Military Aviation

Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’

A wide variety of assets were involved in the annual Search And Rescue Exercise in Sardinia.

Organized and managed by the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) through the RCC (Rescue Coordination Center) of the COA (Comando Operazioni Aerospaziali – Aerospace Operations Command) “Grifone 2021” exercise was held in Sardinia island, Italy, between Sept. 20 – 24, 2021.

The “Grifone” (Italian for Griffin) is an international and interdepartmental exercise planned and conducted on an yearly basis by the Italian air Force under the SAR.MED.OCC (SAR Western Mediterranean) international agreement, with the aim to develop synergies between the service and other public departments, and to constantly improve techniques and procedures to carry out Search and Rescue missions.

The SAR mission is one of the institutional tasks of the Italian Air Force; a task that can be carried out, if needed, with the contribution of inter-agency, inter-ministerial or inter-agency units. For this reason, Ex. “Grifone” represents a collective and coordinated effort of resources, personnel and assets that has as its ultimate goal the training of crews and rescuers from the many realities of the SAR “chain”, in order to cooperate synergistically for the protection of human life.

Italian Air Force HH-139A during a night mission with NVGs.

The drills saw the involvement of over 430 people belonging to the National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps (CNSAS) of Sardinia, the Italian Army, Police, Carabinieri (Military Police), Guardia di Finanza (Customs Police), Vigili del Fuoco (Firefighters), Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard), Protezione Civile (Civil Protection), Forestry and Environmental Surveillance Corps of the Region of Sardinia, Regional Agency of Urgency of Sardinia (AREUS) and the Italian Red Cross.

Decimomannu Air Base was the DOB (Deployed Operating Base) of the exercise, while the “XPTZ” airfield at Decimoputzu played the role of the PBA (Posto Base Avanzato – Advanced Base), a real field heliport suitable for projecting the capabilities of personnel and aircraft as close as possible to the exercise area in the southwestern mountainous area of the island, including Mount Linas and the area of the Parco Perd’e Pibera.

The importance and organizational effort of the Grifone are also revealed in the number of aircraft involved:  1x HH-139A of the 80° CSAR Center of Decimomannu; 1x TH-500 of the 72° Stormo from Frosinone; 1x TH-500B and 1x SIAI U-208 of the Squadriglia Collegamenti (Liaison Flight) from Linate; 1x BH-412 of the 21st Orsa Maggiore Group of Elmas of the Italian Army; 1 AW-109 Nexus of the 11th Nucleo Elicotteri (Helicopter Nucleus) C.C. of Cagliari of the Carabinieri; 1 PH-139D of the Guardia di Finanza of Elmas and 1x UH-169A of the Guardia di Finanza from Pratica di Mare; 1 UH-139C of the 7° Reparto Volo of the Polizia from Fenosu; 1x AW-139 of the Nucleo Elicotteri of the Vigili del Fuoco from Sassari; 1x HH-139A of the 4^ Sezione della Capitaneria di Porto from Cagliari and the support of 1x EC-145 of AREUS (Azienda Regionale Urgenza Sardegna).

AW-109 Nexus of the Carabinieri (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri)

The level of realism of the scenarios and the intensity of the flying activity were such as to make the training part indistinguishable from the operational one: for instance, during the exercise, the AREUS EC-145 was called to operate a real mission in the island area.

AREUS EC-145 (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri)

Particularly numerous was the component of the research teams made up of the personnel of the National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps (CNSAS), Air Riflemen of the 16° Stormo of the Italian Air Force, the Taurinense Alpine Brigade and the Army Alpine Training Center, Alpine Rescue of the Guardia di Finanza, Civil Protection Volunteers and Forestry Corps and Environmental Surveillance of the Sardinia Region.

Italian Army BH-412. (Image credit: Gian Luca Onnis)

As reported by the Ex. Director Col. Cipriano during the media day held on Sept. 24, at the end of the exercise: “The Grifone is an extraordinary opportunity for professional growth for all participants who have the opportunity to improve their skills to collaborate in complex scenarios, regardless of the units to which they belongs, be it military or civilian. The high value of the objectives achieved in just two days of activity is in the numbers: 47:46 flight hours 3:33 of which at night with the help of NVGs, 100 sorties with the transportation of 55 ground crews.”

Italian Air Force HH-139A during the boarding a rescue team. (Image credit: Gian Luca Onnis)
About David Cenciotti 4452 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.
David Cenciotti

David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.

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