The situation of the Italian armed forces: the 1ᵃ Air Brigade Special Operations of the Air Force

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

The 1ᵃ Air Brigade is the AM department specializing in special operations. Established only a few years ago, it mainly deals with infiltration and exfiltration, both by means of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft (including the Combat SAR).

Obviously these are complex operations, the C-130J SUPER HERCULES, the C-27J SPARTAN and HH-101 are machines that offer exceptional performance but they are also delicate machines, for which they need appropriate use. Well-trained crews are also needed, such as exfiltration operations in a hostile operating theater.

A classic example is the American-led operation EAGLE CLAW in Iran in the 1980, to free the hostages seized by the Pasdarans. There was a collision between a C-130H and a CH-53 helicopter, on an abandoned track in the south-east desert of Tehran, chosen as a supply base following the mission's failure due to a sudden sandstorm ( three aircraft were damaged and the rest were judged insufficient for the continuation of the mission).

The lack of coordination between the various flight components led to the disaster and the failure of the operation.

The 1ᵃ Air Brigade aims to coordinate this type of activity, in any part of the world, as there are several crisis areas that could require the evacuation of civilians and therefore the need to plan and support an intervention by special forces.

Currently, the Italian Air Force can deploy special, modern, well-equipped aircraft for missions. As for the fixed wing, it has 20 C-130J SUPER HERCULES (of which 10 in the extended version and one for in-flight refueling), able to receive refueling in flight also from the KC-767, in order to increase the autonomy of mission.

The other tactical transport machine used is the twin-engine C-27J SPARTAN. Small in size it can operate from semi prepared tracks, 12 exemplary ones are in service (one in JEDI configuration from electronic warfare) but more would be needed. Interesting - when the funds will be available - the PRAETORIAN flying gunboat version (photo) armed with a machine gun from 30 mm (but could also be armed with laser-guided AGM-176 GRIFFIN bombs).

As for the rotary wing aircraft, the HH-15 (101 units ordered) is entering service at the 15 ° Stormo, that is the most modern C-SAR machine available today (it is equipped with a radar that allows an automatic navigation). at very low altitudes). It has a state-of-the-art electronic equipment and is equipped with an in-flight refueling probe, it also has a rear ramp which, for example, allows the fast unloading of light vehicles such as the FLYER, recently adopted by the 9 compostors of the COL MOSCHIN Regiment.

In addition, HH-139 can also be used, acquired in 15 specimens allow a considerable qualitative leap with respect to the now elderly HH-212 still in force at the 9 ° Stormo (when they were deployed in Afghanistan the payload had to be reduced because high quotas compromised flight stability).

Even the Air Force is thinking of replacing the HH-212 with the best performing AW-149, a machine specifically designed for military uses, with the possibility of external attacks for armament and additional tanks, but with very high costs.

In order to reduce costs, an inter-force department could have been set up, specifically for special operations that would have included the three Armed Forces (excluding the Carabinieri due to their institutional duties), thus allowing for uniform training and operating procedures.

Photo: Aeronautica Militare