Last December 19, 18 years after entering service in the Armed Forces, with a transfer flight from 61st flight group APR of Sigonella to the 32nd wing of Amendola, the operational activity of the RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) MQ1-C asset, called Predator Alpha plus.
The sober ceremony of phase out took place at the Apulian base in the presence of the commander of the air force, general of the air force Alberto Biavati, of the commander of the combat forces, gen. by Luigi Del Bene and the chief of staff of the csa, gen. by Andrea Argieri. A representation of all the joints of the 28nd wing also took part in the event, together with the personnel of the 61th and 32st APR flight group.
"In modern operating theaters, Information Superiority represents an element of essential strategic importance, without which every effort and even the most modern system would be useless", stressed Col. Roberto Massarotto, commander of the 32nd wing.
"To fulfill the new missions that were taking shape, already in 2004, the Air Force equipped itself with the MQ-1 system, an aircraft that is not fast, but which makes persistence, discretion, silence, collection capacity and dissemination of data and potential for dual use its strengths, unrivaled by other systems. However, the successes achieved by this machine would never have been achieved without the invaluable work of the men and women of the 61st and 28th Groups. A valuable and tiring job, which is carried out away from the spotlight, in silence, where no one can see or hear you and perhaps without being able to share, with those close to you, the satisfaction of a particularly important success".
"You have opened an era, with those of you who were there from the beginning and with those who came later, in radically changing the way the Air Force operates", declared General Biavati addressing the women and men of the 28th and 61st APR flight groups. "What you have done is something historic and epic, which will remain forever written in the history of our Armed Forces and I have to thank you for this because without your work, many things that the Air Force has done in recent years, we would never have been able to do it”. The commander of the air force, in his speech, also wanted to highlight how 70% of the flight hours of the Predator A+ have been carried out in operational missions and only 30% in training, a unique event among all Air Force aircraft, further demonstrating how the Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance - ISR activity, in current scenarios, is one of the most valuable.
Since its entry into the line, the MQ-1 has represented an epochal turning point for the Armed Forces, allowing it to carry out long-lasting operational missions and in a vast panorama of activities ranging - by type and purpose - from military use to that of civil protection, totaling, in over 3800 sorties, more than 31.000 flight hours, of which about 20.000 carried out by the 28st flight group APR of Amendola and more than 11.000 since 61st flight group APR of Sigonella.
He has been employed in numerous military and coalition missions in various areas of the globe, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Horn of Africa, Kuwait, covering a fundamental role in support and for the security of troops on the ground through a precious monitoring and surveillance activities from above, in particular for the unarmed escort of convoys in a hostile environment, for the discovery of improvised devices and for the monitoring of operational targets. The contribution to the control of national borders and to the surveillance of the territory is also fundamental, in the context of activities to contribute to public order, search and rescue and environmental monitoring such as, for example, the contribution to the security of international G7 summits , G8 and G20, collaboration with the Civil Protection Department for public calamities, monitoring of fires in the Land of Fires.
The UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), which came on line in December 2004 and already in January 2005 deployed on missions outside national borders, has made it possible to project networks and sensors in an operational theatre, at hitherto prohibitive distances, in a persistent and imperceptible, proving to be an indefatigable multiplier of resources, able to fulfill a considerable amount of the missions of the air doctrine ranging from the CAS (Close Air Support), to the CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue), to the Target Acquisition. But the most direct innovation was the opportunity to increase the Situational Awareness in "Real Time", as the sophisticated sensors on board transmit the images live, making the scenario of the intervention area immediately usable by the decision makers.
The 32nd wing reports to the command of the combat forces (CFC) of Milan, whose assigned mission is to acquire and maintain the operational readiness of all the air defense and attack and reconnaissance bodies, ensuring the efficiency operations of weapon systems, vehicles and materials, as well as personnel training and constant updating and optimization of operating procedures, in compliance with the guidelines of the SS.AA. The CFC is under the command of the air squadron command which exercises the powers regarding training, preparation and operational readiness of its departments, so that they acquire and maintain the expected levels of operational readiness. After reaching the Initial Operational Capability (IOC), which took place in 2018, has been participating, since 2019, in NATO Air Policing Operations outside national borders. Since February 2020, the 32nd wing has been the only department on the European scene that jointly employs both F-35A (CTOL) and F-35B (STOVL), contributing, with the 5th generation aircraft, to the Air Expeditionary of the Armed Forces. Furthermore, by employing the Remotely piloted aircraft (APR) MQ1-C and MQ9-A, the department carries out operations of Intelligence, surveillance, Target Acquisition & Recoinnissanceboth national and coalition. Finally, through the MB-339 aircraft, the 32nd wing completes the training of UAV pilots to maintain an adequate operational level on traditionally piloted aircraft.