Through a shake-up of its bases, the Italian Air Force is streamlining its special operations and rescue operations, trimming costs as new aircraft come into service, and reflecting what officials describe as a shift in the type of mission they are handling in the 21st century.
On Sept. 22, the Air Force’s 1st Brigade for Special Operations moved into new premises at Cervia Air Base on Italy’s Adriatic coast, part of an enlargement of the brigade that saw it take command of the 15th Wing already based at Cervia, which undertakes combat search-and-rescue missions.
Three wings already grouped under the brigade’s command, which are spread around Italy, are set to partly shift personnel and machinery to Cervia.
“We need to be ready and flexible enough for a whole range of operations,” said Gen. Francesco Agresti, the brigade’s new commander. “We’ve got the experience, we just need to configure it better.”
“You have to move in hours, you don’t know where, when or how,” said Gen. Maurizio Lodovisi, head of the Air Force’s Operational Forces Command.
Lodovisi cited the NATO operation in Libya and the continuing instability there as an example. “Libya has shown us we need to be ready to recover pilots and extract civilians,” he said. “This move will give us a huge operational benefit.”
The 1st Brigade oversees the Air Force’s 16th Wing, which is based in southern Italy and has provided force protection for Italy’s air base at Herat in Afghanistan. Also part of the brigade is the 17th Special Operations Wing, which is based at Furbara in central Italy and has operated in Afghanistan. The brigade also oversees the 9th Wing from southern Italy, which operates the AB212 helicopter in support of special operations.