Special Markings : 400.000 Flight Hours 72° Stormo
Claudio Toselli contributed these photos from Frosinone, home of 72° Stormo. The wing recently recorded its 400.000th flight hour.
The 72° Stormo (72nd wing) of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI - Italian Air Force) celebrated its 400.000th flight hour on 24 May 2006. The wing is based in Frosinone on the Girolamo Moscardini military airport, the AMI helicopter flight school or Scuola Volo Elicotteri (SVE).
The flight school provides rorary training courses for the Italian Aeronautica Militare (Air Force), Marina Militare (Navy), Esercito (Army), Corpo Forestale (Forestry Corps), Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard), Guardia di Finanza (Customs), Carabinieri (Military Police), Polizia di Stato (State Police), Vigili del Fuoco (Firefighters) as well as foreign students.
72° Stormo's 208° Gruppo is the flight training squadron but also conducts Search and Rescue (SAR) operations as well as combat operations in the Combat SAR (CSAR), escort and Slow Mover Intercept (SMI) role. The 72° Stormo deployed contingents to Kosovo, Albania, Eritrea to support the UN and/or multi-national forces. The 208° Gruppo has 37 instructors assigned, each with at least 400 hours on either the HH-3F or AB-212AM and two years of operational flying. 32 of them are qualified combat ready.
43 NH-500E helicopters are currently assigned to the 208° Gruppo, of which five to six are permanently on loan to Squadriglie Collegamenti (Liasion Flights) at other AMI bases. The NH-500E is small, fast, manoeuvrable helicopter, which can be fitted with sponsons for over-water operations as well as armament for the CSAR/SMI role. Armament consists of a 5.56mm machinegun and two rocket launchers, each containing 14 50mm unguided rockets. The NH-500E is easy to maintain and deploy, two NH-500s can embark on a single C-130H or C-130J Hercules within 45 minutes and be ready to fly again in one hour.
To commemorate the 400.000 flight hours milestone, NH-500E MM81277 code 72-14 received 400mila markings, in full size on the port side, and a smaller version on the starboard side.
In the past, the Scuola Elicotteri operated the Agusta-Bell AB-47J and AB-204 helicopters. The first NH-500E was delivered in 1990. The AMI is looking into the possibility of upgrading the NH-500E for the SMI role. The upgrade might consist of a more powerful engine, avionics upgrade with GPS and NVG, and the addition of a targeting pod and mini-gun.
Report and photos by Claudio Toselli ( view portfolio )
Additional information from the article Scuola Volo Elicotteri by David Cenciotti, published in Air Forces Monthly June 2006, Key Publishing Ltd., pages 52-53.