Authors: Ian French & Jon Astley
Photography: Ian French
4° Reggimento was established in 1976 at Bolzano and controlled all alpine units. It had three squadrons originally.
24° Gruppo Squadroni “ORIONE” at Belluno (South Tyrol). 24° Gruppo Squadroni was established in 1976 with two subordinate units: 241° Squadrone at Belluno with L-21 1976-1980 & 241° Squadrone ERI with AB206 until 1993 when all units disbanded.

44° Gruppo Squadroni “FENICE” at Belluno (South Tyrol). 44° Gruppo Squadroni was established in 1976 with two subordinate units: 441° & 442° Squadroni ERI both with AB206 until 1996 and AB205 from 1988 to 1996 when all units disbanded. Its assets became 48° Gruppo under 5° Reggimento in 1996.

54° Gruppo Squadroni “CEFEO” at Bolzano.
54° Gruppo Squadroni was also established in 1976 and has had up to six squadrons since then operating AB47 1976-1980, AB204 1977-1978, AB205 & AB206 1976-2016.
Two squadrons remain today: 541° Squadrone ESC & 542° Squadrone ESC.
In 1985 a new unit, 34° Gruppo Squadroni “TORO”, was added to the regiment at Venaria Reale (Piedmont).
34° Gruppo Squadroni was established in 1985 and consisted of 442° Squadrone ERI which operated AB206 from 1985 to 2006 when it was disbanded and 545° Squadrone ESC at Pollein which has operated the AB204A and then the AB205A since 1985. In 1991 545° Squadrone moved to Venaria Reale. 34° Gruppo Squadroni currently operates six AB205. Work will soon begin this year on new hangars for the base.

4° Reggimento is an Alpine regiment and one of its main missions and specialities is mountain search and rescue. Other responsibilities cover border patrol, transport, medical evacuation and fire fighting.

34° Gruppo Squadroni has a historical association with the ITALAIR detachment in Lebanon. In 2007 the 34° Gruppo Squadroni was employed in Lebanon as part of the “LEONTE” operation and at the end of the mission it flew its four AB205s back to Italy. The helicopters were painted in white (ONU code) and green (Army code) camouflage by one of the former base pilots who famously flew the four AB205s back to Italy in 2008 when they were replaced by AB212s. The four AB205s averaged 19.5 hours flying time in their 4,000 km journey which required 9 stops and involved 18 air crew.

In 2019, following a reorganisation of the Army Aviation, the Gruppo Squadroni assumed the configuration of a Detachment Permanente “TORO”.with the name of 34° Distaccamento

The AB205A soldiers on and after 50 years of service in Italy it is in the very last years of its service life. It is universally loved due to its simplicity, durability, reliability and ease of maintenance. It will be replaced in the next few years with the new generation of utility helicopters from Leonardo.

The AB205A was upgraded in 2010 for better protection whilst operating in Afghanistan. This version is known locally as the UH-205A(MEP) (Mission Equipment Package). This upgrade featured a Doppler Global Navigation System, new VHF & UHF radios, armoured seats and ballistic floor protection, infrared signature suppression system for the engine exhaust, an infrared counter measure system, radar, laser and missile warning systems and chaff and flare dispensers.

Aviation Press would like to thank Lt Colonel Carofalo, Chief of Public Information Office of the Italian Army Aviation HQ Viterbo, the MOD Attache Rome and Mark Forest, Editor of Aviation Reporting UK for their assistance in arranging our visits and our very generous hosts LTC Alberto Marchi of 4° Reggimento Aviazione dell’Esercito ‘Altair’ and Capt. Francesco Marra of 34° Distaccamento Permanente ‘Toro’.

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