Italy retires its MQ-1C Predator A+ fleet after 18 years of service

After 18 years of service, 3,800 sorties and over 31,000 flight hours logged, the Aeronautica Militare (AM; Italian Air Force) retired its fleet of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-1C Predator A+ remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) on December 19, 2022.

Members of 28 Gruppo pose in front of the now retired MQ-1C Predator plus
Members of 28° Gruppo pose in front of the now retired MQ-1C Predator A+. Italian Air Force

The retirement ceremony was held by 32° Stormo (Wing) at Amendola Air Base (AB) after the final RPAS was transferred from 61° Gruppo (Squadron) - a detachment of 32° Stormo at Sigonella AB in Sicily, Italy. The ceremony was attended by high-ranking AM officials, including the General of the Air Force Alberto Biavati, who highlighted the hard work performed by the men and women who operated the RPAS. Interestingly, he also noted that 70% of all the MQ-1C flights carried out were operational and just 30% were for training purposes - making the platform unique in comparison with all of the AM's other aircraft.

First delivered to the AM in December 2004, the MQ-1C first saw in-theatre combat operations in January 2005. The Predator A+ served as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform in locations such as Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Iraq, Kosovo, and Kuwait. It performed missions in support of close air support and combat search and rescue disciplines, supporting the security of convoys in hostile environments and monitoring areas of interest, remaining on station for long periods of time, which manned aircraft were not capable of doing. As well as abroad, the RPAS served on home soil with contributions to controlling national borders, search and rescue, and public order operations, as well as providing international security during G7, G8 and G20 summits.

MQ-1C Predator plus performs its last flight in operational service with the Italian Air Force
The MQ-1C Predator A+ performs its last flight in operational service with the Italian Air Force. Italian Air Force

Throughout its service life, the Predator A+ was operated under the command of 32° Stormo, which reports to the command of the combat forces. The RPAS was operated from Amendola AB by personnel from 28° Gruppo, who logged 20,000 flight hours with the MQ-1C, and also at the 61° Gruppo in Sigonella AB which operated the Predator A+ for another 11,000 flight hours.

Now that the AM's MQ-1C fleet has been retired, the Italian air arm's RPAS ISR operations are now being performed by the more modern MQ-9A Predator B. The AM currently operates a fleet of five Predator Bs after acquiring them between 2008 and 2009.