Below you can see the cover of my new book about the story of the F-104 Starfighter in the Italian Air Force.
Five years from its last flight, an exceptional collection of the most rare and stunning images of 42 years of service, recalls the history of one of the most famous, loved and controversial aircraft of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force). The book, in Italian and English text, will also contain exclusive air-to-air images of the very last flight of an Italian F-104, taken on July 27, 2005! Italian Starfighters will be available from April 2010 and you will have the possibility to order a signed limited edition from this site at the very special price of 35 Euro. Worldwide shipping available. Italian readers click here.

Click here for ordering information

Between 2003 and 2004, Piercarlo Ciacchi, a former F-104 pilot currently flying with the Frecce Tricolori display team, produced a series of videos he took flying with the Starfighter from Grazzanise, where its squadron, the 18° Gruppo, was temporary deployed. The following one is dedicated to the world famous 9-99, the red special colour of the 9° Stormo; the first and only Starfighter in special colour scheme ever made by the wing based in Grazzanise. The video is titled “Un aereo speciale” (“A special plane”) and you can watch it all by clicking the below image:

Rocco Zaccardi, an F-104 enthusiast living in NY, wrote me a few months ago to tell me that he had written a screenplay where the F-104 plays a ‘leading’ role in the story. Read the full story and download the screenplay here: F-104 movie screenplay

Ugo Crisponi sent me an interesting collection of F-104 profiles (available here: and prints (available here:

I’ve obtained by Katshuhiko Tokunaga and by Gen. Gagliano of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), the authorization to publish a selection of the images “Katsu” took in 2004 flying with the F-104 of the Grosseto-based 4° Stormo. All the 300 pictures can be found here:

The external and internal differences of all the F-104 versions in service with the Italian Air Force can be found here (with all the cockpit layouts): Italian F-104 versions explained.

Here you can the pictures I took in May 2003 when I had the opportunity to fly a mission on board an MB-339A of the locally based 609^ Squadriglia Collegamenti to take some air-to-air pictures of the F-104 Starfighter belonging to the 10° Gruppo of the 9° Stormo and to the 18° Gruppo of the 37° Stormo, that were both based in Grazzanise. The photo session was part of a 5 days visit to Grazzanise to prepare a report about the 9° Stormo that was published later that year on Aeronautica & Difesa (that you can read in Italian language here:

Click here “A day in the life of the 9° Stormo of Grazzanise” to see the photostory of a day spent with the 9° Stormo in Grazzanise in 2003. This post provides a snapshot about the 9° Stormo and Grazzanise airbase in a day (actually the pictures were taken in 2 days, Aug. 12 and Sept 8 during a Sqn Exch with the Hellenic Air Force F-4 Phantoms) of 2003 when the F-104 was more than 1 year from its retirement.

Click here f-104-layout_low to download a pdf containing an interesting series of F-104 profiles by Richard J. Caruana, an established aviation author and illustrator. The profiles were published on MODEL AIRPLANE INTERNATIONAL no. 41, December 2008 issue, within a feature that is dedicated exclusively to operational colour schemes worn by the F-104s serving with the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF). The file also contains detailed views of the markings, stencils, roundels and bagdes of the various Italian units that were equipped with the Starfighter.

Below, a preview of one of the pages of the .pdf files containing the work of Richard J. Caruana that

View a collection of about 250 pictures of the F-104 taken in 40 years by the Troupe Azzurra of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) here: F-104 pictures from the Troupe Azzurra archive

Read about the MM6507, a presumed restoration project, in the Grazzanise scrapyard here:

MM6507 – new update

Read about the misterious F-104 drag chute here: The F-104 (?) drag chute mistery

For a description of my flight with the TF-104 please read this post: Flying the TF-104G-M.

For a backstage description of some of these flights (and for more pictures) please read these posts: Airborne pickup (rejoining with an F-104) and Air to Air photography.

For the an interesting story about MM6930 Special Colour, read this post: F-104 MM6930 Special Colour: 999 or 9-99?

Articles and stories about the F-104:

Other F-104 related posts:

Some panoramic pictures with F-104s can be found among pics published in the following posts:


Flying in the backseat of a TF-104M from Grosseto airbase, along with another Starfighter of the 20th Gruppo.


Flying along the 104 of Lt. Enrico “Maio” Maiorino and then formating above Gaeta with Lt. Aurelio “Alì” Covotta, Flaviano “Ciga” Conti and Piercarlo Ciacchi.

On the ground…at Grazzanise



The last days

Smoking in the sky…

I took this picture on 19.09.03, a few minutes after the official roll-out of the first and last Special Colour of the X Gruppo. Piloting the 104, c/s “Picca 01”, Lt.Col. Bruno Strozza, cdr of the 10th Gruppo; I was flying on the MB.339A of 609^ SCS, c/s “Jolly 11”, piloted by Col. Gianpaolo Miniscalco, cdr of 9° Stormo. Pictures taken during that flight were used as front cover pics of two magazines (Air Forces Monthly e Aerei), articles on the 9th Stormo and F-104 (AFM and Aeronautica & Difesa) and for the 2004 calendar of 9th Stormo “F. Baracca”.

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 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):


  1. Hello David,
    Recently spent a day spotting on Sicily, the Libyan effort visitors were nice, but the 37.18 at Trapani was “the Star” for me, my 142nd confirmed “Spaghetti Freighter”! But, at Sigonella, in addition to the preserved MM6535 (which I had first seen at Lyneham in 1985) there is a second Spillone, do you know the serial for this one?

  2. Ciao..
    In merito alla splendida pubblicazione,volevo chiederti per quali motivi,non si è parlato in modo esaustivo del pilota italiano che per primo prese parte ai corsi negli stati uniti per l’abilitazione al volo,il pilota F.Bonazzi…ho trovato alcune foto su di lui,e sul corso da lui frequentato,su un sito tedesco,che sicuramente conoscerai…
    Da che reparto veniva?ha continuato a servire in AM,oppure era un colludatore della FIAT?….
    Se conosci qualche informazione in merito sarebbe interessante consoscerla,visto che lo spillone è stato dissezzionato in tutti i modi possibili!!!!
    Grazie ancora e complimenti!!!

    • Ciao,
      il libro è nato con lo scopo di sviscerare in dettaglio gli ultimi anni di servizio del 104 in Italia, quelli se non sconosciuti, non ancora trattati dalle altre (molte) pubblicazioni sullo stesso argomento.
      E’ per questa ragione che non mi sono soffermato su argomenti sui quali, obiettivamente, c’è già molto.
      A presto

  3. Hi David,

    I am having a bit of a problem.

    I am trying to account for all the F-104 model serial numbers (G,S,S-ASA & S-ASAM and TF models)manufactured for the AMI.

    I have accounted for all the ‘G’ models manufactured by FIAT (6501 – 6700), ‘S’ models manufactured by FIAT/Aeritalia/Alena (1001 – 1246) and ‘S’ Models (6701 – 6850).

    However, according to the book ‘Coccarde Tricolori’ there is a series of serials 6907 – 6949 where I cannot find any manufacturing information.

    I have collected dozens of books and magazines, as well as original AMI manuals for the F-104 and they are no help. I have searched the web and found no resource.

    Do you have this information?

    Lastly, I am also looking for any information of conversions of G and S models to ASA and ASAM.

    Do you have this information?

    Btw, I am the Australian guy in Singapore who asked you to post any info on control panels for the various F-104 models which you subsequently included in your blog.

    Any information would be gratefully appreciated. I am looking to start a website on the F-104, particularly the AMI models.


    Neil Penny

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