Since 12 June 1993 Italian Army has an own aviation corp called AVES (AViazione dell’ESercito). The fleet is rappresented by AH 129 Mangusta in the ground attack role, UH-90 in transport and tactic support role, CH-47F in transport role and UH-1 Huey, plus Dornier Do228, Piaggio P180 e APR Shadow 200
Viterbo, located few kilometers in the north of Rome, is home of the 1st Reggimento “Antares”, constituited by 11st Group “Ercole” equipped with CH-47F Chinook and 51st Group “Leone” equipped with UH-90, and support maintenance Group (Gruppo Squadroni Sostegno).
The develop of the CH-47 Chinook can be located in late ’50, when US Army issued a request for a transporter Helicopter able to operate in every environmental and athmospheric condition. The prototype flow on 21st September 1961 and entered the service with US Army in 1962. Few years later it partecipated in its first operative theatre in Vietnam, where it was used for transporting paratroopers, resqueing injured soldiers and recovering shoted down aircraft or helicopters.
Its develop was relatively fast and after the CH-47A and CH-47B version, the definitive one was the CH-47C that entered the service in 1967.
Italy received its first CH-47C in 1973. In 2014 Italy received its first CH-47F, first of a total of 16 helicopters. Four of these are CH-47F ER (Extended Range) equipped with serial enhanced fuel tanks that allow italian Army to improve the operational range of the helicopter in this particular situation of tensions in southern Mediterranean theatre.
The CH-47 is fundamental for its multirole nature, with a capacity of carring 32 equipped soldiers or 24 stretchers, while UH-90 can carry 20 soldiers and 12 stretchers. The 11st Group “Ercole” has a relatively young history, beginning in the ’70 with the introduction of the first CH-47C and its develop is signed by a highly intense partecipation in all the operations, national and outside italian borders, where Italian Army took part.
The 1st Reggimento “Antares” had been estabilished on 1st February 1976 costituited by 11st Group “Ercole” with CH-47C and 51st Group “Leone” with AB-204. On 2002 the 51st Group had been suppressed and later, on 2020, it has been re-estabilished with the new helicopter NH-90
The roles assigned to the 1st Reggimento are the following:
Transport (air movement, Air Mobile, Airborne e Aeromedical evacuation)
C3 support (Airborne C2, C2 support, relay)
Specialized Task (Personnel recovery, forward arming and refuelin point, helicopter to helicopter refueling, downed aircraft recovery)
The 1st Reggimento had partecipated to all the missions outside Italy where Italian Army took part:
Lebanon mission UNFIL 1979-1999
Turkey mission Airone 1991
Somalia mission Ibis 1992-1994
Mozambico mission Albatros 1992-1994
Bosnia mission Constant Guard 1997
Bosnia Erzegovina mission Joint Garantor 1998-2000
Albania mission Pellicano (1991-1993) Arcolbaleno (1999) Allied Harbour (1999) ed earthquake emergency in Durazzo 2019
Macedonia e Kossovo mission Joint Guardian 1998-2000
Iraq mission antica Babilonia 2003-2005
Afghanistan mission Isaf 2005-2014
Its evolution, related to the technological progression of aviation, had culminated with the introduction of the CH-47 version F (Foxtrot). This version is able to operate in environments where the “brown-out” (operation on dusty terrain) and “white-out” (operations on snowy terrain) can cause spatial disorientation of the crew. Moreover it can interact with the modernest systems in use in NATO forces.
This new machine, while preserving the loading charatteristics of previous versions, allows to exploit all the benefits provided by modern technologies that put together with experiences acquired in the years, allows to express a capacity suitable with the highest operational standards required by modern scenarios.
The realization of the helicopters takes place whithin the Joint Industrial Agreement between Boeing and AugustaWestland, with this last one as prime contractor of the CH-47F program. Boeing Rotorcraft Systems built the fusolages in Ridley Park factury, USA, while the assembly take place in AugustaWestland in Vergiate, Milan.
The CH-47F carries safety and self-defense systems that protect the machine such as the comunications sytems. With a maximum all up weight of 23 tons, the Foxtrot version is equipped with two Honeywell T 55-GA-714A engines that provides excellent performance in “hot and high” conditions and suitable for every environment and meterological situation, new radar RDR 4000M 3D and multi functional displays, new radio system and GPS.
The primary role of CH-47 is the transport of troops and materials is support of Italian Army operations. Its payload features, structure and reliability make it a unique asset for all Army operations but even in civilian emergency such as flood evacuations, fire extinguishing or earthquake resque. Remarcable is one mission in 1997 when a CH-47C saved 138 Albanian civilians trasnporting them from Durazzo (Albania) to Brindisi (Italy) during Albanian civil war. In the recent covid-19 pandemic the ANTARES transported medical devices, medical personnel and vaccine in those areas of Italy, such as mountains or small islands where lack big hospitals.
Col. Giovanni Quartuccio, Commander of 1st Reggimento “Antares” explains some caractheristics of the helicopters and the training program of the crew. The lack of the tail rotor is a benefit for a transport helicopter for two reasons. The first is that its lack allows an easier and bigger accessibility to the rear door and this help in the up-loading and down-loading procedures and the center of gravity can be moved in a larger area.
The second is that the two rotors works in the two opposite directions and this automatically balance the thrust and this make that the entire energy generated by the two rotors is used to produce power (normally the tail rotor produce the loss of 5-15% of power).
After the basic formation school which is the same for all italian helicopter pilots, those assigned to the CH-47F fleet attend a theory-practice course to be certificated to flight with the Chinook to the Crew Formation Centre in Viterbo or to United States Army Aviation Centre of Excellence in Fort Rucker (AL) and then, the pilots attend a new course to familiarize with the Squadron procedure and flight tactics in the Squadron in Viterbo. Then, every year the Training Directive document defines and planns the training activities with the aim of maintain the required operative capabilities.
Such activities consist in the development of training scenarios of increasing complexity through which the crew besides keeping the basic skill of piloting and systems managing and emergency procedures execution, consolidate additional skills such as operating in low and very low altitude flight, operating in night activities with and without NVG, carring interior or exterior loads, fire extinguishing or operating in particular environments as mountains or lakes. The training program includes even the partecipations in the firing range.
Since August 2012 AVES uses the UH-90A in Afghanistan as support for groud operations. It feedback is absolute positive even in a scenario caractherized by a high threat. The UH-90A crew operate always in a maximum level Situational Awarness due to a total integration with the onboard systems. All informations provided by MFD and HMSD are always available and this can help to achive the best performance.
The UH-90A is called “Utility” and in actual version MR1 (Mainteinance Release 1) rapresent a platform able to carry out several roles such as tactical transport, parachooters airborne, search and resque, MEDEVAC. It can be armed with Dillon M134D gun.
With this new version of the CH-47 Chinook and the UH-90A, Italian Army can co-operate with NATO allied with the highest modern systems and carry out all type of mission required by the actual theatres.
Aviation Report and the author thank the Italian Army Press Office, Col. Giovanni Quartuccio, Lt. Col. Stefano De Rosa, Lt. Col. Antonio Cavallo, Lt. Col. Gianluca Carofalo, Lt. Andrea Bandiera, Warrant Officer Carmela Dell’Aversana and all the crews of the 1st “Antares” Regiment.
Article: Andrea Avian Photo credits: Andrea Avian, Gianluca Vannicelli, Silvano Mainini