The 51° Stormo is currently operating with one flying squadron (132° Gruppo) which is equipped with two different fighter aircraft types, specifically the Eurofighter Typhoon and AMX.
The 51° Stormo aims to transfer entirely to the Eurofighter Typhoon in the near future, gradually phasing out the AMX.
Colonel Massimiliano Pasqua, Commander of the 51° Stormo, said:
The phase out of the AMX is necessary for the future of 51° Stormo as a fighter unit, as managing two very different aero-tactical fleets was proving to be a challenge.
The Typhoon has both air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities, which will enable the Stormo to carry out the same missions as they previously performed with two different fleets, with only one single type of aircraft.
51° Stormo formally changed its mission in September 2019, adding the ‘provision of an air defence service’ to its assigned tasks. The changes at Istrana Air Force Base — with the arrival of Eurofighter fighters to the 132° Gruppo — represent the latest part of the transformation.
Colonel Massimiliano Pasqua, Commander of the 51° Stormo
Part of the process has included activation of the maintenance bays for the Eurofighter line — specific work areas equipped for technical inspections — enabling the 51° Stormo to reach full maintenance capacity, which allows the staff of the Gruppo Efficienza Aeromobili (GEA) at Istrana to take over the other Eurofighter Units in the aircraft maintenance cycle.
There are two maintenance bays, allowing GEA staff to simultaneously accommodate two aircraft undergoing inspections, which involve second level technical maintenance and inspections of the engines, ejector seats and the on-board armament systems, including their preventative removal.
The number of pilots assigned to the 132° Gruppo is constantly increasing, to the point that we perceive that the other two Squadriglia, the 252a and 253a, will be ‘populated’ by pilots flying the new Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.
Until recently, Italian Air Force deployments to Istrana were carried out in rotation by aircraft and crews from the 4° Stormo in Grosseto (Tuscany), the 36° Stormo in Gioia del Colle (Puglia) and 37° Stormo in Trapani (Sicily).
Originally, Eurofighter Typhoons were assigned to these three airbases. However, this left northern Italy with no cover.
The assignment of the first Eurofighter Typhoon to Istrana was a gradual process. It was initiated in January 2017, when a pair of Eurofighter aircraft were detached to Istrana airfield, replacing a similar aircraft which until that moment had been present at the Cameri airbase.
Leonardo delivered the latest brand new Italian Eurofighter to the 132° Gruppo during a small, COVID-19 proof-ceremony at Istrana Air Base on the 23rdof October 2020.
The future of the 51° Stormo with the ‘Swing Role’ Eurofighter Typhoons looks bright!
Photo credit: Riccardo Niccoli