Few of the world's aerobatic teams can boast a heritage and history like those of FRECCE TRICOLORI of the Italian air Force. The origins of the team date back to the beginning o the "30, when at the Campoformido air base, the veritable cradle of aerobatic flying in Italy, the then commander of the 1st Fighter Sqn of the Regia Aeronautica, LtCol Rino Corso fougier, decided to promote aerobatic team training. The many accolades this first group received soon led to the formation of other official and unofficial teams within fighter divisions, which, during these years, performed on several occasions throughout the whole of Europe with notable public success. The plane used was the FIAT CR20 substituted later by the FIAT CR32. After the war the Italian Air Force was reequipped with various flight material from the United States and England, among which the real " thoroughbreds" of fighter aircraft the P 51D Mustang and the Spitfire, which allowed the pilots to breathe new life into the Italian aerobatic tradition.
The rebirth of aerobatic group flying in Italy can be attributed in particular to the 51st FS, which performed for the first time in a team of three Mk IX Spitfire about Padova airport in September 1947. Immediately after this team came another organized by the 5th FS, as always with Spifire aircraft. 1952 saw a team made up of four pilots from the 4th FS. Equipped with new jet engine English DH 100 Vampires. The so-called CAVALLINO RAMPANTE Team, performed with great success in numerous air shows, making its first overseas debut in the same year during a NATO air show in Belgium. In 1953, from the ranks of the 5th FS, a new aerobatic team emerged, although this time they were equipped with a jet engine plane that performed much better than the Vampire and had recently delivered to the Air Force: the Republic F 84G Thunderjet. The four GUIZZO aircrafts, as the new team was called, successfully participated in air shows throughout Europe, demonstrating during their performance one of the manoeuvres that more than anything contributed to the growing fame of Italian teams over the years: the Bomb. At the top of a loop, the four aircraft literally nosedive in all directions, only pulling up once very close to the ground. After the war, the popularity of this team was so high that in 1955 it became the subject of a memorable aviation movie, I QUATTRO DEL GETTO TONANTE.
It was during the filming that the formation decided to change its name to GETTI TONANTI, a term which alludes to that of the aircraft itself. The Team also performed for much of 1956, year in which the four F 84G of the 51st FS team TIGRI BIANCHE began their activities. They also enjoyed many accolades before handing over, a year later, to the 4th FS which reconstituted the CAVALLINO RAMPANTE. This last team, equipped with new F 86E Sabre fighter aircrafts, debuted on may 19th 1957 at Torino Caselle airport; a yeat that signalled the start of enormous success in Europe culminating in a performance at the Le Bourget Fair in Paris. On of the secrets of the team's success was without doubt the use, for the first time in Italy, of a smoke generator system, through which aerobatic manoeuvres were made particulary eye-catching. A year later, the 6th FS created the DIAVOLI ROSSI, which were equipped with six F 84F thunderstreak. Their popularity also skyrocketed in Italy as well as in Europe, so much so that in 1959 they were invited to take part in a display tour in the United States, where they won the battle with the various American teams. Meanwhile, on the back of the widespread enthusiasm for aerobatic flight, a new group, the LANCERI NERI was organized form within the 2nd Aerobrigata.
Equipped with F 86E Sabre, the team even performed in front of the Shah in Iran in 1959, during a memorable tournament. Furthermore In the same year the 5th Aerobrigata reformed the GETTI TONANTI equipped with F 84F Thunderstreak bearing the special livery with the five Olympic rings to coincide with the Rome Olympics Game of 1960. One of the principal innovations of this groups, was the presence of a solo pilot who, after the initial team manoeuvres, broke off to perform his own aerobatic routine. At a time when popularity was at its height in 1961, the Air force Chief of Staff , with a view to improving the organization of the activities of air force divisions and owing to exceptional public interest and national prestige, decided to create permanent aerobatic formation. The 313th Gruppo Addestramento Acrobatico FRECCE TRICOLORI was created in 1961 at Rivolto air base. Equipped with F 86E Sabres and with pilot taken from the ranks of the 4th Squadron, in 1962 the team was enlarged to nine members, with the possibility of using coloures smoke to enhance the emotional impact on the public and the quality of the performance. However, the real breakthrough came in 1963 when the Frecce Tricolori were assigned the airplane that is linked to the history of the Italian team more than any other, the Fiat G 91, In the special PAN version ( Pattuglia Acrobatic Nazionale). With the little FIAT fighter the Frecce Tricolori flew for eighteen years enjoying success and acclaim throughout Europe and asserting itself as one of the best teams in the world.
The Frecce Tricolori today
In February 1982, the first Aermacchi MB 339 arrived at Rivolto to substitute the by then antiquated G 91, ushering in a news page in the glorious history of the team. The PAN, with nine aircraft and one soloist, is the most numerous aerobatic team in the world, while its display routine featuring about twenty sequences and lasting roughly thirty minutes is arguably one of the most spectacular. The routines flight program ( high, low and flat) are chosen according the meteorological conditions and the features of the performance area. Generally, the first one is executed when the base of the clouds is higher than 1000 metres with the execution of all manoveuvres on a vertical plane. The second with a cloud ceiling not above 5-6000 metres and excluding vertical manoeuvres (such as looping and nosedives) while the third routine allows only for low altitude flypasts. Only pilots with over 1000 hour's jet flying experience may join the group and the two or three rookie pilots chosen each year must complete a training course in which they are gradually inserted. A curious thing about the team is that it must conserve its status as an operative squadron, which is why all pilots maintain their combat readiness. For each Italian AF pilot selected to fly on the Team. Means becoming a part of what is arguably the most famous and most acclaimed team in the world.
The Aermacchi MB339A, is a basic and advanced jet trainer with straight wings and flight characteristics particularly suited to aerobatic training. The airplane assigned to the FRECCE TRICOLORI although maintaining their operational abilities, have undergone a number of small structural variations such as the removal of the wing tip tanks and the installation of a smoke generating system to satisfy the needs of aerobatic flight.