Italian Air Force 51st Wing resumes air defense role

Italian 51 Wing air defense Eurofighter
Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon belonging to 51st Wing takes off for air defense mission.

On April 2, 2020, the Italian Air Force officially included the 51st Wing at Istrana AFB, northern Italy, among the units responsible for national air defense. The new assignment comes twenty-one years after the last scramble carried out by aircraft assigned to the Wing. Today, however, the F-104 Starfighters will no longer take off, it was replaced by the modern Eurofighter Typhoons.

The 51st Wing is currently undergoing a transformation process which will be completed with the withdrawal of the AMX aircraft and its replacement with the Eurofighter. During this transition phase, the unit is ensuring, through the 132nd Squadron, the operation of two fleets simultaneously: one with Eurofighter, to cover national air defense role, and one with AMX to ensure tactical reconnaissance, Close Air Support (CAS) and ground attack capabilities.

This process began in 2017 with the deployment of a pair of Eurofighters at the base and the activation of an air defense alarm cell secured in rotation by the aircraft assigned to the 4th Wing in Grosseto (Tuscany), 36th Wing in Gioia del Colle (Puglia) and 37° Stormo in Trapani (Sicily).

In 2019, following the activation of the maintenance bays of the Eurofighter line - specific work areas equipped for technical inspections - the 51st Wing reached full maintenance capacity, allowing the staff of the Gruppo Efficienza Aeromobili (GEA) at Istrana to take over the other Eurofighter Units in the aircraft maintenance cycle.

The Commander of the Combat Forces, General of Air Division Francesco Vestito, who spoke on the occasion of the first alarm service carried out by the 51st Wing, expressed his appreciation for the important milestone achieved. "The effort made by the Wing, especially in this period of serious emergency for the country, is even more relevant because it testifies to the passion, motivation and sense of duty that have always characterized the daily work of the Air Force personnel," Vestito said.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Source, Images: Italian AF

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