The event   
The exercise SCAGLIA '09 has been developed in November 23rd - 27th 2009, in some different locations of the 16°Stormo Fucilieri “Protezione delle Forze”, force protection unit of Italian Air Force, at Martina Franca (Taranto) near Parco Delle Pianelle and in a rural area called "Trasconi", organized by 1^ Brigata Aerea Operazioni Speciali (B.A.O.S.), 1^ Special Operations Air Brigade of Rome-Centocelle with the signal support of the Squadriglia Telecomunicazioni - 2° Reparto Telecomunicazioni in Bari and the Centro Nazionale di Meteorologia e di Climatologia (National Meteorology and Climatology Centre) of Pratica di Mare (Rome). 
The military authorities were Gen. B.A. Roberto Lamanna, Commander of 1^ Brigata Aerea - Centocelle (Rome), Col. Fabio Rinaldi, Commander of 9° Stormo - Grazzanise (Caserta), Col. Paolo Citta, Commander of 16° Stormo "Protezione delle forze" - Martina Franca (Taranto),  Col. Roberto Camera, Commander of 17° Stormo Incursori - Furbara (Rome), the Italian Air Force Special Forces unit.  
The event, involving nearly 150 soldiers of the 9°/16°/17° Stormo, represents the conclusive action of a complex training program divided into three separate phases, each progressively denominated by one of the words forming the Brigade "motto": INCOCCA, TENDE, SCAGLIA (Nock, Stretch, Fling); the two previous exercises, INCOCCA '09 and TENDE '09 were carried out, respectively, in Furbara (Rome), at the 17° Stormo "Incursori", and in Grazzanise (Caserta) at the 9° Stormo "Francesco Baracca”.  
With SCAGLIA '09 it comes to an end an important cycle of great utility in the personnel formation of all the components of the 1^ B.A.O.S. actively engaged in the complex operative sites as in Afghanistan; its principal target is to reach the highest degree of integration in carrying out various mission profiles like medical evacuation, patrolling, reconnaissance, people and/or convoys escort, tactical transport, etc. in relation with Institutions often called to operate synergically in crisis areas. 
Fucilieri and Incursori, engaged since 2005 without interruption in the Herat zone, western Afghanistan, improved their competence in planning and testing operative missions and procedures.    
During the exercise all the assets (and also the crews of a HH-3F of the 84° Centro SAR in Brindisi and two AB-212s ICO of the 21° Gruppo/9° Stormo) jointly trained in activities of fast-rope, Casualties Evacuation (CASEVAC), Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) patrols, reconnaissance and "Hostage Rescue Operations" in a realistic scenario. 
This has been the first real test for the Fucilieri in Martina Franca since 2004, when the 16° Stormo was founded in the former base of the 3° ROC (Regional Operations Centre, a NATO Command); today it counts nearly 200 men and women trained to protect installations, vehicles and personnel in the crisis areas.    
The accredited journalists at the Media-Day could watch the military field with its logistics  (dormitory and refectory) and operational components (Tactical Operation Centre, C2 operational room), as well as document the quick carrying out of the activities in a "standard day" of the participants to the exercise: briefing of presentation and operations planning, fast-rope training both from the training tower and from the helicopter, helo-landings, infiltration of Incursori for hostages rescue in hostile territory supported by Fucilieri and helicopters.   
An equipments display has also been prepared for all the interested Units which emphasized the importance of the new technologies development for an effective and secure employment of the operative assets, both for training and for real operations.   
 
Fucilieri, Incursori and Helicopter Pilots 
Components of 16° Stormo carried out their force protection activity regularly developed outside the installations of the contingent in Afghanistan; a task which often drives the Unit for kilometres outside the base perimeter.    
An irreplaceable vehicle for this type of mission is the VTLM "Lince" produced by IVECO (used by the British Army under the name Panther CLV), armed with Browning M2 12,7 mm which will be soon equipped with an armour plating for the weapon ring, an important aid for the gunner very exposed to hostile fire, although it has aroused some doubts because of  reduced  "situational awareness" complained by some operators on the field. 
An important novelty experimented by the 16° Stormo is a vehicle survey system via GPS offering to the Command a global view of movement data of all the assets on the field; the apparatus interfaces with a digital map of the operative theatre on which the assets are immediately visualized in order to furnish a correct picture of the situation and contextually avoiding "Blue on Blue" (friend fire) risks.    
Everything integrates in a communication system through “chat-line” (besides the traditional radio)  remarkably rationalizing the communications on the field; the target is to extend this system to an interforce level.   
Among the training structures in one of the areas there’s the training tower with the hemp rope on its top; it’s constituted by various floors, and it also offers the possibility to vary the height of the descent, so that training will be increasingly complex.   
The 16° Stormo has already among its equipments the well-known mini-UAV Strix developed by Alpi Aviation in collaboration with Centro di Eccellenza UAV (Center for Excellence in UAV) of the Aeronautica Militare and particularly suitable in the force-protection.   
A vast range of individual weapons, from Beretta SCP 70/90 carabine endowed with Aimpoint red dot optic, to Benelli M4 shotgun, Franchi SPAS 12 and 15 and M12S submachine gun also equipped with red dot optic. 
Among the sniper rifles there are the excellent Sako TGR42 .338 Lapua Magnum.   
In the future the Fucilieri will be equipped with the new Beretta ARX160 assault rifle with GLX160 grenade-launcher ordered in conspicuous number destined to replace the SCP 70/90.   
