4th Wing - 4º Stormo

Coat of arms of the 4º Stormo

4º Stormo "Amedeo d'Aosta" is the name of the 4th fighter squadron of the Italian Air Force . It is named after its former commander , Amadeus of Savoy, Duke of Aosta . The wing is on the military airfield of Grosseto ( Tuscany stationed) and combat aircraft type Euro Fighter equipped.


The squadron is integrated into the air defense system of Italy and NATO and is operationally managed by the Comando delle Operazioni Aeree - COA in Poggio Renatico and the NATO Combined Air Operations Center TJ in Torrejón de Ardoz near Madrid . Since December 16, 2005 it has been holding an alarm riot with its new Eurofighters . In particular, it is responsible for the safety of the airspace over the city of Rome . One of the squadron's two flying units is responsible for training all Italian Eurofighter pilots.


The squadron is divided into two flying groups in squadron strength :

  • 9th IOC Group (Jagdstaffel)
  • 20º Gruppo AO (training relay with two-seater)

The squadron also reports to the following groups:

  • 404º Gruppo STO (Technical Support)
  • 504º Gruppo SLO (logistic support)
  • 904º Aircraft Efficiency Group (Flugzeuginstandhaltung)
  • Defense Group ( Objektschutz , Flugabwehr )

There is also an SAR and liaison squadron (604ª Squadriglia), which is equipped with Agusta AB-212 helicopters and Aermacchi MB 339 and S-208M (light liaison aircraft) aircraft.


The beginnings

Francesco Baracca , 91. Sq.

The 4th is one of the most traditional and highly decorated squadrons in the Italian Air Force. It was created on June 1, 1931 at the Campoformido airfield near Udine by merging the already existing 9º Gruppo (from 1º Stormo) and the 10º Gruppo. The latter consisted of squadrons ( Squadriglie ), which had already distinguished themselves in the First World War , including the 91ad Squadriglia Francesco Baraccas . His horse symbol was adopted as the squadron coat of arms in 1933. The squadron, equipped with the Fiat CR.20 , moved its headquarters to the Merna airfield near Gorizia in 1931. From May 1933 to March 1934 the 4th was commanded by a member of the Royal House of Savoy , the Duke of Aosta , who, as an enthusiastic pilot, contributed a lot to the strong corps spirit of the association. With his name, the squadron later also included the ducal crown and the so-called Savoy knot in the coat of arms. In the years that followed, the 4th set up an aerobatic team that made successful appearances in Budapest (1936–37), Belgrade (1938) and Berlin (1939). During these years, the popular Fiat CR.32 was also converted, with which the squadron also participated in the Spanish Civil Warparticipated. In 1939 it was converted to the Fiat CR.42 , with which the 9º Gruppo moved to Piedmont and the 10º Gruppo to Libya . Even though more modern monoplane with retractable landing gear were already being built in Italy , the 4º Stormo first had to fight against British Hawker Hurricanes with double-deckers .

The second World War

Shortly after the Italian entry into the war on June 10, 1940, the 9º Gruppo also moved south, first to Comiso in Sicily and then also to North Africa, where the squadron then mainly operated from Tobruk and suffered considerable losses with its almost 50 outdated aircraft. In December 1940 both groups returned to Gorizia and upgraded to the better Macchi MC.200 , with which they were then used for a short time in Yugoslavia . Then the 10º Gruppo moved to Catania in Sicily to take part in the fighting over Malta . The 9º Gruppo stayed temporarily in Gorizia and prepared for the goodMacchi MC.202 , which in turn was used relatively successfully from Comiso via Malta. Because of the Allied counter-offensive, parts of the squadron relocated to North Africa in autumn 1941. At the beginning of 1942 the 10º Gruppo in Campoformido ( Udine ) also received the new Macchi MC.202. In April 1942, the entire squadron moved shortly to Gela in Sicily to take part again in the fighting over Malta. In May it went back to North Africa (Martuba, Sidi el-Barrani , Fuka), where Rommel's counter-offensive was launchedsupported. On August 26, 1942, the 4th, together with the 1st squadron, attacked the British airfield at Gambut, where numerous British fighter planes were devastated. The two group commanders of the 4th Squadron were killed in the heavy fighting at El Alamein and the subsequent retreat. It was especially during this time that the Allies began to refer to the 4th as an elite squadron. By January 1943 the last parts of the 4º Stormo returned to Campoformido, e.g. To convert to the modern Macchi MC.205 . From March 1943, parts of the squadron fought from Milan-Bresso , Rome-Ciampino and then mainly from Cataniaoff against the allied superiority. The best pilots of the squadron, including Franco Lucchini and Leonardo Ferrulli , fell in the fierce aerial battles over southern Italy . After the Allied landings in Sicily, the 4th withdrew to Calabria and then to Apulia ( Gioia del Colle ). By this time, the squadron had shot down almost 600 enemy aircraft, and 215 more kills were considered likely. When the armistice with the Allies came into force on September 8, 1943 , a large part of the Italian army disbanded . In the area of ​​the Luftwaffe, parts fought under theAeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana of the fascist Repubblica Sociale Italiana on the side of the Germans, other parts, including the 4º Stormo, as part of the Aeronautica Cobelligerante Italiana on the side of the Allies. Over the next few months, the 4th Squadron operated with considerable logistical difficulties from the almost completely destroyed Apulian bases in Gioia del Colle and Castrovillari via Yugoslavia, where mainly isolated Italian units and partisan units were supported from the air. This also prevented a direct confrontation with the Italian ANR pilots. In the summer of 1944, the Allies provided the squadron with P-39 Air Cobra aircraftavailable, which were relatively well suited for attacks on ground targets. On this occasion, the 12º Gruppo was temporarily set up again. By the end of the war, several other pilots, some of them experienced, fell from the squadron.


