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51 Stormo
 
Pilot checking Flightplan - Italian Air Force   Pilots during briefing - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force   Pilots during briefing - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force   Pilots during briefing - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force
 
Pilot board 103 Gruppo - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force   the flightsuits - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force   Squadron badge 132 Gruppo - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force   x - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force
 
AMX - MM7148/51-61 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force
 
AMX - MM7168/51-55 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force

51o Stormo "Ferruccio Serafini"

Words and photography Nico van Remmerden

Touchdown Aviation visited the 51o Stormo at Istrana on July 2nd and experienced an operational day with the unit that is flying the AMX ground attack fighter.

History of 51o Stormo starts on October 1, 1939 over Ciampino airbase when the wing was formed with the Fiat C-50 and consisted of two Squadrons; 20o- and 21o Gruppo. The first role was the defense of Rome and Naples at the beginning of the War. During the five years of the War, the 51 Stormo flew more than 40.000 hours, 28.000 of wich were ground attack and escort missions. In total the unit accounted for 270 enemy aircraft destroyed, 102 probably destroyed and 934 damaged in flight.

After the War the 51o Stormo was first reorganized over Lecce airbase beofre being redeployed at Treviso. On February 1 1953 the Wing became a Brigade and it began to operate from Istrana airbase. During the following years the unit operated the F84F Thunderjet, F-84G Thunderstreak and the F86K Sabre. For a short period the Fiat G91R was also assigned to the Wing.

Since 1963 the F-104G Starfighter was introduced with the Wing until it was replaced with the F-104S version of the famous century fighter in 1969. In January 1989 the Wing was the first unit within the Italian Air Force to operate the AMX and 22o Gruppo transferred to the updated version of the F-104S the F-104S-ASA until it was disbanded in 1999. Also in 1999, 132o Gruppo joined the wing from Villafranca also flying the AMX. Since that time the wing's two squadrons are operating the AMX.

The AMX was developed after the Italian Air Force issued a requirement for a strike fighter to replace its Aeritalia G91 and the F-104 Starfighters in the ground attack role in 1977. Rather than competing for the contract, Aeritalia (now Alenia Aeronautica) and Aermacchi agreed to make a joint proposal, as both firms had been considering the development of a similar class of aircraft for some years. Development work began in April 1978.

In March 1981, the Italian and the Brazilian governments agreed on joint requirements for the aircraft, and Embraer was invited to join the partnership in July. The first prototype of the AMX flew on May 15, 1984.

 
AMX - MM7165/51-47 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force   AMX - MM7114/51-52 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force   AMX - MM7168/51-55 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force   AMX - MM7168/51-55 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force
 
AMX - MM7168/51-55 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force   AMX - MM7114/51-52 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force   AMX - MM7114/51-52 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force   AMX - MM7168/51-55 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force
 
AMX - MM7160/51-53 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force
 

51o Stormo - Istrana

Words and photography Nico van Remmerden

Although the first prototype was lost on its fifth flight (killing its pilot), otherwise the test programme progressed reasonably smoothly. Production started by mid-1986, with the first examples delivered to the Italian and Brazilian air forces in 1989. Since then, some 200 AMXs have been built.

Italian AMX squadrons flew 252 combat sorties over Kosovo as part of Operation Allied Force, without a single loss. Instead of using unguided or more traditional laser-guided bombs, the Italian Air Force used Mk 82 bombs fitted with infrared guidance kits, effectively converting the "dumb" bombs into an infrared-guided bombs.

At the moment, the wing is composed of three units; the 103o Gruppo "Indians" equipped with the AMX in the fighter-bomber and ground attack role, 132o Gruppo "Sempro i Soliti" ("always the same") flying the AMX in the same role but the unit also has a photo reconnaissance role. The third unit assigned to the wing is 651 SCS flying the AB212 and MB339 in the SAR and liaison role.

During our visit we had the chance to join four pilots on their mission briefing that consisted of air to air refueling with a KC-135R of the USAFE's 100th ARW from Mildenhall. The briefing was given by Major "KAFA" Testa who explained the rules and procedures with the tanker at the rendezvous area. He explained the differences of the baskets used by the USAF. As the Italian basket is of a much softer material it could damage the AMX's when the pilots are not focused during the hook-ups.

After the briefing we joined the pilots during their own preparations before we were driven to the so called final chance point before take off. Recovery was beeing watched from the control tower and with one AMX making a low approach for us, it was superb to be there.

After we visited the maintenance hangars to see two special painted AMX's. We saw one of the 651 SCS's MB339s and concluded our fantastic visit to start the long drive home.

Nico van Remmerden would like to thank all people of the 51o Stormo for their hospitality. Special thanks go to Capitano DiDionigi, Antonio D' Avanzo and Mrs. Tanya Beek for all their help and efforts.

AMX - MM7111 - 51° Stormo - Italian Air Force
 
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