Major Ilaria R. made a little bit of history when she took command of the 18th Fighter Group of the 37th Wing of the Italian Air Force. Major R. is the first female pilot to lead the Group.

The ceremony took place inside a hangar at the Trapani-Birgi air base, in the presence of the Wing’s Commander Colonel Moris G. She takes over from Major Davide M.

Major Ilaria R., who is originally from Padua, said: "I like to think of the 18th Group as a perfect watch, where even the smallest gear is essential to move a mechanism that external eyes consider complex and difficult." 

In a Eurofighter World interview in 2019 Major R. said that joining the Air Force had been a childhood dream. She said: “I could see fighter jets flying close to home and this inspired my passion for flying — it just grew and grew. Seeing the jets, I could only imagine what it would be like doing such a challenging and beautiful job.”

Photo Credit: Carmelo Sucameli

She joined the Air Force Academy in 2002, and initially trained with the 70th Wing in Latina, close to Rome, before going to the Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas as part of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Programme. From there she attended the Eurofighter Operational Conversion Unit in Italy before moving onto an Operational Squadron as a combat ready pilot.

She was assigned to Eurofighter straight after flying school and said it is “one of the most advanced platforms in the world” and that “from a performance perspective, it’s one of the most powerful aircraft available. It can deliver tremendous power, making it hard to compete with in dogfight scenarios.” 

The 18th Fighter Group is equipped with the F-2000 Eurofighter aircraft and deals with the surveillance and defence of the national airspace providing Quick Reaction Alert 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.