51° Stormo steps up for Italian QRA duties

The Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) has officially added 51° Stormo (51st Wing) as one of its Eurofighter units responsible for conducting national quick reaction alert (QRA) operations.

This follows the assignment of Eurofighter F-2000s to the 132° Gruppo (132nd Squadron) – a fighter unit which falls under the command of the 51° Stormo at Istrana air base in northern Italy. The announcement brings the number of operational Eurofighter bases providing the nation’s QRA mission to four.

Prior to the 51° Stormo standing up, Eurofighters from the other three units deployed on rotation to Istrana to perform QRA duties in northern Italy. This began in 2017 and involved aircraft and crews from the 4° Stormo (4th Wing) in Grosseto, Tuscany; the 36° Stormo (36th Wing) in Gioia del Colle, Puglia; and the 37° Stormo (37th Wing) in Trapani, Sicily.

51 Stormo Typhoon [Marco Rossi] #1
Marco Rossi

The introduction of the Eurofighter with 51° Stormo represents part of the unit's ongoing transformation, which will conclude when the fighter replaces the AMX ground attack aircraft next year. However, during the transition phase, the 132° Gruppo will operate the two fleets simultaneously, employing the F-2000 in a sole air defence role and the AMX performing tactical reconnaissance missions.

Commander of the Combat Forces, General of Air Division, Francesco Vestito, said: “The effort made by the 51° Stormo, especially in this period of serious emergency for the country, is even more relevant because it testifies to the passion, motivation and sense of duty that have always characterised the daily work of the air force personnel.”

In preparation for the permanent basing of the Eurofighter, maintenance bays were built, specifically designed to be fully equipped for technical inspections on the delta-winged fighter. Work on this was completed last year, resulting in the base reaching full maintenance capability.