(Frecce Tricolori 1961-2021 – 60 anni con il Tricolore nel Cuore –
Un abbraccio lungo 60 anni)
2020, a year conditioned by a global health emergency, should have been the year of celebrations for 60 years acrobatic seasons of the Italian aerobatic team: Frecce Tricolori. Celebrations were being prepared during a busy weekend of the great world aerobatic teams intent on honoring one of the most famous military aerobatic squadrons in the world.
Was 1st March 1961, after having received the task of unifying the aerobatic teams present, Major Mario Squarcina, leader of Diavoli Rossi (one of the aerobatic teams of the Italian Air Force) founded the 313º Gruppo Addestramento Acrobatico (313rd Aerobatic Training Squadron) in the Rivolto Air Force Base and the Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale – PAN, (National Aerobatic Team) which would fly 5 new North American F-86 “Sabre”.
This was the day that saw the birth of Frecce Tricolori, the pride of Aeronautica Militare Italiana – Italian Air Force and ambassadors of Made in Italy in the world.
Today made up of 10 Aermacchi MB 339PAN aircraft, flew in its sixty years even with North American F-86 “Sabre” and Fiat G91PAN. With “Sabre”, the Frecce immediately used colored smokes with the three colors of the Italian national flag: white, red and green.
The Future of the Frecce will see the arrival of the Alenia Aermacchi M-345 HET to replace the timeless, much loved around the world and still efficient Aermacchi MB 339PAN.
Italian Air Force (AMI) was preparing a great event to pay homage to its Acrobatic Team made up of some of its best pilots. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, AMI had to postpone the event and we all had to wait a whole year to be able to celebrate PAN’s birthday with a reduced presence of the public and international guests.
“A difficult year that saw the Air Force continue to operate seamlessly to fulfill its institutional task and make a decisive contribution to saving lives and supporting the national effort to contain the virus. To always be better with the people, among the people “
Gen. S.A. Alberto Rosso
With these words, General Alberto Rosso, Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force, wanted to express the commitment of Italian Air Force in this difficult period hit by the Covid19 pandemic. It would not have been possible, therefore, to have the celebrations in this sad period, which in any case saw the Frecce Tricolori engaged in May 2020 in the “Abbraccio Tricolore” (Tricolor Embrace), a series of flyovers over all Italian regions to symbolically embrace the whole Nation as a sign of unity, solidarity and recovery.
After this long wait and with the hope of a recovery from this global crisis, the Italian Air Force finally managed to schedule the event for 18th and 19th September 2021 under strict conditions of safety and health protection of the participants.
The event, much awaited by fans, therefore took place at the Rivolto Air Base, home to 313º Gruppo Addestramento Acrobatico and home of Frecce Tricolori. Held between Saturday and Sunday, with Friday exclusively dedicated to Spotters, it followed a strict accreditation and participation procedure: 9000 guests on Saturday and 9000 guests for Sunday was the maximum number of spectators allowed for the airshow according to the restrictions due legislation to limit the spread of Covid19 in Italy. Registration procedure opened on 2nd September 2021 (10:00 A.M.) saw the seats run out, for both days, in a few hours, those who had access on Saturday could not have access the next day in order to guarantee the show for more participants.
For both days the flight schedule was the same, so the spectators registered for Saturday or Sunday were able to enjoy the same show in the two days.
4 foreign aerobatic teams that guaranteed participation in the event: Orlik Team for Poland, the Midnight Hawks for Finland, the Patrulla Aguila to represent Spain and finally the appreciated Patrouille Suisse for Switzerland, some of them had already been present in 2015 at the 55th anniversary celebrations of the Frecce Tricolori. The British Red Arrows and the Belgian Red Devils were also on the schedule, the latter having to give up due to weather problems at the air base where they were waiting to leave for Rivolto.
Many Italian assets were present at the event: Leonardo HH-101A and HH-139A, Gulfstream G-550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning), Boeing KC-767A, Lockheed Martin F-35A and F-35B, Lockheed Martin C- 130J “Super Hercules”, AMX Ghibli, Panavia Tornado, SIAI Marchetti SF-260EA and S-208M, Alenia Aermacchi MB-339A and MB-339CD, Alenia C-27J, Eurofighter Typhoon F-2000, Leonardo T-346A.
Also present was the famous “Formazione Legend” (Legend Formation) with its: North American T-6 Texan, Fiat G-46, Aermacchi MB326K and MB326E.
Also noteworthy is the static display, with many of the aircraft in use by AMI, from the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper “Predator B” reconnaissance drone to the Eurofighter Typhoon, from the Panavia Tornado to the legendary AMX “Ghibli” and the BredaNardi NH500E (MD Helicopters MD 500E). A Gulfstream G-550 CAEW has also been made available to guests eyes, the CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) is a multi-sensor system with aerial surveillance, command, control and communications functions, instrumental to air supremacy and support for ground forces. Even for the static display, the public had to follow some limitations to avoid the accumulation of people in small spaces.
