equipped with the Eurofighter Typhoon. However, the facility is used as a commercial airport by civilian charter flights and private aircraft.

Italian Air Force Museum

The Italian Air Force Museum is an aircraft museum at Vigna di Valle, on Lake Bracciano (Lazio), in central Italy. It is operated by the Aeronautica Militare. The museum houses an excellent collection, with an emphasis on Italian machines and seaplanes. While maintaining the technical and historical aspects, the museum is also dedicated to the influence aviation has had on Italian art, featuring works by Futurist painters Pietro Annigoni, Giacomo Balla, Tato; and contemporary art such as Flight: Papiers froissés (literally crumpled paper) by Antonio Papasso.

Italian Air Force ranks

The rank insignia of the Italian Air Force are worn on jackets and mantels sleeves.

List of active Italian military aircraft

The following is a list of military aircraft currently used by all branches of the Italian Armed Forces, including the Italian Gendarmerie (Carabinieri).

Naval Air Station Sigonella

Naval Air Station Sigonella (IATA: NSY, ICAO: LICZ) is an Italian Air Force base (Italian: Aeroporto "Cosimo Di Palma" di Sigonella), and an U.S. Navy installation at NATO Base Sigonella in Sicily, Italy. The whole NAS base is a tenant of the Italian Air Force, that has the military and the administrative control. It serves as an Italian base for the 41º Stormo Antisom (41st Antisubmarine Warfare Wing).

NAS Sigonella acts also as landlord to more than 40 other U.S. commands and activities. It is located 15 km (8 NM) west and 11 km (6 NM) south of the city of Catania, and some 40 km (22 NM) south of Mount Etna.

Because of its location near the center of the Mediterranean Sea, NASSIG is well placed to support operations by the U.S. 6th Fleet, other U.S. military units, and U.S. allies and coalition partners.

Among the aircraft that fly from this island base are Italian Air Force Breguet Br.1150 Atlantics and U.S. Air Force C-130, C-17 and C-5 airlifters, KC-135 and KC-10 tankers and U.S. Navy P-3 Orions, P-8 Poseidons, C-2 Greyhounds and C-9B Skytrain IIs and C-40A Clippers.

It is one of the most frequently used stops for U.S. airlift aircraft bound from the continental United States to Southwest Asia and the Indian Ocean.

NAS Sigonella has the best claim to be hub of U.S. naval air operations in the Mediterranean. The base command is landlord to more than 40 other U.S. units. Among the largest are a rotating P-3C patrol squadron; a Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station; and a U.S. Naval Hospital. The hospital was built in 1992. Previously, there was only a clinic and the closest U.S. Naval Hospital was at Naples. Sigonella is home to more than 4,000 troops, civilian personnel, and family members.

NAS Sigonella is the Navy's second largest security command, second only to that located at Naval Support Activity Bahrain. NAS Sigonella also has a large support of security personnel from NR NSF Sigonella, a Navy Reserve command based out of NOSC Detroit at Selfridge ANGB, Michigan.

The base comprises two sections: NAS I was the site of the original U.S. base but is now a support facility, and NAS II which includes the runways, operations and most tenant commands. NAS I also contains the Navy Exchange and Commissary, the school, and some homes, mainly for the commodore of Task Force 67, the air station commanding officer, air station executive officer and commanding officers of tenant activities. NAS I also is host to other facilities, mainly for entertainment. NAS II is now only used as a service base.

Roberto Vittori

Roberto Vittori (born 15 October 1964 in Viterbo) is an Italian air force officer and an ESA astronaut. After graduating from the Italian Accademia Aeronautica in 1989, Vittori flew in the Italian Air Force. He then trained as a test pilot in the United States.

In 1998, Vittori was selected by the ESA to join the European Astronaut Corps. Since then, he has participated in three spaceflights: the Soyuz TM-34/33 and Soyuz TMA-6/5 taxi flights to the ISS, as well as STS-134, the penultimate mission of the American Space Shuttle Program. He was the last non-American to fly aboard the shuttle.

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