It was the year 1982, 27th August, "Luigi Olivari" military airport - Ghedi, a very important date for the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), with the landing of the first Tornado aircraft on the Brescia air base, headquarters of the 6° Stormo (Wing), a new era begins for the Aeronautica Militare. The aircraft was assigned to the 154° Gruppo (Squadron), the first unit of the Aeronautica Militare e to receive the new machine and still fully operational today.
Since then and for the next 40 years, the 6° Stormo Tornados have carried out tens of thousands of service hours (181,074.48 to be exact) with over 700 trained crews and eleven international operations with the participation of Tornado aircraft.
A bit of history: the project birth ...
The project was born in the sixties, following the need to develop a new generation of high-performance, multi-role fighter aircraft with flight characteristics in a wide range of altitude and speed profiles. Thanks to the co-operation between the aeronautical industries of Germany, Great Britain and Italy, the “Tornado” aircraft took shape in July 1968 as MRCA (Multi Role Combat Aircraft). A two-seater aircraft with pilot and navigator, twin-engine, with high swept wing and variable geometry, large single vertical fin, side air intakes of sophisticated design, with all-weather capabilities.
The flight tests began in August 1974. In Italy, the first operational example was officially delivered to our Experimental Flight Unit (RSV) at Pratica di Mare in March 1981 (with the then Chief of Staff General Bartolucci on board). The Aeronautica Militare received 100 Tornados in the IDS (Interdiction / Strike) version, 16 of which were then brought to the ECR (Electronic Combat Reconnaissance) configuration, operational since the late 90s. The "Tornado" was and still is an excellent interdiction aircraft, capable of operating at high speed and at very low altitude, following the terrain orography thanks to the Terrain Following Radar (TFR); an excellent aircraft for tactical recon and the suppression of enemy air defenses.
The Italian Tornados have participated in various military operations abroad: "Locusta" operation in 1990-91 in Kuwait, in the Balkans between 1993 and 2001 with various operations, "Sharp Guard", "Deny Flight", "Decisive Endeavor", "Deliberate Guard "," Deliberate Force "," Deliberate Forge "and" Allied Force ", in Afghanistan in 2008 with the" ISAF "operation and in 2011 in Libya with the" Odyssey Dawn " and subsequently " Unified Protector " operations, in 2014 and 2020 with the "Inherent Resolve" operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Tornado technical features:
- min./max. wingspan 13.91 / 8.60 m - length 16.70 m - height 5.95 m - maximum take-off weight 28,000 kg
- power plant, two Turbo Union RB.199 Mk.103 turbofans of 7,260 kg / s with afterburner
- maximum speed at low altitude, about 1,480 km / h (1.2 mach) - ceiling 15,000 m - range 3,800 km (transfer)
- crew, 1 pilot, 1 navigator - armament: 2 cal. 27 mm guns (1 on IT-ECR), up to 9,000 kg of external loads (auxiliary tanks, reconnaissance pods (Reccelite) and target designation (Litening), AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, etc.).
8th September event
Despite a short rain by mid morning (fortunately just before the flights over the air base), and despite bad weather forecasts, Ghedi airport welcomed almost 5,000 people, a mix of former flight crews and former specialist personnel that over time have worked with the Tornado, yesterday’s and today’s "Red Devils" and personnel in service in organizations present on the Ghedi grounds, civilian staff of Leonardo company on duty at 6 ° Stormo, american personnel of 704th Munitions Maintenance Squadron and about 300 journalists belonging to the various local and non-local press services, to celebrate a surely special birthday: the 40th anniversary of the first landing of the Tornado aircraft.
A dense program of events, that first began with the official ceremony (alas, unfortunately under the rain) in the presence of the Chief of Staff of the Aeronautica Militare, General SA Luca Goretti, the Commander of the Squadra Aerea (Air Team), General SA Alberto Biavati, the Commander of the Comando Forze da Combattimento (Combat Forces), General DA Luigi Del Bene and obviously the commander of the 6° Stormo, Colonel Giacomo Lacaita; during the ceremony, General Goretti retraced the operational history of the Tornado, recalling those who lost their lives serving their country over the years.
A special note: General Luca Goretti was a Tornado pilot who flew with 156° Gruppo and who has logged about 3,000 flight hours, of which more than 2,000 on the Tornado with the additional qualification on the following aircraft: SF-260, T-37, T-38, G-91T, PA-200, AMX-T, AMX, NH-500, HH-139.
After the institutional part, the long-awaited flight program started; a small air show dedicated to the Tornado and the lucky ones that were present. The event kicked off with the Legend formation, featuring G.46-4B, T-6H4M Harvard, MB.326E, MB.326K, SF-260EA, S.208M, MB.339A and T-346, then followed by the take-offs of 10 Tornados that soon flew over the base together with the Frecce Tricolori (to follow, the PAN performed some of its most famous maneuvers).
Then the Tornados reappeared for other fly pasts over the air base until their landing, after which it was possible to admire the special color aircraft more closely, to be exact a Tornado ECR with serial number MM7059 and code 6-66, which was painted with a celebrative camouflage that reproduces the four historical liveries of the aircraft, from its beginnings to today, and which bears the insignia of the four Gruppi Volo (Flying Squadron) that have had it in service: the 102° (which performs the task of Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), the 154°, the 155° and the 156°. The color scheme is divided into four phases of its history, the initial one with the experimental livery of the X-586 aircraft also called "Marlboro", given the presence of the white and red colors of the first italian prototype of the MRCA, the standard 80's color scheme with the NATO camouflage (green, grey and silver below), the Desert Storm color scheme adopted by the 16 Tornados used from Al Dhafra air base - United Arab Emirates, during Operation Locusta and the latest standard grey color scheme used by the Aeronautica Militare (Air Defense Grey), with the 40 years logo and the Gruppi Volo symbols on the fin. The special color Tornado was soon surrounded by various cars, part of the “Mille Miglia” competition, showing a partnership that has been consolidated for years.
In addition to the aforementioned aircraft, there was on display the first F-35A Lightning II of the 6 °Stormo (code 6-01) that was possible to photograph in one of the tensile structures, together with Tornado coded 6-51, MM55000, with vertical fin painted to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Panavia and Turbo Union consortia, the latter positioned outdoors. Two german Panavia Tornado IDS aircraft that arrived on the afternoon of the day before the event, were present but not accessible by the audience, and then took off in the early afternoon of 8th September for Büchel. Besides the aircraft that were present, an exhibition area has been set up in the other tensile structures, with all the equipment (both clothing and armaments) supplied with the Tornado aircraft, as well as a cockpit mock-up, books, patches, apparel, stickers, prints etc… etc… of the various Gruppi Volo.
"The real goal is to reach 40 years of age in full shape - said the Commander of the 6° Stormo, Colonel Giacomo Lacaita - a machine that is still 100% operational and which the Aeroanutica Militare bases many of its unique capabilities on".
Despite everything, the future belongs to the F-35. Currently there are two examples meant for the 6° Stormo (the first one was accepted in June with a ceremony). Both aircraft are currently operating from Amendola air base, home of the 32° Stormo, pending completion of the works on the new facilities in the southern part of the Brescia air base; in November they should be permanently based at Ghedi, starting this way the process of full operational capability. It will therefore be a gradual rotation with the disposal of the old Tornado “serials”, as they reach the limit of their operational life. So, at least another 5 or 6 years, before the final switch to the Lightning II (2027/2028).