Special Photo Report : Italian Air Force Fighter Groups' Centennial 1917-2017
Centenario Gruppi Caccia 1917-2017 - Grosseto
Italian Air Force celebrates a century of its fighter squadrons
Claudio Toselli attended the 100 year anniversary event at Grosseto air base on June 24th presenting specially marked Typhoons and the new F-35.
Although the Italian Air Force as an independent service arm dates back to the founding of the Regia Aeronautica in 1923, several of its units were established long before as the Servizio Aeronautico of the Italian Royal Army and subsequently the Corpo Aeronautico Militare. During the First World War, in 1917 the first fighter squadrons or groups rather were formed, known as Gruppo Caccia, similar in structure to the French Escuadrons de Chasse. Each Gruppo consisted of up to six subordinate fighter units or squadriglie, equivalent to the French escadrilles. On June 24, 2017, at the "Cesare Baccarini" air base of Grosseto, home of the 4° Stormo Caccia Intercettori (4th Fighter-Intercept Wing) the ceremony was held to celebrate 100 year anniversary of the fighter squadrons for the air defence of Italy.
The five fighter squadrons of today dating back to 1917, each presented one of their current fighter aircraft in special unit anniversary markings. The F-2000 Typhoons of the 9°, 10°, 12° and 18° Gruppo Caccia each sported squadron artwork on the tail, along the spine including the air brake, and on their canard foreplanes. The 13° Gruppo presented the new F-35A Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter).
X Gruppo Caccia
On 10 April 1917, the X Gruppo Caccia was established at Pasian del Prato, Udine, as the first group of dedicated fighter aircraft units. Belonging to the group was the 91^ Squadriglia, established on May 1st, 1917, as the Squad of the Aces commanded by Francesco Baracca. Baracca's personal emblem of the prancing stallion was adopted as the group's emblem and the prancing griffon became the emblem of Baracca and 91^ Squadriglia. Fulco Ruffo di Calabria took over command after Baracca's death. In 1931 the 10° Gruppo Caccia was re-established and with 9° Gruppo Caccia assigned to the newly formed 4° Stormo Caccia. Today the 10° Gruppo is part of the 36° Stormo flying the F-2000 Typhoon. The centenary F-2000A 36-10 is c/n IS067 serial M.M.7341. In addition to the black stallion on its tail fin, an adaptation of the griffon depicted on the canards.
IX Gruppo Caccia
First established on 10 April 1917 at Villaveria, Vicenza, the IX Gruppo had various fighter, reconnaissance, and training flights assigned to it during the war. In 1931 the 9° Gruppo Caccia was re-established, together with the 10° Gruppo Caccia assigned to the 4° Stormo Caccia. As tribute to Baracca, the 4° Stormo Caccia adopted the prancing horse in its coat of arms. The 9° Gruppo Caccia has stayed with the wing since, which has been based at Grosseto since 1959. The anniversary special F-2000A c/n IS066 serial M.M.7340 carrying the 4-9 code.
XII Gruppo Caccia
First established on 10 May 1917 at Belluno, the XII Gruppo was an air observation and aerial photography unit first. It equipped with fighter aircraft during the Second World War. After the Tornado ADV 10-year lease expired in 2004, the 12° Gruppo flew the MB339CD with digital cockpit in the interim. The first Typhoons finally arrived in 2007. The centenary Typhoon 36-12 is F-2000A, c/n IS050 serial M.M.7318. The tail shows 12° Gruppo's aircraft history, including the MB399CD.
XVIII Gruppo Caccia
First established on 24 December 1917 at Taliedo, Milano, the XVIII Gruppo was a bomber group during the First World War. Re-established in 1931 it became a fighter group until 1943. In 1957 it reformed as a tactical recce unit and became a fighter group again in 1977 with the F-104 Starfighter. The emblem was renewed with three missiles. It operated the F-104 until 2003, then flew the F-16 ADF, before reforming with the Typhoon. The centenary special is F-2000A c/n IS025 serial M.M.7293 which carries the 37-18 code now.
XIII Gruppo Caccia
First established on 8 November 1917 at Marcon, Venezia, the XIII Gruppo included the 77^ Squadriglia "Cuore Rosso" (Red Hearts). In the 1950's the XIII Gruppo was re-established becoming a fighter-bomber and reconnaissance squadron and assigned to 32° Stormo in 1967. RFollowing its final deployment to Afghanistan with the AMX ("Black Cats" Task Group), the 13° was disbanded in 2013. The 13° Gruppo was reactivated at Amendola on May 12, 2016, to become the first Italian F-35 Lightning II squadron. The first two F-35 Lightning II fighter-bombers, c/n AL-5 and AL-6) were delivered on 12 December 2016, the first F-35s to be operated and based in Europe. The F-35A AL-6, serial M.M.7337, carries the code 32-13 of the Gruppo and was flown during the event. This was the first official presentation of the F-35A Lightning II in Italy. The F-35A c/n AL-7, serial M.M.7357 and code 32-07, was presented in the static display carrying the low-viz 32° Stormo and 13° Gruppo markings, the Italian National Flag was added for the centennial event and public debut. AL-7 still brand new, delivered from the Final Assembly & Check Out facility at Cameri earlier this year.
Grosseto Air Show preparations
On Sunday, June 25th, the Italian Air Force presented the seaside Grosseto Air Show at Marina di Grosseto for the general public, featuring the Frecce Tricolori and the Belgian Air Force F-16 Demo. During Saturday, some of the airshow participants were practising their displays, including the first public display of the Italian F-35 Lightning II, flying in formation with four F-2000 Typhoons, presenting each of the five Gruppo Caccia.
The Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Flight Test Department) and its 311° Gruppo Volo (311th Flight Squadron) present displays of the Italian Air Force's combat aircraft, besides their main activities of testing and validating new and modified aircraft, weapons and sensors. For the Grosseto Air Show the line-up included the F-2000 Typhoon, T-346 Master, and 311° Gruppo's 60th anniversary Tornado.
In 2016 the 311° Gruppo celebrated 60 years since its formation in 1956 as part of the RSV. The special colour scheme was first unveiled at Pratica di Mare on October 27th, 2016. The PA-200 Tornado IDS, c/n 357 (IS040) s/n M.M.7041, has been upgraded under the Italian Tornado-MLU program and operated by the RSV carries the serial number CSX7041 and code RS-01. Furthermore the upgraded Tornado is designated A-200C, per the Italian military designation system.
Photos by Claudio Toselli ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 9 July 2017