May 1, 2010 (by Dirk A. Geerts) - Since June 2003 the A.M.I. has been flying 34 leased F-16's operated by 2 different units, 5° Stormo based at Cervia - San Giorgio with 23° Gruppo and 37° Stormo based at Trapani - Birgi with 10° & 18° Gruppo.
AMI F-16A ADF #MM7244 from 23 gruppo is flying by at Cervia AB during the 'Farewell Falcon' ceremony on April 16th, 2010. [Photo by Dirk A. Geerts]
Due to restructuring at Cervia not being completed after the ceasing of F-104 operations, the unit accepted and operated the first "Fighting Falcons" out of Trapani. At the end of 2003 the first F-16's transferred to their home base and in January 2004, the unit assumed full "Quick Reaction Alert" status.
The F-16 ADF
is only a temporary stop-gap "Air Defence" fighter for the A.M.I.
, but due to various delays with the delivery of the Eurofighter "Typhoon" the lease was extended for an additional 18 months. During the past years the Italian F-16's showed various times their ADF capability, because of the increasing number of alert intercepts of suspected airplanes entering the Italian airspace. Another important task done by the "Vipers" was "Operation Jupiter", the protection of the Olympic Games in 2006.
To give a tribute to the "VIPERA", 5° Stormo organised a farewell event for military personnel, family and various guests at Cervia Air Base. A small flight line was set up with various AMI
aircraft types like the MB.339A, Fiat G.91Y, F.104S Starfighter, EF.2000S Typhoon, and of course the F.16's from 23° Gruppo. The well known "Frecce Tricolori" flying with the Aermacchi MB.339's were also present.
During special events one or more aircrafts will often be painted with special colours. For this occasion on April 16, F-16 with serial #MM7236
received a "Diana" tail and was flown by 5° Stormo Commander, Urban Floreani. The second F-16 with serial #MM7244
piloted by the current 'Greyhound 1' of 23° Gruppo, Commander Mauro Gnutti (+1000 hours on F-16) was completely painted in stunning "VIPERA" colours.
23° Gruppo will release their remaining F-16's to 18° Gruppo located in Trapani sometime during June 2010. This unit will then solely operate until 2013 with 14 F-16's. The future of 5° Stormo / 23° Gruppo is uncertain.
15° Stormo now flying with the HH.3F helicopters is likely to be relocated to Cervia - San Giorgio.