[ Part 1 ]
Canadian Forces FWSAR Project – SAR Country Comparison – Italy – February
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.
 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
In Italy, all search and rescue has been the responsibility of the Guardia Costiera (the Italian Coast
Guard) since 1989.  Prior to that date, aerial search-and-rescue (Soccorso Aereo) had been the
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
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  – flying the HH-3F
Pellicano reinforced with the AB.212 AMI / SAR Twin Hueys  – 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). 
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.  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
Piaggio P.166-DL3 / P.166DP-1 Fixed-Wing Search-and-Rescue Aircraft – Specifications
|| Three to five, or six passengers
| P-166DL-3/SEM – 2 x 416kW (559shp) Lycoming
P-166DP-1 – Two 459kW (615shp) Pratt & Whitney PT6A-121 turboprops.
|| Max: 400 km/h (216 kts), ceiling: 8,840 m (29,000 ft),
range 2,035 km (1,100 nm
| 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).
|| 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
Even for the relative modest length of the Italian coastline,  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
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
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.
 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.
 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).
 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).
 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).
 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.
 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
 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).