Author: Ian French
Photography: Ian French & Jackie Rodgers

Viterbo is large base housing 1 & 3 Reggimento and the Centro Addestrativo Aviazione dell’Esercito as well as 4° Reggimento di Sostegno Aviazione.

1° Reggimento Aviazione dell’Esercito “Antares”
1° Reggimento was originally formed in 1976 with 11 Gruppo and 51 Gruppo. 28 Gruppo which was originally independent was added in 2013.
11° Gruppo Squadroni “Ercole” was formed in 1976 at Viterbo and operated the CH-47C until 2016 when they were replaced with the CH-47F. The CH-47F was introduced from 2014.
There were three squadrons: 111-113° Squadroni ETM though 113° Squadroni has now disbanded. 11° Gruppo Squadroni operates 11 CH-47F.
28° Gruppo Squadroni “Tucano” at Viterbo (Lazio) was formed in 1976 at Roma-Urbe with 281 Squadroni AL operating the SM1019 and 428° Squadroni ERI operating the AB206. It was an independent unit before joining 1 Reggimento in 2013.
The two subordinate squadrons disbanded but new squadrons were formed: Squadroni ACTL to operate the Dornier 228 from 1993 (three are operated) and Squadroni ACTR to operate the Piaggio P180E from 1997 (three are operated).
51° Gruppo Squadroni “Leone” (which reformed in 2021) operates the NH90TTH. The squadron was established in 1976 at Viterbo
51° Gruppo Squadroni had four squadrons: 511-514° Squadroni EM which operated the AB205 1976-2002, AB212 1983-1986 & AB412 1986-2002. The latter two squadrons were disbanded in 1984 and the first two in 2002 when the Gruppo was disbanded and its assets absorbed into 26° Gruppo Squadroni.

From 1979 51° Gruppo Squadroni was engaged in the “Leonte 2” peacekeeping mission in Naqoura, in southern Lebanon, supporting the personnel at the Italair Task Force of the UN multinational contingent called United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon – UNIFIL.

The Qatar NH-90 training programme started in 2019 under 3 REOS under a Task Force called “Nemo”. In 2021 this group transferred to 51° Gruppo Squadroni using six dedicated NH-90s. The programme consisted of the following phases:

Phase 1 – Conversion To Type (CTT) with 24 hours on flight simulator at Marignane (France) and 6 hours on the NH-90;

Phase 2 – Advanced with 10 hours on the flight simulator and 6 on the NH-90 during which the pilots consolidated basic aircraft systems management skills. This took place at Viterbo; and

Phase 3 – Operational Training (OT) also at Viterbo with 40 hours on the simulator and 85 on the NH-90 to cover all operational procedures and tasks.

Each training course lasted 53 weeks. The training programme was completed in 2022.

3° Reggimento Elicotteri Operazioni Speciali “Aldebaran”
3° Reggimento was established in 1993 at Milano-Bresso (Lombardia) but disbanded in 1998. It was reformed in 2014 as a Special Operations Regiment consisting of a single Gruppo.

Candidates for the regiment must undertake and pass the Basic Operator Course for Special Operators for pilots, air crew and on-board machine gunners. The course lasts approximately 33 weeks. Once qualified from here, candidates then specialise to become REOS crews and complete courses covering survival in cold and hot mountainous terrain and marine environments as well as mission planning and many other special operations skills.

26° Gruppo Squadroni “Giove” was established in 1975 with 261° Squadroni AL with L-19, L-21 and SM1019 (this unit disbanded in 1976), 426° Gruppo Squadroni ERI with AB206 1976-1998 and 526° Gruppo Squadroni EM with AB204 1977-1978, AB205 1975-1998 & AB412 1996-1998.
After 3 Reggimento was disbanded 26° Gruppo Squadroni became independent and then in 2001 became part of 1 Reggimento before being transferred a year later to 3° Reggimento where it absorbed the assets of the disbanded 39° & 51° Gruppo Squadroni.

Today the subordinate squadrons are: 261° Gruppo Squadroni ETM (426° Gruppo Squadroni) with CH-47C operated 2014-2015 and CH-47F operated from 2015, 262° Gruppo Squadroni ESC (526° Gruppo Squadroni) with AB 412 operated from 2014 and 263° Gruppo Squadroni ETT with NH90TTH operated from 2014.

26° Gruppo Squadroni’s fleet includes 9 NH90s, 5 CH-47Fs and 5 AB412s and is the only unit to operate three different transport types.

Centro Addestrativo Aviazione dell’Esercito
The Centro Addestrativo Aviazione dell’Esercito (CAAE) was established in 1957 at Bracciano as the Army Light Aviation Training Centre, reflecting the army aviation’s role then as principally observation. It also established Bracciano as the Army’s oldest airfield. The CAAE relocated to Viterbo in 1958. The blue beret worn by CAAE personnel was adopted in 1971.

The CAAE participates in many exercises and missions to ensure training takes place in real situations. The 1970s saw the introduction of armament for helicopters and the introduction of tactical flight techniques for attack.

Over the decades the role and responsibilities of the Army have changed dramatically and the CAAE has naturally been at the forefront of making and embedding these changes. Today the CAAE is responsible for training all pilots and aircraft technicians of the Army, a true national centre of excellence. It trains crews and flight units in Forward Medical Evacuation, qualification courses for pilots and technicians, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) courses, first aid, firefighting, winch operators and on-board machine gunners to name some of the topics covered.

The CAAE has been involved with training the Austrian Air Force on their new AW169 fleet. Training started in April 2022 and the courses lasted approximately 13 weeks.

1° Gruppo Squadroni “Auriga” was established in 1997. 21° Gruppo Squadroni “Orso Maggiore” was added in 2002. However, in 2013 21° Gruppo Squadroni was transferred to 2° Reggimento Aviazione dell’Esercito.

1° Gruppo Squadroni operated the A109 from 1976-2021 and continues to operate the AB205A and AB206C. These will be replaced by the AW169 in the next few years.

Aviation Press would like to thank Lt Colonel Carofalo, Chief of the Italian Army Aviation Rome, the MOD Attache Rome and Mark Forest, Editor of Aviation Reporting UK for their assistance in arranging our visits and our very generous hosts Capt. Davide Di Giuseppe of CAAE, LTC Rocco Rossini of 1° Reggimento Aviazione dell’Esercito ‘Antares’, and LTC Michele Celeste of 3° Reggimento Elicotteri Operazioni Speciali ‘Aldebaran’.

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