A diamond point for 1^ Brigata Aerea, the 17° Stormo Incursori with its centre in Furbara is the Special Operations unit of the Aeronautica Militare and it belongs to the Italian Joint Special Operations Command (Comando Operazioni Forze Speciali  -  C.O.F.S)  in Centocelle (Rome); this asset coordinates the activities of all Italian Special Forces composed by Gruppo Intervento Speciale (G.I.S.) of Carabinieri, the 9° Reggimento “Col Moschin” of the Esercito Italiano and the Gruppo Operativo Incursori (G.O.I.) of the Marina Militare as well as the 17° Stormo. 
Direct action has been submitted to Incursori (including heli-sniper, "hostage rescue" and special reconnaissance) but also the air control party and combat controller role as Special Forces peculiar activities.   
As for every Special Unit, the equipments in field during SCAGLIA '09 have been huge; Incursori, heirs of the A.D.R.A.s (Arditi Distruttori Regia Aeronautica) special unit during 2nd World War, have shown the whole range of individual weapons among which the Bushmaster M4 carabine with M203 grenade-launcher (preferred to Colt as much more reliable), Heckler & Koch G36K with C-MAG 100 ammo magazine, Heckler & Koch Mp5 in the various versions A5, SD5 and PDW, while HK 416 and Beretta ARX160 assault rifles are under evaluation.   
For what concerns the handguns, there were Beretta PX4 Storm, HK USP and Glock 19 all in 9mm parabellum, while for long distance shooting the Knight's Armament MK-11 7.62mm sniper rifle (very appreciated by the Special Forces), HK MSG-90, HK PSG1 preferred in urban environment and Sako TGR42. 
Barrett M82 12,7mm large caliber rifle is the choice for anti-materiel and long range sniping activity. 
One of the main tasks for 17° Stormo is the support to the air operations via target designation for fighter-bombers; the Israeli laser designator GLTD PAL represents a fundamental tool, and a similar device but of smaller size and weight is under acquisition. 
Also the communications field is in the forefront with last generation capability to compress and encrypt operational messages. 
As it regards tactical clothing, the Incursori basic BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) remains the Italian “vegetata”, even if there are new vegecam patterns produced by S.O.D., very appreciated by C.O.F.S. units. Operators from the 17° Stormo wear the characteristic sand coloured beret. 
In special operations, the support of the AB-212 ICO (Incremento Capacità Operative) of the 21° Gruppo "Tigre" of  9° Stormo "Francesco Baracca" has been irreplaceable; Grazzanise pilots supplied the aviation assets supporting the CASEVAC/MEDEVAC operations, as well as the infiltration/extraction of the forces, also via air support by the heli-snipers of the 17° Stormo and the MG-42 machine guns on board.  
During the exercise a HH-3F, coming from the 84° Centro SAR — Brindisi, has been the protagonist of the "hostage rescue” event.     
Despite the first-rate performances, the demand of a technologically advanced equipment it’s urging; in this field the Aeronautica Militare has unfortunately remained back in comparison to the other armed forces, which are absolutely in the forefront for the support to the Special Forces Operations with helicopters like AW-101 ASH of the Marina Militare Italiana (Italian Navy) or NH-90 of AVES (AViazione ESercito), the Italian Army Aviation. 
To fill this gap  Aeronautica Militare will acquire AW-101CAESAR and likely AW-149 helicopters. 
The action 
SCAGLIA '09 conclusive event was the recovery of hostages hijacked by terrorists/insurgents  inside a two floors’ cottage placed in the rural zone called “Masseria La Pizzica”, an usual training area for the 16° Stormo: the action, that would have been developed at night with NVGs under real conditions, has been marked by a great spectacularity with the commitment of all the assets.  
The intervention had been preceded by the infiltration, only simulated, of an ISR team (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) sent before on the place, to observe and communicate real time to the Operations Command the movements and activity around the target.    
The real raid went off when two AB-212, low flying, took position on target; while the first one furnished coverage through heli-sniper armed with MK-11 rifle, the second one was positioning on the cottage lowering the entry team composed by five Incursori.    
These ones, in few seconds, using flash-bangs, stormed in the building raking up it room for room; simultaneously, another team of ten operators penetrated at the first floor to neutralize the threats.   
Then, a platoon of Fucilieri not far released via fast-rope from another AB-212 was covering the action to guarantee the essential safety perimeter, together with two VTLMs “Lince” (armed with 12,7 mm machine gun).    
Target cleared and hostages freed, Incursori were extracted by a HH-3F.   
At the end of the operation, characterized by the maximum synchrony and coordination among the Units (a proof of the utility of events such as SCAGLIA '09), aerial and earth vectors abandoned the area. 
 
Conclusions   
Given the recent international scenarios marked by asymmetrical threats, the Special Forces represent an innovative demand irremissible for the Aeronautica Militare Italiana; the expansion to maximum levels of the integration of all the other realities which make part of it, will be the next target of C.O.F.S. already operating in Afghanistan, and a sure centralizer of any next commitment of Italian soldiers in the world.
Special thanks to Col. Citta and Ten. Battista 
Images and text by Giuliano Ranieri, Luca La Cavera & Raffaele Fusilli 
Special thanks for the translations at Mrs. Cecilia Fusilli and Mr. Dario Fusilli 
Produced by Giorgio Ciarini 
November 2009