F-104 MM6930 Special Colour: 999 or 9-99?

Nov 17 2007 - 7 Comments

On September 19th 2003, the 10th Gruppo Caccia, held an official ceremony at Grazzanise airbase to unveil an F-104S/ASA-M painted in a celebrative colour scheme. It was the very first celebrative aircraft in the history of the squadron that carries the famous black rearing horse on a white cloud of the WWI Italian ace Francesco Baracca and unfortunately also the last one. The Special Colour wore the code “999” to honour the 9th Stormo and to officially celebrate the twinning between the 10th Gruppo and the Ducati Racing Team. The day before the roll-out, the aircraft made a private show for the personnel: after start up, the F-104 exited the shelter and made a quick taxi along the runway for engine and instrument check. On Sept. 19th the event was memorable: the aircraft was first displayed to the public then, using c/s “Picca 01” made its maiden flight piloted by Lt.Col. Bruno Strozza who flew for 45 minutes inside the R-62 area and landed the aircraft back in Grazzanise after performing some high speed fly-bys. I was lucky enough to be at Grazzanise on Sept. 18th, during the unofficial roll out, and the following day, when I flew along the Special Colour on its very first flight inside “Jolly 11”, an MB.339A piloted by Col. Gianpaolo Miniscalco, Commander of the 9th Stormo. We took off before the F-104, performed an “airborne pickup” (read here and here) with the 999 and  after a short low level navigation inside the Grazzanise control zone, we made a series of aerobatic maneuvers in close formation during which I took some of the famous air-to-air pictures of the aircraft. If you look at the pictures I took on both Sept. 18th and 19th 2003, you’ll notice an interesting thing: the aircraft was initially coded 999 with a code that missed the dash between the first 9 and the following two ones. The dash (actually it is a dot), that transformed the 999 in 9-99, was applied in the following weeks and kept for the rest of the operative life of the aircraft. Interestingly, despite not wearing the Italian national roundel, the aircraft flew abroad before being retired.

The “999” on Sept. 18th 2003. The colour scheme was an idea of Lt. Andrea Turco, a Ducati fan:


The F-104 999 making a quick taxi on Sept. 18th, the day before the official roll-out. Pilot was Lt.Col. Strozza, 10th Gruppo Cdr:

Pilots of the 10th and 18th Gruppo (this latter temporary deployed to Grazzanise), in front of the 999 together with Col. Miniscalco and Gen. Del Meglio:

The “999” during its first flight:


The MM6930 no longer wearing code “999” but “9.99” at Grazzanise on Apr. 07th 2004 (first time with red and white tip tanks):

Close up view of the code “9.99” at Pratica di Mare on May 29th 2004 during the International F-104 reunion (pilot Lt.Col. Strozza):

  • Mike Vivian

    Wonderful Photos, wonderful Paint job and even better display of our beloved Zipper. Thanks so very much David. Mike Vivian

  • Phil Rand

    Superb pix!! Every time I see the Zipper I am reminded of how grateful and humble I am to have flown this marvelous flying machine. How good could it get.

    Phil Rand

  • Gary Watson

    It’s great to see more pictures of this aircraft no matter which number designation is on the side. Is it still in existence inside a hangar somewhere?

    Gary Watson

  • Richard Drury

    Does anyone know exactly what color the red is? I’d like to do the model but would also mlike the color to be accurate.

    Do you know what model paints are a match, if any? Is there a Ferrari Red to be bought at auto shops?

  • Hi Richard,
    unfortunately it is not a standard colour, so it is not easy to find. However, it should be a “Ducati Red” since the red paint in 2003 was provided by the Ducati team.

  • Jim Maher

    Hello from England

    What a simply superb site you have.Seeing the Ducati 999 is just amazing.

    I have many memories of the F104 ranging from the 70’s to the new millenium.And was very lucky to go to Diyabakir in 1991 during the Gulf War and see the F104’s of 8Ana on the range every day.

    Inow have access to one at the Midland Air Museum coventry UK.And often go for a play in the cockpit.

    Thankyou for a great web site.

    Jim Maher UK

  • Trond Nordlien

    @ Richard Drury:

    The color is named:
    PPG Ducati Anniversary Red
    I have the colorcode somewhere too, if you’re still interested.

    Best regards