Interview with the commander of the Task Group ITALAIR, ten.col. Verdecchia


In Lebanon since 1979, as part of UNIFIL, Italian helicopter operators have been operating in the service of one of the longest missions in national military history.

Defense Online interviewed the commander of the ITALAIR Task Group to better understand their daily work.

Good vision (and good reading to follow)!

The Task Force ITALAIR is the Italian flying unit operating in the South of Lebanon by providing air support to UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) mission, in accordance with the Letter Of Assist (LOA) a document with which the Italian government is committed to providing air strikes to the United Nations mission in the "cedar country".

For the aspects of command and control on the national chain, the TF ITALAIR depends on the operational command of inter-force summit (COI), or the body through which the chief of staff of the defense (CHoD) is able to exercise its function of operational commander of the Italian armed forces.

From a functional point of view, however, the ITALAIR Task Force, as the United Nations' air component in Lebanon, depends directly on the UNIFIL mission commander, Gen. div. Paolo SERRA current Force Commander and Head of Mission, to support the blue helmets operating in the area of ​​operations.

The ITALAIR Task Force is an inter-force unit that employs Army Air Force AB-212 helicopters and flight crews belonging to the Italian Army, with some competitions from the Navy and the Military Air Force.

The Task Force is currently under the command of Colonel Giacomo Lipari, who is employed by an officer on the fly, a liaison officer (ALO - Air Liaison Officer) in Beirut, the S1 (personal), S2 (information), S3 ( operations), S4 (logistics) and, finally, the 41 ° Task Group ITALAIR, which represents the operational component of the Task Force.

The 41 ° Task Group, commanded by Lieutenant Col. Pierluigi Verdecchia, is the heart of the activities carried out by the ITALAIR Task Force.

It consists of a maintenance aircraft squadron, which manages and carries out all the helicopter maintenance and management activities, and a flight squadron, which manages the flight line and the flight crews, ensuring the group operations.

TF ITALAIR's tasks, as UNIFIL's flight unit, derive directly from the LOA and consist of providing helicopter support throughout the Operations Area (AO) in the typical tasks summarized below:

• Healthcare (CASEVAC and MEDEVAC) 24 / 7;

• Personal transport;

• Material transport;

• Reconnaissance flights;

• Search flights;

• Transport of civil and material personnel;

• Firefighting flights;

• Support, when authorized by the mission, to the local population in case of disaster.


Historical notes

ITALAIR is in fact a piece of history of the Italian Army. With over thirty years of honorable service in Lebanese territory, in fact, the historic air component of the UNIFIL mission (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) is the longest-running operational unit of the armed force in the field of international missions where the Italy participated.

The origins of ITALAIR date back to July 1979, when, following the United Nations Security Council Resolution n.628, the ITALAIR Helicopter Squadron was established. The Squadron was then placed under the 1 ° Group of Light Aviation Army (ALE) "ANTARES" and, with its 34 men and its four AB-204B, was sent to Naqoura in South Lebanon in place of a Norwegian helicopter unit which until that had guaranteed air support for the UNIFIL mission.

ITALAIR was initially set up with the aim of quickly connecting the battalions deployed in the Operations Area with the UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura. 

In the 1982 the AB-204Bs were replaced by five AB-205s (which subsequently became six in the 15 December 1984) and the staff was increased to 50 units. In October of the 1999, then, the ITALAIR Helicopter Squadron passed directly to the Army Aviation Command (COMAVES). 

Following the Israeli-Lebanese war of the 2006 summer and the consequent UN Security Council resolution n.1701 of August 2006, the ITALAIR Helicopter Squadron was reconfigured, elevating itself to the ITALAIR Task Force and increasing its staff to 65 unit.

Starting from 1 on April 2007, two AB-412 helicopters were placed in the Lebanese theater and, in January of the 2008, four AB-212s that will definitively replace the AB-205 line. In the 2009 the AB-412 leave Lebanon and since then the flight line is composed of only six AB-212s. 

Unfortunately, even the history of ITALAIR is marked by tragic events that have caused the premature death of some soldiers.

In this regard, the thought goes straight to the crew of the AB-205 (UN 281) helicopter that the 6 1997 of XNUMX has tragically lost its life while performing a night mission.

The crew was composed by the pilot captain Giuseppe Parisi, by the pilot captain Antonino Sgrò, by the marshal Massimo Gatti, operating technician, and by the passengers, Sergeant John Lynch and pinned by Daniel Forner. 

From 1979 to today, ITALAIR has carried out over 35000 flight hours, more than 1500 sanitary evacuation and has transported around 150000 passengers, including many VIPs.

They are numbers that speak clearly, a tangible sign of a steady and high level commitment to the defense of peace in the Middle East and the safeguarding of fundamental rights in the particular and delicate Lebanese operative theater.

"Flying for Peace" is the ITALAIR motto that contains a thirty-year history written by men who, today as in the past, contribute, with their professionalism, their commitment and their love of country, to raise the prestige of Aviation of the Army and Italy in the international context.