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Post War Naval Aviation

T.V. Antonvittorio CottiniAt the end of the war, with the MDAP (Mutual Defense Assistance Program), the Bureau of the Naval Aviation Inspector was re-established (May 1950) in view of the acquisition of a CVL (Light Aircraft Carrier) from the USA.

At the same time, the Italian Navy air crews attended training courses at the US Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi (Texas) and in 1952 six Naval Officers were qualified as pilots. In the same year, two S2C-5 Helldivers, painted in Italian Navy colors, were delivered to the Marina Militare to be used in anti-submarine missions.

Operated by naval personnel, they were launched from the USS Midway to land in Naples. However, the two aircraft, together with other forty S2C-5, were acquired by the Italian Air Force personnel according to the 1937 law that prohibited the Navy from manning fixed-wing aircraft.


Rotary Wing Aircraft

Prevented from acquiring fixed wing aircraft, the Italian Navy's efforts focused on helicopters. A fruitful cooperation was started with the Augusta, a leading helicopter manufacturer. Since early 1900s the Navy had showed her interest in rotary wing machines, foreseeing their considerable logistic capabilities in support of air naval operations.

In the early 1960s, the first vessels designed to embark helicopters were the four Bergamini-class frigates, featuring a flight deck and a telescopic hangar for AB-47J helicopters armed with ASW acoustic homing torpedoes and, later, sonobuoy launchers. The Naval Aviation began to operate not only on board the new class of vessels, but also ashore with the establishment of the Catania-based MARISTAELI - Italian Navy Helicopter Station (1956).

 

Fixed Wing Aircraft

In 1960s the Italian Navy General Staff began to study a cruiser equipped with a flight deck capable of operating a Vertical or Short Take-Off and Landing Aircraft (VSTOL). First flight trials were carried out operating UK Sea Harriers onboard Cruiser Andrea Doria.

Strongly supported by Admiral Gino de Giorgi, Italian Navy Chief of Staff in the 1980s, the real revolution was the construction of a new design aircraft carrier, the Giuseppe Garibaldi, capable of carrying up to 18 helicopters. VSTOL aircraft were embarked only in 1989, when another law authorized our Navy to operate fixed wing aircraft. Due to her versatility, the aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi played a pivotal role in all the major international naval missions – Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya.

In the early 2000s, the Air Force Command (COMFORAER) was established to streamline the operational employment of all the available assets (personnel, units and equipment) to meet the new challenges. The first commander of the newly established command was Admiral Giuseppe De Giorgi, future Chief of Staff of the Italian Navy.