Iconic Italy's Atlantic sunsets as the nation introduces P-72A

After 45 years of service, the Breguet Atlantic maritime patrol aircraft hands over to the new P-72A.

Breguet P-1150 Atlantic maritime patrol aircraft with special livery.

On 21 September 2017, the Italian Air Force held at Sigonella Air Base, Sicily, home of the 41st Wing Antisom, the farewell ceremony for the iconic Breguet P-1150 Atlantic maritime patrol aircraft. The Atlantic will shortly be replaced by the new P-72A aircraft, which was officially introduced during the event.

The ceremony was attended by the Chiefs of Staff of the Italian Navy, Admiral Valter Girardelli and the Italian Air Force, Air Squad General Enzo Vecciarelli, as well as representatives of Leonardo SpA and local civil authorities.

Admiral Girardelli highlighted that "there is a need to continue to have systems capable of carrying out defense activities even from the submarine threat and, at the same time, not to waste the precious and unique know-how laboriously achieved and jealously guarded by the anti-submarine aviation personnel obtained thanks constant training and thousands of flight hours in patrol missions at sea and operational activities."

General Vecciarelli said that "the Air Force will give great support to the Navy, with a renewed integration of our capabilities. I hope that this experience [of the Navy] at the 41st Wing will give rise to an ever wider collaboration, which can merge the capabilities of both, always with the sole objective of defending our common values."

Since September 2013 Sigonella has been providing support to the various foreign assets involved in Operation Frontex/Triton in order to coordinate the patrolling of the Member States' borders and manage the flow of migrants. Furthermore, since 2015, it hosts the foreign assets participating in the European Union Military Naval Operation in the Central Southern Mediterranean (EunavforMed).

The Atlantic, which leaves the Italian Air Force fleet after 45 years of service and over 250,000 flight hours, has taken part in all recent national maritime surveillance operations in the Med, such as "Mare Nostrum" and "Mare Sicuro".

Leonardo's P-72A is an all-weather maritime patrol aircraft, based on the civilian aircraft ATR72-600 modified with specific equipment and sensors to perform its military duties. It represents an interim solution aimed at bridging the capacitive gap until the introduction of a Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircarft with ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) capability.

The new aircraft was already used at the Taormina G7 in May 2017. Like its predecessor, it is assigned to the Air Force and operated by the Navy: mixed crews of the two armed forces work in great synergy thanks to a consolidated experience in almost fifty years of operational activity in the Atlantic.

The enhanced search capabilities, the extended range and the ability to fly at very low altitudes make the new aircraft essential for patrolling and surveillance of operational theaters and the security of the national territory, as well as for SAR missions at sea. In addition, the net-centric capability of the P-72A helps to ensure persistent surveillance in support of the country's security and defense needs.

During the event, an Atlantic and a P-72A conducted a formation flight to symbolize a handover in the air. The Atlantic involved in the activity sported a special celebratory livery in the rear.

The Atlantic was originally acquired by five nations: Italy, Germany, France, Netherlands and Pakistan.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Photo credits: Italian Air Force

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