BR 1150 Atlantic Italian Air Force farewell
Copyright: Gianni Scuderi

Bye Bye “Atlantic”: a 45-year history

We participated in the farewell with the last takeoff of the last Italian antisom and patrol aircraft Breguet BR.1150 “Atlantic” in charge with the 41st Antisom Wing of the Italian Air Force, based on Sigonella AB.

November 22, 2017, a historic date, which will remain in the annals of Italian Air Force and indelibly fixed in the memory of all those present on the “RAM4” of Sigonella AB, home of the 41st Antisom Wing, to assist in the latest commissioning of the Atlantic 41-03 for the latest take-off that will take him to land on Pratica di Mare AB where awaits him an exceptional reception committee and the final radiation from the flight line.

The history of the Breguet BR.1150 Atlantic in italian 41st and 30th Antisom Wings of the air force is “forty-five” long … in fact since that far June 1972, the date of taking charge of the first aircraft 41-70 MM4010 from 88th Antisom Squadron, in November 2017, 45 years of uninterrupted activity between sky and sea have passed.

The Atlantic fleet has been for many years a constant, a “great” presence, a security in the Mediterranean sea. And now “The Last One” represents the sunset of an era, the history of Antisom speciality built “step by step” with sacrifices, conscience and fierce confidence in its handling capabilities both in flight and on the ground.

“The Last One” represents and remembers all the components, the vital agglomeration of human resources that have and continue to be the backbone of italian Antisom Operations. “The Last One” represents the long, hard and often silent work done by the men of the Antisom community far from the spotlight of the great stage, in an era when the fate of humanity was really on the thread of a “frequency” found in the depths of the “Mare Nostrum”. Going through the Atlantic operating life in the thousands and thousands of “underwater hunting” missions or SAR missions is really difficult, but remembering some relevant moments is a must.

The operational life of the italian BR-1150 Atlantics

Over 250,000 hours of flight and no loss in 45 years of operational activity, assuring ASW operations and also participation in all national and NATO exercises such as “Salt Lake”, “Dawn Patrol” and “Display Determination” or the various “Tridente”, “Dog Fish”, “Vento Caldo”, “Daily Doble”, “Mare Aperto”, “Deterent Force”, “Tapoon”, “Passex”, “Distant Hammer” and still “Storm Two” in Egypt, “Fleteilleex” in Jacksonville USA, “SAR for Red Flag Recovery” at Keflavick in Iceland.

The 1990s saw Atlantic engaged in “surveillance” missions for the exodus of refugees from the former Yugoslavia in the Adriatic Sea, SAR escort to the italian National Acrobatic Team from Columbus ’92 Tour in the USA. Also in those years increased engagement in exercises like “Dragon Hammer”, “Joint Maritime Course 92” in Scotland, “Ardente”, “Mega Rex ” and surveillance missions such as “Sharp Fence, Guard and Vigilance” and NATO recce missions “Eagle Eye” in the territories of Kosovo.

The beginning of the 21st century sees the Atlantic always engaged in NATO exercises “Dynamic Mix”, “Noble Manta”, “Proud Manta” and “Dynamic Manta”, and in many other missions in Iceland, Canada, USA, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France, Germany, Spain and for the first time participation in NATO’s “Active Endevour” activity. On August 1, 2002, the 30th Wing was officially closed and all the aircraft went merged into the 41st Wing in Sigonella. 2004 saw the beginning of the phase out of Atlantic fleet, with the first withdrawals from active duty.

On February 14, 2005 the aircraft 41-70 serial MM40108 was withdrawn from the fleet, it was the first aircraft delivered to the Italian Air Force. In 2011, Atlantic is committed to the “Odyssey Dawn” and “Unified Protector” operations. With the beginning of the migratory phenomenon from the African continent on the routes leading to Italy, Atlantic was once again called to carry out monitoring and surveillance missions of illegal immigrants in the context of the “Mare Nostrum” operation, missions that will perform until the end of its operational service.

In 45 years of operational activity, Atlantic received two major Mid Life Upgrade programs, the first in the 1980s called “ALCO” covering the Iguane Radar, Litton Navigation Systems, On Top Position Indicator (OTPI), and other systems; the second in the mid-1990s involved the replacement of the ECM, IFF, Transponder, as well as embarking of the GPS SP1709, Direction Finder, MultibandaV / UHF Transmission Systems, Selcal communication systems. In addition, since 2006, the AIS SRL-200 has been tested on board at Atlantic, which is an automatic transmission system for naval navigation using UHF bandwidth and STDMA digital mode. The final certification was released in 2008 and all aircraft of the fleet was retrofit with AIS SRL-200.

The aircraft records

Atlantic was also a record plane, it has established several primates ranging from the Record of Altitude of 33,600 ft established on November 27, 2007 to that of staying in flight without refueling 19.20 hours in 2014. Other performances were reaching the North Pole on May 22, 1997 during the cruise in honor of that made by General Nobile with the airship “Italy” in May of 1928 and the last in order of time , in September 2016, the technical escort to the first italian, and international, F-35A transferring to the US.

The last takeoff

November 22nd, 2017 at 11.50 AM on a sunny and warm Sicilian autumn day, on Sigonella’s RAM 4 apron, maintainers begin the start-up operations of the engines and shortly after the two propellers begin to rotate in succession. At 12.15 PM the C-27J of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo precedes it and immediately after the Atlantic moves in the direction of the taxyway that from the RAM4 leads to the runway. At the edges of the latter, the men of the 41st Wing, are waiting for the passage of their “airplane” follow by the new italian patrol aircraft P.72 41-04. At 12.32 PM “Spada 03” code 41-03 serial MM40118 begins rolling and detaches wheels for the last time from Sigonella followed by the P.72. At 12.47 PM the two patrol aircraft flew over the runway in a two-ship formation to salute all the personnel.

The long history of this loving aircraft has its happy ending at 16.19 on the same day, 22nd November 2017, after landing on Pratica di Mare air base receiving the welcome, it deserves, from the Italian Air Force authorities. The future of italian latest “Submariner Hunter Killer” is a place in the national air force museum in Vigna di Valle near Roma, also this is the latest act due to a true breed horse.

Thank you Atlantic!

The author and Aviation Report thanks : Italian Air Force PIO, Col. Pil. Francesco Frare 41st Wing and Sigonella AB Commander, T.Col. pil. P.R. 88th Squadron Commander, 1st M.llo C. Savoca PIO 41st Wing and all the 41st Wing personnel.

Article: Gianni Scuderi
Images: Gianni Scuderi, Italian Air Force