Italian Navy GRUPAER celebrates its 30th anniversary

Italian Navy Marina Grupaer Harrier
Italian Navy AV-8B Harrier II Plus jump jets.

The Italian Navy Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati (GRUPAER - embarked aircraft group) celebrated its 30th anniversary on June 14, 2022. Established in 1991, the GRUPAER is currently commanded by the Frigate Captain Giambattista 'Cracker' Molteni. The event was held a year late due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The celebration, which took place at the Grottaglie Naval Air Station, southern Italy, was attended by the Chief of Defense Staff, Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, by the Navy Chief of Staff, Admiral Enrico Credendino, by the Chief of the Naval Fleet, Admiral Aurelio De Carolis as well as civil and military authorities.

Among the highlights of the event was the flying display of an AV-8B Harrier II Plus jump jet that demonstrated its unique capabilities.

The Harrier II Plus aircraft, which boast multi-role and short vertical take-off and landing (VTOL-STOVL) capabilities, have equipped the GRUPAER since its inception in February 1991. Since then, the GRUPAER has participated in numerous international operations such as the "United Shield" in Somalia in 1995, the "ALBA NEO" in 1997, the NATO "Allied Force" in Kosovo in 1999, the "Enduring Freedom" in Afghanistan in 2001-2002, the "Operation Leonte" in Lebanon in 2006 and NATO "Unified Protector" in Libya in 2011.

In 2018, the GRUPAER received the first fifth-generation F-35B aircraft from Cameri Final Assembly and Check Out Facility (FACO), followed by two more, one in 2019 and one in 2021. It will receive a total of 15 Lightning IIs that will progressively replace the Harrier fleet.

As highlighted by the authorities, the Italian Navy is currently facing the great challenge that aims to achieve the initial operational capability of its aircraft carrier with the F-35B, expected in 2024. This milestone can also be reached thanks to the joint activity that it has been running for some time with the F-35 aircraft of the Italian Air Force. Both armed forces have the common goal of developing both sea-based and land-based expeditionary capacity as soon as possible.

The Chief of Defense Staff (who was the first Commander of the GRUPAER) and the Navy Chief of Staff, underlined the importance of having a fifth-generation embarked aerotactic unit common to few countries in the world.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: Italian Navy

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