Italian Air Force Has Been Protecting the NATO Skies Since 1962
Italian Air Force Has Been Protecting the NATO Skies Since 1962

Italian Air Force Has Been Protecting the NATO Skies Since 1962

The Italian Air Force started their Air Policing (AP) efforts in 1962. They have used a wide range of fighter aircraft and continuously deploy in support of the Alliance’s collective defence. Italian fighter jets used in AP include F-86, F-104, Tornado ADV, F-16, F-2000 and the F-35 have been used throughout the past almost 60 years. Ensuring the a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year AP mission involves the continuous presence of fighter aircraft and crews, which are ready to react quickly to airspace violations.

An Italian Eurofighter prepares to take off in support of an Air Policing mission. Eurofighters are used by many different Europeans Air Forces.

The Italian Air Force ensures the Air Policing mission over Italy and its cross border area due to dedicated wings located along the country. They have participated in AP in Slovenia and in Albania since the early 2000’s, and Montenegro since 2018. They have been to Iceland five times since 2013, and operated in AP missions in Bulgaria, Romania and Estonia. In 2013, 2017 and 2018, Italy deployed its Eurofighter aircraft in support of the mission in the High North.

An Italian Air Force F-35 twoship taxiing at Keflavik Air Base after arriving there. (Photo by Italian Air Force)

“Italy, along with the other NATO Partners which contribute to the Integrated Air and Missile Defence, is playing a key role in the framework of the Air Policing initiative which safeguards, 24/7, the skies over the Alliance and I am proud of what we have so far accomplished. Despite the unpredictable scenario related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Italian Air Force as a whole is constantly focused and committed to accomplish the tasks we are being assigned showing strong professionalism, dedication and proneness to technological innovation as we employed, first among the others, the F-35A to accomplish the Interim Air Policing mission named “Northern Lightning” in Iceland in 2020,” said Lt. Gen. Alberto ROSSO, Chief of Italian Air Force.

In 9 April 2019 Italian Air Force Eurofighter based at Gioia del Colle Air Base some 20 km south of Bari, Italy, was launched by NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Torrejon, Spain. (Photo by Italian Air Force)

After achieving initial operation capability at home in November 2018, the Italian Air Force is now pioneering the utilisation of their modern aircraft for the NATO Air Policing mission. Fully integrated in the community of NATO Allies employing or acquiring modern fighter aircraft the Italian Air Force has proven its capability of exploiting the platform’s multi-role versatility and performance. Italian F-35s are currently deployed to Amari Air Base, Estonia in support of Baltic Air Policing. Italian jets, on duty to safeguard the Alliance airspace, respond to unannounced military flights, as well as to civilian aircraft losing communication with air-traffic controllers for any reason, which could range from technical problems to hijacking.

The first employment of a 5th generation fighter aircraft in a NATO operation furthering the Alliance’s capability to protects its members. (Photo by Christian Russo/NATO SHAPE)