Wappen 9th Wing „Francesco Baracca“

In 1946 the 4º Stormo received the P-38 Lightning , with which two years later they moved to Naples-Capodichino . Until the Vampire , the first jet aircraft in the Italian Air Force, was commissioned, the P-51 Mustang was also flown .

In 1949 the new Republic of Italy awarded the troop flag of 4º Stormo the highest Italian military medal in recognition of the operations between 1940 and 1945.

In 1954 the squadron was expanded to become the 4th Air Brigade (until 1966) with flying groups 9, 10 and 12. In this structure, they moved to the military airfield of Pratica di Mare near Rome in 1956 and shortly afterwards received the new, license- built one F-86 Saber . This machine was used to set up the Cavallino Rampante aerobatic team , which also performed in Paris , among other places.

From 1959 to 1962 the association gradually moved from Pratica di Mare to Grosseto, where it is still at home today. Shortly afterwards, the first Italian F-104 starfighters were received . In 1966 the 12º Gruppo went to the 36º Stormo in Gioia del Colle , the 10º Gruppo to the re-established 9º Stormo in Grazzanise near Naples. On this occasion the 4º Stormo with the 9º Gruppo adopted the white horse against a black background as its coat of arms, the 9º with the 10º Gruppo the black against a white background.

The starfighter era

Starfighter in Pratica di Mare

Between 1962 and 1979 the Italian Air Force procured a total of 105 F-104G (German or European version), 28 TF-104G (two-seat trainer), 20 RF-104G (reconnaissance aircraft) and 206 F-104S. Almost all of them were built under license in Italy . The F-104G were withdrawn from service with the exception of a few copies in 1983. When introduced from 1968 F-104S it was an improved all-weather Italian version with the Sparrow missile , a radar of the type NASARR F15G (Hunter) or R-21G / H (fighter bomber) and more powerful engines of the type J79- GE-19 . The hunters had to use the Vulcan on-board cannon because of the technical modificationsget extended. From 1986 to 1993, 147 of these machines were equipped with the modified Italian Aspide rocket and a FIAR R21G / M1 “Setter” radar (F-104S-ASA). The improved AIM-9L Sidewinder could also be used. More modern and space-saving technology also made it possible to reinstall the on-board cannon. At the end of the 1990s, 49 aircraft and 15 two-seater TF-104Gs were brought up to the ASA / M ( Aggiornamento Sistema d'Arma / Modificato ) standard through structural improvements to the airframe and new avionics . In Italy, too, there were numerous accidents with the Starfighter, especially in the initial phase: 138 aircraft were lost in 42 years (37.5%). On thePilots , however, had an indescribable fascination with the aircraft right up to the end.

The first starfighters were introduced in March 1963 at the 9º Gruppo des 4º Stormo. Towards the end of this year, the first two-seat trainers of the type TF-104G arrived in Grosseto, with whom the 20º Gruppo was re-established as a training unit in 1965, but which remained independent until 1985 and only then was subordinated to the 4º Stormo. In addition to training all Starfighter pilots, Grosseto was also responsible for the technical overhaul of all F-104s, as far as this could not be done independently by other associations or under the direction of industrial companies. In this respect, Grosseto remained the center of the Italian Starfighter fleet for four decades, which was organized (from north to south) as follows:

