English translation by Fabio Castelvetri
On Friday, May 11, 2018, the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare — AM), celebrated the cumulative 100th Anniversary from inception of the “Twenties Squadrons”:
20th Gruppo, activated at Castenedolo (Brescia) on March 26, 1918;
21st Gruppo, activated at Salonicco (Greece) on May 25, 1918;
22nd Gruppo, activated at Ghedi (Brescia) on July 5, 1918;
23rd Gruppo, activated at San Luca di Padernello (Treviso) on July 8, 1918.
Only two of the centenary Squadrons are currently on active status:
The 20th Gruppo, flying F-2000A’s and TF-2000A’s out of Grosseto as part of 4th Wing, is the ItAF’s OCU for the type;
The 21st Gruppo, part of the exclusive elite “Tigers” community, is currently part of the 9th Wing at Grazzanise and flies HH-212ICO helicopters to support the Service’s Special Ops, and is also tasked with Slow Movers Interceptor (SMI) and Personnel Recovery missions.
The 22nd Squadron was inactivated on February 25, 1999, while the 23rd Squadron followed suit on June 4, 2010.
The May 11 ceremony was undeniably more subdued in comparison with the more glamorous “Fighter Squadrons Centennial” celebration held in Grosseto in 2017.
The AF Chief of Staff’s absence was conspicuous, and the event itself lacked the pomp one would normally associate with such an important milestone.
Lt.Gen. Settimo Caputo represented the AF Staff, while Brig.Gen. Silvano Frigerio, Cdr, Fighter Command, accompanied him.
Besides relaying the Chief of Staff’s salute to the participants, Gen. Caputo quite unexpectedly centered his address on the imminent reactivation of the two Centenary Squadrons currently on inactive status, (22nd and 23rd Sqdns.), at the same time anticipating they will likely return to the bases where they lastly had operated out of: Treviso itself for the 22nd Sqdn, and Cervia for the 23rd Sqdn..
No insight on mission and aircraft types was shared, but it is rumored that the 22nd will take over Air Defense duties with F-2000A Typhoons, while the 23rd will carry out CASR/SpecOps missions flying the HH-101A Caesar.
Next in the celebration schedule, a sculpture of an open book displayed on an F-104 Starfighter’s stabilator was unveiled.
The left-hand page text reads:
“100 Years of Glory Etched in History”,
While the right-hand page carries the four “Twenties Squadrons” emblems.
Futher key attendees to the short ceremony, besides Gens. Caputo and Frigerio, were Col. David Morpurgo, Cdr. of the 51st Wing, and the Commanders of the four “Twenties Squadrons”: the current ones for the 20th and the 21st, while for the 23rd and the 22nd the last Commanders at deactivation - Col. Gnutti and Lt.Col. (Ret.) Caporale respectively.
The ceremony took place on the base sector usually used by the 132nd Gruppo CBR (Fighter-Bomber/Reconnaissance): the HAS were turned into fitting display areas for a wealth of period pictures, memorabilia, assorted gear and curios, and doubled as meeting point for the attendees, that came from all corners of Italy.
On the ramp, a static display outlined ItAF’s current line-up:
An AMX of the 132nd Sqdn. sat beside a Tornado IDS from 6th Wing from Ghedi, an HH-101A Caesar of the 15th Wing from Cervia and the now inevitable F-35A Lightning II of the 32nd Wing from Amendola.
A few special color aircraft were also showcased to mark the occasion:
· a TF-2000A Typhoon in 20th Sqdn. markings,
· an HH-212ICO of 21st Sqdn. in a “Tiger” scheme, befitting its imminent participation in the 2018 NATO Tiger Meet in Poznan (Poland)
· a stunning dual-faced F-104S-ASAM painted in 22nd Sqdn air superiority grey markings on the left side and in garish yellow 23rd Sqdn markings on the right side.
The flight display kicked off with a couple of Typhoons followed by a section of HH-212ICO’s, that would later depart for Poznan to attend the Tiger Meet, and was capped off by the customary Frecce Tricolori aerobatic display.
Different from the Grosseto anniversary of 2017, there was no public event: the celebration ended with a private banquet reserved for Squadron alumni.
The author would like to thank Maj, Stefano Testa (UCOM SMA) and the Capt. Marco Barone (PI 51° Stormo)
Images and text by Giorgio Ciarini