1ª Air Brigade - 1ª Brigata Aerea

Brigade coat of arms

The 1st Brigata Aerea Operazioni Speciali ( German "1st Air Brigade for Special Operations") is a major unit of the Italian Air Force with headquarters in Cervia near Rimini . The brigade has its origins in the 1st Fighter Squadron (1º Stormo) established in 1923 . From 1959 to 2007 it was equipped with anti-aircraft missiles . Today it is subordinate to specialized ground troops and helicopters .


The operational forces of the Italian Air Force are led by the Air Fleet Command (Comando della Squadra Aerea) in Rome. This command is subordinate to a support and special forces command (Comando delle Forze di Supporto e Speciali) in Rome-Centocelle with the 1st Brigata Aerea , in which the following units and units are grouped together:

The 16th Squadron protects military facilities such as airfields, missile positions or telecommunications systems, especially during missions abroad, and also uses the resources of the military dog ​​center in Grosseto , which is subordinate to it. The special forces of the 17th Squadron operate as airmobile ground troops, for example in the enemy hinterland and direct missions of flying units against ground targets. The two helicopter squadrons support the special forces, including with armed search and rescue .

The staff of the 1ª Brigata Aerea is primarily used to summarize matters of principle and to manage the special units of the Italian Air Force (force provider) . The command of the operations lies with the special forces command of the armed forces in Rome-Centocelle or with the command of the air force in Poggio Renatico .


The 1st Fighter Squadron ( 1º Stormo ) was established on May 7, 1923 in Brescia . At first he was subordinate to various groups and squadrons that had already fought in the First World War. On February 1, 1927, the squadron with the two flying groups 6 and 17 and their subordinate squadrons ( Squadriglie [1] ) were moved to Campoformido near Udine , where they received the Fiat CR.20 . In the following years the CR.32 and the CR.42 were flown . During World War IIthe 1st Fighter Squadron operated with the Macchi MC.200 in 1940 initially from Sicily . This was followed by conversion to the Macchi MC.202 in Campoformido and then relocation to North Africa , where the squadron was heavily used until June 1942. After a break in Campoformido, air defense missions at various locations in Italy followed from September 1942. From November 1942 to June 1943, the squadron braced itself over Tunisia and southern Italy against the Allied superiority, partly with new Macchi MC.205 . The heavy losses finally forced the retreat to the northern Italian Friuliwhere the squadron was disbanded with the Cassibile Armistice on September 8, 1943. Several pilots subsequently decided to continue the war in the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana on the side of the Wehrmacht . The 3ª Squadriglia of the 1º Gruppo of the ANR adopted the coat of arms and traditions of the disbanded 1st Fighter Squadron in Campoformido and continued the fight against Allied bomber formations until 1945.

The 1st Fighter Squadron was re-established in Istrana in 1956 with F-86K Saber aircraft . Just three years later, all aircraft were given up in order to convert to the Nike anti-aircraft missile system . The squadron was raised to brigade level ( 1ª Aerobrigata ) and moved its staff to Padua . The 7th group was added to the two groups 6 and 17. [2] In May 1957 they had a first staff contingent of the American air defense school in Fort Bliss in Texas sent, [3] which there initially trained theoretically and then on the McGregor Rangepractically trained at the Nike Ajax and then at the Nike Hercules . Support staff have been trained at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama and elsewhere.

In northern Italy, the brigade gradually built its three anti-aircraft missile groups, each with four missile squadrons. The 6th group came to Campformido, the 7th group to Montichiari and the 17th group together with a training unit to Padua. The individual squadrons had decentralized, fixed rocket positions. In 1964, the aforementioned associations and units were raised by one level. The groups ( battalions ) received a squadron status ( regiment ), the squadrons ( batteries ) a group status (battalion). The numbering of the associations was not changed, with the exception of the 6th group, which received the number 16 in the course of enlargement. [4] After a few relocations, the following picture emerged from 1964 to 1977:

Association / unit Stab/Basis Firing position
1st Flight Defense Brigade Padua Support units in Padua, missile school in Montichiari
16th anti-aircraft squadron Treviso
56th Group Ca 'Tron Ca 'Tron - 45 ° 34' 45 " N , 12 ° 27 '21" O
57th Group Ceggia Ceggia - 45 ° 40 ′ 26 ″ N , 12 ° 40 ′ 15 ″ W.
58th Group Cordovado Cordovado - 45 ° 49 ′ 33 ″ N , 12 ° 54 ′ 42 ″ W.
59th Group Vittorio Veneto Monte Pizzoc (fire control), Pian Cansiglio (fire position) 46 ° 4 ′ 8 ″ N , 12 ° 23 ′ 59 ″ E
7th anti-aircraft squadron Vicenza
64th Group Bassano del Grappa Monte Grappa (fire control), Forcelletto (fire position) - 45 ° 52 ′ 49 ″ N , 11 ° 48 ′ 2 ″ E
65th Group Montichiari Montichiari - 45 ° 25 ′ 28 ″ N , 10 ° 20 ′ 43 ″ W
66th Group Tonezza del Cimone Monte Toraro (fire control), Malga Coè (fire position) - 45 ° 52 ′ 15.1 ″ N , 11 ° 13 ′ 50 ″ E
67th Group Roncà Monte Calvarina - 45 ° 30 ′ 33.6 ″ N , 11 ° 16 ′ 52.1 ″ W
17th anti-aircraft squadron Padua
72nd Group Bovolone Bovolone - 45 ° 16 ′ 18 ″ N , 11 ° 8 ′ 22 ″ W.
79th Group Very Zeal - 45 ° 1 ′ 59 ″ N , 11 ° 23 ′ 35 ″ O
80th Group Conselve , Bagnoli di Sopra Bagnoli di Sopra - 45 ° 9 ′ 36 ″ N , 11 ° 54 ′ 42 ″ W
81st Group Ca 'Bianca, Chioggia Chioggia - 45 ° 10 ′ 2 ″ N , 12 ° 13 ′ 32 ″ W.

