The situation of the Italian armed forces: the 15 ° Wing of the Italian Air Force, real Combat SAR?

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

The 15 ° Wing CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue) is based in Cervia and is framed in 1ᵃ Special Operations Air Brigade.

The department is composed of 7 groups distributed on 4 locations: in addition to the 85 ° CSAR Group (equipped with the HH-139A) and the 81 ° Crew Training Center (CAE) which share the Pratica di Mare base with the Wing the 15 CSAR of Decimomannu, the 80 ° CSAR Group of Trapani-Birgi (equipped with the HH-82A), the 139 ° CSAR Group of Cervia-Pisignano (equipped with HH-83A), also depend on the 139 ° '84 ° CSAR Group of Gioia del Colle (equipped with the HH-139A) and the 23 ° Group of Cervia (equipped with the HH-101A), specialized in Personnel Recovery.

This geographical distribution is due to the need to ensure the presence of helicopters of assistance to no more than 90 minutes of flight from any location on the Peninsula.

Although the 15 ° is highly standardized, there are differences within it that have led to the development of natural specializations, encouraged by the different location on the national territory. In fact, thanks to their geographical position, the 83 ° and 85 ° Group were able to specialize in CSAR missions on land and carry out regular training activities with the Co.FS operators (Special Forces Command); the 82 °, 84 ° and 23 ° Group, on the other hand, have developed a marked maritime connotation, having taken part (at least the first two) in various SAR operations on the sea.

However, the writer believes it is necessary to dwell on the CSAR connotation of the flock. To hypothesize that the 15 ° can be able to complete, independently, a complex recovery operation in environments characterized by a high density of threats is at least risky.

Remaining in Europe, France, in order to achieve its current capabilities, has allocated a dedicated department with 10 CARACAL helicopters (photo) to the RESCO (Recherche et Sauvetage au Combat) missions which, if necessary, can be supported by a mixed force of a few dozen assets special ops.

The origins of the transalpine CSAR date back to the period of the Algerian war, during which, some helicopters were armed with 20 mm cannon to carry out tactical and anti-guerrilla transport missions. During the second Gulf War (1991), a PUMA of the Armée de l'Air recovered an American pilot crashed into Iraqi territory, with the support of the USA A-10. Always a French AS.330 brought a British pilot to safety, when his SEA HARRIER was struck by the Serbian anti-aircraft weapon, during the operation Deny Flight (1993-1995) on Bosnia. These successes confirm the happy French approach to the Combat SAR.

In Italy, on the other hand, until a few years ago the 15 ° Stormo was used as the main asset for the performance of the national SAR service, providing the public with a "reassuring" image of the Italian Air Force.

The air rescue - which other State Bodies, such as the Fire Brigade - can compete for, must not be the main mission of the 15 ° Stormo.

Thanks to the inclusion in the 1ᵃ workforce Special Operations Air Brigade, the 15 ° can make use of additional assets, such as the 9 ° Stormo, the 16 ° Air Wing Fucilieri and the 17 ° Stormo raiders. However employment in tasks other than primary ones, distracts machines and resources from specific training in operations Combat, forcing the Wing to a geographical distribution that certainly does not facilitate the creation of a CSAR reference center.

Photo: US Air Force