The unmissable appointment of the Airshow is also the performances of the aircraft of Reparto Sperimentale Volo-RSV (Experimental Flight Squadron), with its: Eurofighter Typhoon, Leonardo C27J Spartan and Leonardo T-346.
During the airshow, Italian Air Force also wanted to expose to the public the operational capabilities of all its air and ground assets in a special COMAO demo lasting about 22 minutes.
The simulated scenario involved the exfiltration of injured personnel by the AMI Special Forces. A Lockheed Martin F-35A simulated a Suppression Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) attack, using its Stealth capabilities (low radar visibility) to attack and destroy an enemy air defense system in order to clear the field for Tornado IDS, AMX Ghibli, and Typhoon who simulated several attacks against the airport at a distance of 30 seconds from each other and at low altitude.
Afterwards, the AMI Special Forces transported by two HH-101 helicopters landed to recover the injured and return aboard the HH101s, supported in Close Air Support by several AMI aircraft.
At the end simulation, a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II flew over the airport demonstrating its VSTOL (Vertical/Short Take-Off & Landing) capabilities, landing in less than 200mt in the center of runway after making a hovering pass, immediately followed by the passage of all the assets used above the runway, with the KC-767 in “Tanker” formation together with the fighters and followed by the G550 CAEW.
Of course, to celebrate their anniversary, Frecce Tricolori presented their beautiful complete flight display on both days, concluding both days and giving their wonderful evolutions in the Friulian skies to the present public. As a usual program, the display of the Frecce Tricolori begins with the preparation of the aircraft by the ground crew who, parading in front of the stands, go to their aircraft.
The arrival of the Pilots amid the applause and the ignition of the Rolls-Royce Viper engines of the MB 339PANs, the taxing of the aircraft towards the runway head, the smoke test with the first taste of the Tricolore, and off to the skies above Rivolto a give those emotions that have given the whole world for 60 years.
Thanks to the work of the famous designer Mirko Pecorari, founder of AircraftStudioDesign, the marvelous MB 339PANs were decorated for the occasion with the liveries of the acrobatic team prior to the Frecce Tricolori: Cavallino Rampante, Getti Tonanti, Tigri Bianche, Diavoli Rossi and Lancieri Neri.
The liveries have been appropriately drawn on the tails of the 10 Frecce aircraft so that they can be clearly admired by all. While on the tail of the Aermacchi of the Commander of Frecce Tricolori, Pony 0 of Lt. Col. Gaetano Farina has been designed a splendid livery dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the PAN.
A great job by the artist Pecorari to pay homage to the history of the Italian acrobatic teams and the 60 years of the world’s most famous aerobatic team, an anniversary which on Saturday 18th September saw the participation of the top institutional officials of the Italian government.
In fact on Saturday afternoon it landed with escort of two Eurofighters, the Airbus A319CJ of the President of Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella who didn’t want miss this event and who also warmly thanked for the work of the staff of 313° Gruppo as a representative of Made in Italy in the world.
Together with the President Mattarella, the President of the Senate Sen. Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati, the Minister of Defense Hon. Lorenzo Guerini and the Undersecretary of State for Defense Sen. Stefania Pucciarelli were also present in the tribune.
Before the opening of the exhibitions, was also possible admire one of the last works of Pagani Automobili: the Pagani Huayra Tricolore, created in just three units and dedicated to the Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale. With the livery that recalls those of the MB339 and driven by Horacio Pagani himself, first paraded in front of the flight lines and then a lap on the track and opened the dances for the airshow for the 60th anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori.
Graced by the good weather on Friday and Saturday, on Sunday some rain showers that favored photographers for some spectacular shots, a bit like in 2015 for the 55th anniversary of the PAN, Italian Air Force has excellently represented its tasks and has lavishly celebrated its best ambassadors in the world.
Men and vehicles engaged both at home in defense and in aid of their own population, and in the world for humanitarian aid such as for the airlift operated in Afghanistan with the “Aquila Omnia” Operation between 13th and 27th August 2021 where 5 Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules of the 46th Air Brigade and 4 Boeing KC-767As of the 14th Wing took part together with other assets of the various Italian Armed Forces.
A weekend full of emotions, unforgettable for those who had the honor of being present, a long-awaited event in such a difficult period for everyone, the result of a great deal of work by the organization of the Italian Air Force.
Thanks also from us that we have received commendable support for our work to be able to present to those who could not be present the emotions that the Italian Air Forces have given us to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori.
60 years of Frecce Tricolori, 60 years of acrobatics in the skies all over the world that have thrilled millions of people, that thrill and will still thrill all those who will go to see them fly. A 60 years long hug…
from Rivolto Daniele Maiolo
courtesy of: Aeronautica Militare Italiana