Military airfield squadron Seasons Period Remarks
Cameri 53º Stormo 21 1967 to 1997 Hunter
Ghedi 6th Wing 154 1964 to 1983 Fighter-bomber, then tornado
Piacenza 50th Wing 155 1965 to 1986 dann Tornado; z. T. in Istrana u. Ghedi
Verona 3rd Wing 28, 132 1964 to 1993 Scouts and fighter-bombers, then AMX
Istrana 51st Flock 22 1969 to 1999 Hunter
Rimini 5th Wing 23, 102 1964 to 2002 then F-16 or tornado in Cervia and Ghedi
Grosseto 4th Wing 9, 20 1963 to 2004 Fighter and trainer, then Eurofighter
Grazzanise 9th Wing 10 1967 to 2003 Hunter
Gioia del Colle 36º Stormo 12, 156 1965 to 1984/1995 Hunters and fighter-bombers, then a tornado
Trapani 37th Wing 18 1984 to 2003 Fighters and fighter-bombers, then F-16

(The fighter-bomber squadrons in Ghedi, Rimini and Gioia del Colle were able to use American atomic bombs as part of the so-called nuclear participation . In northern Italy, the air defense was supplemented by twelve anti-aircraft missile units of the 1st Brigata Aerea with the Nike Hercules , which in the Po Valley in the form of a large cross from west to east and from north to south. In addition there were the Hawk missiles of the Army , which were operated by the Luftwaffe .)

The 9º Gruppo des 4º Stormo in Grosseto, equipped with the F-104S from 1970, often acted as a reserve unit due to its geographical position and strengthened the other six fighter squadrons in northern and southern Italy in the area of ​​air defense. Until the 37º Stormo was set up in Trapani in 1984 (and also afterwards because of some tensions with Libya ), aircraft were repeatedly dispatched there to secure the southern flank. In addition, the Decimomannu military airfield ( Sardinia ) was used regularly for aerial combat exercises with other Italian and NATO squadrons.

In 1980 two 4º Stormo aircraft played an allegedly resolved role in the Ustica plane crash .

The Eurofighter Typhoon era

Eurofighter of the 4º Stormo in special livery (10,000 flight hours)

Like the other air forces involved in the Eurofighter program, the Italian Air Force expected the Jäger 90 to be introduced in the mid-1980s, or at the latest in the late 1990s. The General Staff of the Aeronautica Militare had been toying for some time with the F-16 as a starfighter replacement, but industrial policy reasons soon became much more important. When it became apparent around 1990 that the project for a new fighter aircraft would be significantly delayed, the Italian Air Force (as well as the German Air Force with their F-4F Phantom) got caught) in an increasingly critical situation. As an interim solution, in 1993 they thought of buying 70 F-16s. Since Italy was in a major financial crisis at the time and did not want to torpedo the Eurofighter project (EFA), which was already at risk at that time, the purchase or leasing of US aircraft (including the so-called peace dividend ) was abandoned Mirage 2000 offered by France ; France is not in the Eurofighter program). Instead, 24 British tornadoes were leased in the interception version ADV and the old starfighters were upgraded again (ASA and ASAM versions with modern avionics ). TheThe interceptor version of the Tornado was designed at the time to intercept Soviet bombers north of the British Isles. It is rather unsuitable for other air defense tasks. The British tornadoes, which were mainly used in the 36º Stormo in Gioia del Colle (Apulia), returned to Great Britain after the end of the ten-year leasing contract in 2004 . Around the year 2000 Italy no longer had any air defense worth mentioning, as Patriot missiles had also been dispensed with for financial reasons . As a further interim solution, 34 American F-16ADFs were leased (5º Stormo in Cervia near Rimini and 37º Stormo inTrapani ) and the few remaining starfighters were definitively withdrawn from service in 2004. The training level of the pilots and the technical staff was maintained thanks to the two F-16 squadrons and through personnel exchange programs with the USA and Canada .

Traditionally, in 2004 the 4º Stormo received the first Italian Eurofighter Typhoon ( apart from the flight test center in Pratica di Mare ) and again became the center for training and maintenance of a new fighter. Only rarely in the history of the Italian Air Force has a new fighter aircraft been put into service with such high pressure as in the case of the F / TF-2000A Typhoon, the Eurofighter designation in Italy. The 4º Stormo had to make a leap from the starfighter generation to the next but one generation of combat aircraft. Nevertheless, it was the first squadron of the nations participating in the Eurofighter program that the aircraft put into service. A first alarm riotwas activated in December 2005. Shortly thereafter, F-2000A Typhoons des 4º Stormo took part in securing the airspace over north-west Italy during the Olympic Winter Games in Turin .

From October 2007, in addition to the 4º Stormo in Grosseto , the 36º Stormo in Gioia del Colle was also equipped with the Eurofighter Typhoon.


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