The Italian Air Force Unveils First HH-139A Helicopter In Special Color Scheme

The special colored HH-139A of the 15° Stormo. (All images: Pierpaolo Maglio)

The special colored HH-139A celebrates the 90th anniversary of the 15° Stormo.

On Jun. 29, 2021, the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) unveiled a special colored Leonardo HH-139A multipurpose combat helicopter during the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the 15° Stormo, the service’s SAR (Search And Rescue) unit, at Cervia Air Base.

For the event, the helicopter MM81800/15-44, has been given a special livery that includes the text “1931 – 2021” (on the right side of the tail) and “90°” (on the left side), a stylized version of the SAR symbol (anchor, life jacket and ice axe with wings) in blue color and the emblems of all the Gruppi (Squadrons) that are assigned to the Stormo.

HH-139A special color
The left side of the HH-139A in special colors for the 90th anniversary of the 15° Stormo.

Established on Jun. 1, 1931, today the 15° Stormo is headquartered at Cervia AB, where some of its child units are also based: the 81° CAE (Centro Addestramento Equipaggi – Italian for Crew Training Center), the 83° CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) and the 23° Gruppo. Also depending from the 15° Stormo are four SAR centers: the 80° CSAR at Decimomannu, the 82° CSAR at Trapani; the 84° CSAR at Gioia del Colle; and the 85° CSAR at Pratica di Mare.

HH-139A special color
Another image of the special colored HH-139A of the 15° Stormo.

Equipped with four different types (the HH-101A Caesar, the HH-212, the HH-139A and HH-139B), the 15° Stormo has the task to rescue crews in difficulty both in peacetime, and in times of crisis or in operations outside national borders. The Stormo also provides support for Special Operations.

Its role is also to supports civilian agencies in the event of serious disasters and public utility activities, such as the search for missing persons at sea or in the mountains, the emergency medical transport of life-threatening patients and the rescue of serious traumatized patients. For some years now, the 15 ° Stormo has also provided valuable support to the forest fire fighting activity. In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the HH-101As have carried out bio-containment missions too.

HH-212 of the 15° Stormo.

All the types in service with the 15° Stormo took part in the event at Cervia AB where our contributor Pierpaolo Maglio took the images you can find in this post.

HH-101A, HH-212 and two HH-139s flying together over Cervia AB.

Among the highlights of the event there was also the most recent addition to the fleet, the HH-139B at its first public appearance. Like the HH-139A model, the HH-139B is a dedicated Air Force variant of the AW139 type. The aircraft can  be used for a wide range of missions including SAR – Search and Rescue, fire-fighting, Slow Mover Interceptor.

The HH-139B.

In addition to all the HH-139A features, the HH-139B integrates some improvements after receiving the feedback from the aircrews, including a double rescue hoist, for improved safety and reliability, a mission console, for a better management of the helicopter’s systems during SAR missions, and an increased Maximum Take Off Weight (MTOW) from the original 6,800 kg (about 15,000 lbs) to 7,000 kg (15,400 lbs). Other improvements are avionics-related to comply to the most recent navigational requirements and onboard sensors, such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS), used for a better cooperation with naval assets, and the Obstacle Proximity LIDAR System (OPLS), which uses Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging sensors to detect and avoid obstacles around the aircraft for a total 360 degrees cover.

The Italian Air Force is receiving a total of 17 HH-139B. One of these has been delivered by Leonardo in the presence of Italian Minister of Defence Guerini and Italian Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Rosso in Vergiate, the largest Leonardo helicopter final assembly line with more than 1,000 employees, on Jun. 25, 2021.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.