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Canadian Forces FWSAR Project  –  SAR Country Comparison  –  Italy  –  February 2009

FWSAR:  Italian Style  —  Aerial Search-and-Rescue in Italy  [ Part 1 ]
The online magazine, l'Italia nel mondo,  informs Canadians that "the  C-27J is the best answer to the need of  renewing the Search and Rescue airlift fleet". No further justification of the claim is deemed necessary –  Italians have judged the C-27J as the answer to  fixed-wing SAR. So, do the Italians use that Alenia tactical transport as their primary aerial SAR aircraft?  In a word: No.

In the early 1970s, Aeritalia proposed SAR and ASW versions of the C-27J's ancestor, the Fiat G.222.  Both patrol  variants were rejected. [1]  The anti-submarine warfare role was filled  by dedicated  Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic maritime patrol planes. For aerial search and rescue, Italy prefered operating smaller, more economical aircraft rather than tactical transports.

Alenia has continued that Fiat/Aeritalia tradition by proposing ASW and SAR versions of  the modernized C-27J. A C-27J maritime patrol variant was pitched to Taiwan without success. The marketing focus for the search-and-rescue C-27J has been on Canada's Fixed-Wing SAR niche. Italy, itself, continues to choose more economical aircraft than the C-27J transport for FWSAR.

Search-and-Rescue in Italy  –  Reorganization and Reassigning the Responsibilities for SAR

In Italy, all search and rescue has been the responsibility of  the Guardia Costiera (the Italian Coast Guard) since 1989. [2]  Prior to that date, aerial search-and-rescue (Soccorso Aereo)  had been the purview of  the Italian military. Now, the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI or Italian AF) and the Marina Militare (MM or Italian Navy) provide aerial SAR back up as does the patrol aircraft of the Guardia di Finanza (GdF, the Finance or Treasury Police patrol).

Until 1995, fixed-wing SAR was the responsibility of  Italian maritime patrol planes. The Atlantic patrol aircraft belong to the AMI but were operated  by mixed crews from the air force and navy. FWSAR  has become a secondary mission for the AMI as requested  by the Guardia Costiera.

Rotary-wing SAR is also now the responsibility of the Guardia Costiera. As with FWSAR, AMI and  MM helicopters provide back-up aerial SAR. The military SAR helicopter squadrons [3]  –  flying the HH-3F Pellicano reinforced with the AB.212 AMI / SAR Twin Hueys [4] – were re-roled as dedicated Combat SAR  ( CSAR ) squadrons  still able  to perform civilian SAR  missions in peacetime. Emergency back-up can also come from heli- copters of  the  federal  police forces  –  Polizia di Stato and Carabinieri. [ See below for SAR-capable non-military Italian aircraft listed by service]

FWSAR  Procurement  and  Equipment  in Italy   –   Develop  Italian,  Buy  Italian,  Fly  Italian

So, what do the Italians use as their primary  fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft?  Well, as Viking Air notes,  Italy  employs an  Italian-made aircraft wherever possible. The Italian government also makes a point of buying a similar  model of  Italian-made aircraft  for most of  government air services
–  including the Italian military.  Until recently, the primary  Italian FWSAR role was  performed exclusively by special, search radar-equipped  Piaggio P.166 aircraft (right),  a diminutive  twin-pusher  turboprop with gull wings.

The P.166's unusual layout results from its origins in the earlier P.136 Royal Gull, an amphibious flying boat. The P.166-DL3 is a FWSAR model  fitted with an under-nose 360° scan Bendix RDR 1500 search radar and  a wing-mounted E/O turret.  In  Guardia Costiera service,  this Piaggio is designated P.166-DL3 / SEM (the equivalent Guardia di Finanza model is a P.166-DL3/GdF). [5]

P.166DP-1 – a Mid-Life Upgrade for the Fixed-Wing Search-and-Rescue  Piaggio P.166 Fleet

The P.166-DL3 series were built by Piaggio between 1976 and 1991. These aircraft are powered by two Avco Lycoming  (now AlliedSignal ) LTP-101- 700 turboprops. [6]  The  P.166-DL3s continue to give good  service to the various  Italian  government  organizations which employ them.  However, the FWSAR Piaggios are undergoing a major 'mid-life' upgrade.  The most noticeable change to 'mid-lifed'  patrol  Piaggios is their new engines (left).

The P.166-DL3 –  now redesignated as the P.166DP-1 –  introduces some Canadian content. The older American Lycoming turboprops have been replaced by slightly more powerful engines, the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-121 (providing an additional  56 shp each). The prototype conversion for this more powerful P.166 (right) flew in May 1999.  Eight P.166-DL3s are on order for the Guardia Costiera and Guardia di Finanza.

