Happy Birthday, Aeronautica Militare!
The Regia Aeronautica was born exactly 100 years ago, on March 28, 1923, and has now reached a significant achievement that represents an important milestone in the future of Italian Air Force.
Established as an internal section of the Regio Esercito (Italian Royal Army) as early as 1884, the importance of the national air force grew exponentially until after World War I when, with the issuance of the Royal Decree dated March 28, 1923, an autonomous armed force was established under the name of Regia Aeronautica.
On the eve of this special, unique anniversary, we met with Air Brigadier General, Giovanni Francesco Adamo, chief of the Fifth Air Force Department, and with the Deputy Chief, Colonel Rosario D’Auria, for an exclusive interview and a sneak preview for our readers of a year of extraordinary celebrations.
General Adamo, what is the value of the 100th anniversary for the “Arma Azzurra” and which aspects would you like to highlight for the public?
“One hundred years is an important, iconic achievement with huge symbolic value. It is a great opportunity for us to tell our story and convey our ideals and valuable skills in the service of the community and institutions. This anniversary represents a special moment for us aviators to be proud of, but it is also a unique milestone on the path to our future. We want to make sure we celebrate it properly, which is why we decided to organize a series of events and initiatives to best celebrate the March 28 anniversary. The centenary is a unique opportunity to bring us even closer to civil society, to illustrate who we are and what we do. We intend to celebrate our birthday with the enthusiasm and empathy that have always set us apart. We’ll be reaching out to everyone - from children to the elderly - in every Region of Italy from north to south: 2023 will be all about the Aeronautica Militare! It will be a long journey that will take us to the squares, beaches, and most representative places in our Country. In short, to use one of my favorite slogans: among the people, for the people!”.
Colonel D’Auria, what does it mean and what has it meant for your department to take care of such a special birthday for the institution you represent?
“It has been a great pride and privilege to have the opportunity to take care of all the communications for our Centenary; such an important historical moment for our Armed Forces. This is, of course, a very significant aspect of the celebrations. The media projection to citizens represents a fundamental piece of the great mosaic of events in the pipeline for the centenary. The aim of the events is to tell Italians what the Air Force is and what it does for the country and the community, to spread our values and aviation culture throughout Italy. Above all, we want to showcase our history and the work done in these first 100 years by the men and women who wear the blue uniform with pride and dedication, and who work professionally 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for the AirDefense of the Nation, ensuring peace and stability for all citizens".
General Adamo, the program of celebrations is rich and articulated: what would you say are the spirit and objective behind the program?
“Air shows, traveling exhibitions, publishing projects, sporting events, and international conferences will run back-to-back in 2023, following a trajectory that began on February 15 in Florence in the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio. Prominent personalities from the cultural and academic world retraced the milestones of flight and the Air Force, celebrating the main figures who have given prestige and impetus to the 100th anniversary. The program of events will end in November with a technical symposium on Space, our new dimension. March 28, the date the Air Force was founded, will be celebrated in the beautiful setting of downtown Rome with two main events: a military ceremony on the Pincian Hill terrace and an aerial flyover over the city of Rome. From March 24 to 29, 2023, the aviation village ‘Air Force Experience’ will enable citizens of all ages to learn more about the Air Force. It will include aircraft on static display, experiential trails, informational and entertainment meetings, promotional booths, playful simulators, screenings, musical, and sports performances to enjoy the Arma Azzurra’s 100th birthday together. The history, skills, and traditions of the Air Force in its first 100 years will be the main theme of the exhibitions that will travel all over the Italian peninsula, taking a dedicated, iconic route. The traveling exhibitions will start from the exhibition in Rome at the Altare della Patria, from March 25 to April 23, 2023, and will continue on to different locations, with the aim of bringing the Air Force, its history, and its values closer to the country and the citizens. In April 2023, having completed a meticulous overhaul of all its exhibitions, the Air Force Historical Museum will finally reopen to the public. It is located on the southern shore of Lake Bracciano, in Vigna di Valle, on Italy’s oldest seaplane port. A magical place where visitors can retrace 100 years of the Air Force’s wonderful adventure. On April 27, thanks to the recovery and re-evaluation of the entire infrastructure complex, a historical museum route will be created in Guidonia (Rome), highlighting the airport’s role in the early days of the Regia Aeronautica. The Superior Studies and Experiences Division was one of the very first and most advanced scientific research and development centers for experiments on new aircraft, armaments, equipment, and all things flight-related. In mid-May, on the 12th and 13th to be precise, the Italian AeroSpace Power Conference 2023 will be held in Rome: An internationally significant event that will see academics, researchers, civilian, and military experts take turns to brainstorm new ideas and exchange interdisciplinary views, presenting technology, innovation, and sustainability associated with the aerospace sector. In the striking location of Fuksas’ Nuvola, which will host the conference, there will also be an aerospace exhibition open until May 14. Moving on to June 17 and 18, a large air show open to the public and with free admission will take place over the skies of the Pratica di Mare military airport, a short distance from Rome. The event will be broadcast live on Rai1 and will provide an opportunity to illustrate the Air Force’s operational capabilities through its specialty — flight — by means of displays of aircraft from the past and present. It will be a grand event where we expect to welcome more than 200,000 people per day. There will be stands, recreational areas and, most importantly, a whole host of airplanes for guests to admire throughout the day. It will be an Air Force holiday celebrated by the airplanes that have made and are making the history of the Armed Forces. This very special event requires a program equally up to the mark. We’ll be putting some ‘former glories’ back into the air, which will return to the skies with the roar of their engines. As you can see, we’re pulling out all the stops for our first 100 years. What better way to circulate the beautiful logo specially made for this occasion than to have it printed on the coins we use every day? Starting from March 21st, the 2-euro coin commemorating 100 years of the Air Force will be issued and will be legal tender. Collectors are also able to buy 5-euro coins dedicated to the event from the State Mint. The list of initiatives that we have promoted is very long and spans all fields, including prestigious volumes, comic books, editorial collaborations, films and TV series, the Rome Marathon, the MilleMiglia, the Piazza di Siena horse racing event, and much more, with the aim of making the most of our historical milestone. You can find all the details of this rich program on our new site; as modern and functional as Our Air Force!”.
