English translation by Frank McMeiken
On Friday 4 March at the Pisa Base Aerea, home of the 46^ Brigata Aerea, a ceremony was organised around two significant events. The first step, and an essentially symbolic one, was the renewal of the fabric of the Bandiera di Guerra (standard) of this prestigious Brigata, which had been with the unit since way back in 1966, and is now jealously guarded in the office of the Comandante della Brigata. The new flag, with its escort, will now accompany the personnel of the 47^ on all the subsequent activities of the 46^.
The second stage of the ceremonies was a celebration, albeit sober, of the achievement of 100,000 flying hours by the C 130J and C 130J-30 fleets of the Aeronautica Militare.
The ceremony was held in the presence of Generale di Squadra Tiziano Tosi (the new Comandante della Squadra Aerea), Generale di Divisione Aerea Vincenzo Parma, and, obviously, in principal position, the Comandante of the 46^ Brigata Aerea, Generale di Brigata Stefano Fort. There was a significant presence of civil and military authorities, which formed the backdrop to the event, while essential participants were representatives from Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the Hercules: the local media and specialist press representatives were also present in some numbers.
Readers will recall that the C-130J has been operational with the Brigata Aerea at Pisa since 18 August 2000, the date on which the first aircraft arrived as a natural successor to the by then ‘ancient’ preceding H model. In December 2004, following the arrival of the twenty second example, the order signed with the American manufacturer was completed. Over the ten long years, the 100,000 flying hours conducted by the aircraft of the 50° and 2° Gruppo have permitted the 46^ Brigata Aerea, brilliantly assisted by their cousins in the 98° Gruppo (equipped with the smaller C-27J), to achieve prestigious results. Particular effectiveness has been displayed in operational theatres, where contingents of the Italian forces continue to operate, and benefit from the logistical support provided by the “130”.
The operational capacities of the aircraft have been refined over the years, and at present permit the C-130J to undertake not only transport missions, carrying personnel and supplies, but also to specialise in air deployment and parachute dropping missions, in-flight refuelling, search and rescue at seam all of which are testimony to the adaptability and flexibility of the four-engined transport.
Generale Fort took the opportunity to emphasise that this milestone was tangible proof of the organisation level and professionalism achieved by the men and women of the Aeronautica Militare. In particular, he reminded those present that these results could not have been achieved without their good will, the effort, and sacrifices, elements which the 46^ Brigata Aerea certainly does not lack. Every day the unit is launched into new challenges, pre-planned or last minute; one only has to watch today’s TV news broadcasts, in which, albeit with minimal recognition, the activities of the 46^ on behalf of Italian citizens caught up in the preface to the Libyan civil war, a war which exploded only a few hours after the conclusion of the operations. Other missions (again listing only those most recent) have been in Iraq, Iran, Haiti, Malaysia, the Cote d’Ivoire, Lebanon, Colombia, Thailand, South Africa, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, and again in Tchad, innumerable missions which are almost always conducted in difficult environmental and tactical situations.
Unfortunately, the human sacrifices made by the personnel of the 46^ Brigata during its history cannot be forgotten, some of which made even more tragic by the fact that they occurred during simple training missions.
The only disappointment during the event, restricted by the austere financial situation, was the fact that it was not possible to celebrate the achievement with the preparation of a special colour aircraft, as had previously been done for the 75,000 flying hour anniversary in 2008.
The ceremony was concluded on the apron outside Hangar 4, from where the guest could watch a flypast by a formation of three C-130J, which then made a tactical approach and landing on the airfield. Soon after came a C-27J of the 98° Gruppo, which dropped a parachute team from the Brigata Paracadutisti “Folgore”: the team touched down just a few metres from the guests, reminding them of the close ties between the parachute brigade and the 46^ Brigata Aerea.
The author would like to thank the Capt. Sammaciccio, Capt. Contiero and Warrant Officer Migliorato
Moreover, for their perfect collaboration, special thanks are due to Capt. Testa, Lt.Col. Alfonsi and the Ufficio Pubblica Informazione (SMA Roma)
Images and text by Giorgio Ciarini