 Piaggio P.166-DL3 / P.166DP-1  Fixed-Wing Search-and-Rescue Aircraft –  Specifications
  Crew:  
  Three to five,  or six passengers
  Powerplant:  
 
  P-166DL-3/SEM – 2 x 416kW (559shp) Lycoming LTP-101-700 turboprops,
  P-166DP-1 – Two 459kW (615shp) Pratt & Whitney PT6A-121 turboprops.
  Performance:   Max: 400 km/h (216 kts), ceiling: 8,840 m (29,000 ft), range 2,035 km (1,100 nm
  Dimensions:  
 
  Span (over tip tanks) 14.69 m (48 ft 3in), wing area 26.6 m2 (286 sq ft), length
  11.88 m (39 ft 0 in), w/o chin radar 11.61 m (38 ft 1in), height 5.00 m (16 ft 5in).
  Weights:  
  Empty equipped: 2,688 kg (5,926 lb), maximum take-off: 4,300 kg (9,480 lb)

FWSAR  all'italiana:  Beyond the Gull-Winged  Piaggios – the Future of  Italian Aerial SAR

Even for the relative modest length of the Italian coastline, [7] the Piaggio P.166 is a small patrol aircraft. If  illegal or hostile activities are detected – and off of  Italian shores, that could include foreign smugglers, pirates, and Mafia operations – crews of  the patrol  Piaggios have no direct method of responding to any threat on the surface of  the ocean.  However, that is all changing.

Both the Guardia Costiera and the Guardia di Finanza are now receiving larger patrol aircraft to supplement the smaller Piaggios. This new aircraft is Alenia Aeronautica's ATR 42 Surveyor or ATR 42 MP, the maritime patrol variant of the joint  Italian-French ATR 42  commuter airliner. We will cover the Alenia ATR 42 MP Surveyor (and the origins of  the ATR 42  itself ) in Part 2.

Appendix: Guardia Costiera Units and SAR-Capable Non-Military Italian Aircraft  by Service

Guardia Costiera aircraft carry  Italian military serial numbers and codes.  The latter follows the Marina Militare form of two individual aircraft numbers after a aircraft type number. For the GC, these type prefix numbers are:  8- for the P.166DL3, 9- for the AB-412CP, and 10- for the ATR-42.

There are three GC fixed-wing aircraft units (Nucleo Aereo Capitanerie):  1° with P.166s at Luni- Sazana, 2° with P.166s at Catania-Fontanarossa, and 3° with ATR 42 MPs at Pescara-D'Abruzzo. In addition, there are two GC helicopter sections (Sezione Volo Elicotteri ) flying the AB-412CP which are 1° Sezione Volo Elicotteri based at Luni-Sazana and 2° SVE at Catania-Fontanarossa.

SAR-Capable  Non-Military  Italian Aircraft  by Service (Plus Non-Patrol Types by Service)

Servizio Aereo della Guardia di Finanza  (Finance or Treasury Police Aerial Service)
Patrol Types:  12 x  Piaggio P.166DL3 / P.166DP-1,  2  x  ATR 42 MP Surveyor  (2 more on order).
Non-Patrol Types:  24 x Agusta A109A / A109C,  22 x Agusta-Bell AB.412HP,  74 x Breda Nardi (Hughes) NH.500M helicopters, & 2 x Piaggio P.180 Avanti fixed-wing VIP transports (on order).

Corpo Forestale Dello Stato  (State Forestry Service)
Non-Patrol Types:  17 x Agusta-Bell AB.412 helicopters, and 7 x Canadair CL-215 waterbombers.

Servizio Aereo Arma dei Carabinieri  (Air Arm of the Federal Police)
Non-Patrol Types:  38 x Agusta-Bell AB.412 (suitable for SAR) and smaller A.109s and AB.206s.

Polizia di Stato (Divisione aerea)  (Aerial Division of the State Police)
Non-Patrol Types:  23 x AB 212 (suitable for SAR) and smaller AB 206s and A.109s helicopters, plus light fixed-wing aircraft such as the Partenavia (now Vulcanair) P.68 OBS and Piaggio P180.

[1] AMI G.222 were fitted with Italian Galileo APS-705 search/surveillance radars to allow them to perform a secondary SAR role (when available). The APS-705 is the same radar used in MM helicopters (AB-212, SH-3D, &  EH-101), AMI HH-3Fs, and Guardia Costiera AB-412 Grifone.

[2] In 1989, the Corpo delle Capitanerie di Porto (Harbourmasters Corps) was reclassified  by Presidential decree as a coast guard service, the Guardia Costiera.  All  Italian SAR activity is coordinated by the Centro Nazionale di Coordinamento del Soccorso Marittimo (or IMRCC).

[3] The HH-3F and AB.212 AMI/SAR fly in mixed-type Combat Search and Rescue units of the 15° Stormo (15th Wing)  –  the 82°,  83°,  84°,  and  85° Gruppo  CSAR  (CSAR Groups).

[4] AB.212s have flown medevac in Northern Afghanistan since 2006. The upgraded Twin Huey is the AB.212 ICO (Incremento della Capacità Operativa or Increased Capacity of Operations).

[5] The AMI is the major P.166 user. Other than the P.166-DL3 APH  (for Aerophotogrammetry), most of  the soon-to-retire AMI Piaggios are employed as liaison aircraft or as utility transports.

[6] Piaggio had licenced-built Lycoming piston engines for various Italian fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft (the early P.166s were powered by Lycoming GSO-480s). In 1961, Piaggio signed another licence to produce Lycoming turbines –  for Agusta-built  Hueys  (T53s) and  Chinooks  (T55s).

[7] There can be no comparison with Canada's 243,042 km coastline.  Italy's peninsular coastline measures 7,600 km  (or just slightly longer than the coast of  Nova Scotia,  at about 7,500 km). If the islands around the Italian 'Boot' are included in Italy's coastline count,  it measures 8,490 km or less than the island of Newfoundland at 9,656 km (17,542 km including the coast of Labrador).

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