General Adamo, what would you suggest to those in the aviation industry on the one hand and to those who are not familiar with it at all on the other?
“Our goal for this centennial year is to open ourselves up to the public, both those who already know us and those who have not yet had the opportunity to do so. We would like to tell the story of our daily commitment to the country and to the community. We have inherited a history that is now a hundred years old and we would like to share it with everyone. That is precisely why, on March 28, the Air Force airports and departments opened their doors to the public. Everyone is invited to attend, everyone will be able to talk with our staff and find answers to any curious questions they may have. Who knows, maybe seeing the airplanes up close will even kindle that spark that ignited the passion in many of us”.
Colonel D’Auria, the program includes experiences related to the world of movies and sports. What can we expect?
“Let’s start with a central element: the Air Force is the youngest of the Italian Armed Forces, but, by its very nature and vocation, it is also the most advanced in terms of technological development. In practice, we are already in the future today, but we project ourselves even further ahead, yet without forgetting our past. We felt that one of the best ways to represent this space-time journey would be through the medium of cinematic storytelling. We produced three mini-ads starring Roger, our centenary mascot: a child with a World War II pilot’s leather helmet and cardboard wings on his shoulders who dreams of flying and who not only succeeds in fulfilling his dream, but also in becoming an experimental test pilot in the Air Force. It will inspire new generations, inviting them to cultivate a passion for flying and strive to make their dreams come true. In collaboration with RAI and Anele, we have also made an actual film, ‘I cacciatori del cielo’ (The Sky Hunters), about the history and exploits of Francesco Baracca, the ace of Italian aviation aces, played by Beppe Fiorello. As for sports, the Air Force has always been involved in this area as well, thanks to the professional athletes of our Vigna di Valle Sports Center. To mark the centenary, we have further strengthened this link, for example with our participation in the Rome Marathon, which was opened by the Frecce Tricolori and in which several runners from various branches of the Armed Forces also took part”.
What can you tell us about the collectible, stamp, and editorial productions made or being made for the 100th anniversary of the Air Force?
“It’s a choice that goes in exactly the same direction as the one we were talking about earlier. We felt it was appropriate to broaden the potential target audience, trying to get out of a kind of ‘comfort zone’ by also reaching out to that portion of the public perhaps not directly passionate about flying and aviation such as, for example, collectors. The Italian State Mint and Polygraphic Institute thus minted commemorative coins, partly intended for normal circulation in Europe and partly dedicated to coin collection enthusiasts. Similarly, we have produced a series of eight stamps with the Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy inspired by the aircraft that have marked the history of the Air Force, one of which was issued jointly with the Order of Malta’s Magistral Post Office and the Vatican City Post Office.”
General Adamo, thinking about the challenges ahead and the current global scenario, what might the role of the Air Force be in that context?
“The world has been characterized by significant political, economic, social, and environmental changes in recent decades, a context that has redefined the concept of global security and transformed the international environment. Complexity, disorder, uncertainty, and profound instability are phenomena which states must deal with. It is in this context that the Air Force is called upon to make its valuable contribution in its space of reference — Aerospace — which is our natural environment by continuity and contiguity. The more technologically sophisticated and advanced Aerospace is where we will come up against modern, sophisticated, wide-ranging technological threats that require us to invest in a new ‘leap forward’ similar to that of the first decade of the Air Force, when the spirit of exploration of the ‘young’ concept of air travel and its potential was replaced by a more structured approach. The capabilities of the individual were systematized into an organization capable of fully expressing the air power. Today, the Air Force is a key element in the security of our country. The contribution we make daily to the community is a spectrum of significant operational capabilities, a structured and organic apparatus that results in a decisive option when it comes to serving the country’s needs. The valuable contribution from the very early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the airlift from Afghanistan for the evacuation of personnel from Kabul, and the prompt response to the Ukraine crisis with the defense of the Alliance’s borders in recent months are practical and tangible demonstrations of an operational readiness to deal with complex challenges that, at times, manifest themselves in a totally unpredictable manner. Not to mention the daily contribution we make in the field of meteorology, air traffic control, emergency medical transport, and disaster relief. We have never failed to contribute. We have contributed for one hundred years and we will continue to do so in the future.”