The Nike-Hercules positions had their focus in Veneto and the neighboring regions . Four of the twelve positions were in the Alps, although in these cases the respective logistical bases, radar and fire control positions as well as the fire positions were not concentrated in one place (59, 64, 66, 67). In seven positions, the missiles could be equipped with nuclear warheads within the framework of nuclear participation , which were under the control of the 559th US Artillery Group in Vicenza (57, 58, 67, 72, 79, 80, 81). [5] In addition to the Nike Hercules intended for high altitudes, there were the Hawk -Missile units of the Army , which were operationally led by the Italian Air Force. [6]

The annual service practice was carried out in the United States until 1966, and then for the next 40 years at the Salto di Quirra rocket launch site in Sardinia . In 1977 the 7th anti-aircraft squadron was disbanded in the course of restructuring, and with it the groups 56, 59, 64 and 66. The 16th squadron in Treviso took over the groups 57, 58, 80 and 81, the 17th the groups 65, 67 , 72 and 79. The missile systems were modernized several times in the following years, but soon no longer met the requirements. The replacement by the Patriot air defense system came after the end of the Cold Warnot beyond the planning stage due to necessary budget consolidations. [7] The gradual dissolution of the brigade began in 1995, initially with the dissolution of two groups (67, 81), then in 1998 with the dissolution of the 16th Squadron and three other groups (57, 65, 79). The 17th squadron remained with three groups (58, 72, 80) and temporarily another unit with the Spada air defense system .

On November 24, 2006, the last shooting down of an Italian Nike Hercules took place in Salto di Quirra (Capo San Lorenzo) . On July 1, 2007, the 17th Squadron was also disbanded. His three remaining groups (squadrons) converted to the Spada air defense system and moved to Rivolto near Udine, where they were taken over by the 2nd Squadron. The 1st anti-aircraft missile brigade also adopted its current name and concentrated on special operations. The American Air Force Special Operations Command served as a model in this context. The former anti-aircraft squadrons 16 and 17 were re-established with specialized ground troops and took on the aforementioned object protection and special tasks. You have been used several times in Afghanistan recently . The brigade staff moved from Padua to Rome-Centocelle at the end of 2009 and then to Cervia in September 2014.


Nike firing position ( Base Tuono ) of the 66º Gruppo Intercettori Teleguidati not far from Passo Coe before the opening of the museum.

Parts of the mountain fire facility of the 66º Gruppo at Passo Coe (Base Tuono) , which was abandoned in 1977, were largely restored between 2010 and 2013 by the municipality of Folgaria and the province of Trento with the support of the Italian Air Force and converted into a small museum. These are the facilities of the former Alpha launch sectionon Monte Maggio with a hall for storing the rockets and a launch platform in front of it, including the running rails, the launch racks and three erected rockets. It shows not only a fire position with its Nike Hercules missiles, but also the functioning of the air defense system including the fire control system and logistical support, as well as the history of the former Nike Hercules units of the Italian Air Force. The systems of the other two firing sections and other equipment for the firing position are no longer available. In its place, an artificial lake called Lago Coe was created, where there is a parking lot for museum visitors. The museum is usually closed during the winter months.


  1. Squadriglia literally corresponds to the German term Staffel. During the First World War and in the years thereafter, the Squadriglia was the central operational unit. In the course of time, the scope and importance of this organizational unit decreased. In the Second World War it usually comprised six to twelve aircraft, the parent group ( Gruppo ) had around 18 to 24 machines. Although the group is equivalent to a battalion to this day , it corresponds in size to a squadron ( company ). Even the Italian Air Force translates Gruppo today with the English term Squadron . The Squadriglia is in the aviation area todayde facto declined to the rank of a sub-unit ( swarm ) and usually comprises no more than six aircraft.
  2. The 6th and 17th groups formed the core of the squadron since 1927. Shortly after the squadron was set up in Brescia, the 7th group was part of it temporarily and for this reason was again included.
  3. From May 1957 to February 1959 a total of 808 soldiers were deployed in the Italian Air Force.
  4. The 6th group received the designation 16th Squadron in the course of enlargement, because number 6 already led the 6th fighter-bomber squadron in Ghedi .
  5. ^ The 559th Field Artillery Group had a central special ammunition depot in Longare near Vicenza ( Pluto site ). Various field artillery detachments maintained additional depots for the nuclear warheads at the Italian Nike positions. 559th Field Artillery Group at www.usarmygermany.com
  6. A total of 12 Nike squadrons / batteries and 16 Hawk batteries. Map with all former Nike and Hawk batteries in Northern Italy
  7. Originally, no fewer than 20 Patriot units were planned, then they were reduced to twelve, then to just nine. Eventually, despite the apparent need, the program was canceled entirely for financial reasons. Italy was later represented in the MEADS anti-aircraft program, but its implementation failed. The new threat potential from the south (North Africa, Middle East) is to counteract warships of the Italian Navy , which are equipped with Aster missiles and can protect threatened parts of the country against ballistic missiles . The land-based version of this air defense system was also used by the army for an air defense associationprocured, which was previously equipped with Hawk missiles. The Italian Air Force therefore no longer has its own air defense systems in the area of ​​territorial defense.


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