The Italian Air Force began carrying out aerial Search And Rescue missions using its new aircraft, the HH-139A, to discharge its national and international responsibilities.
The new helicopter replaces the HH-3F Pelican, which has been operated by 15th Stormo (wing) for over 30 years, and which will shortly end its operational career with the Italian air force and be retired.
During the transition to the new helicopter, the 85th C/SAR center, the last of the 15th Wing’s SAR Centers and Groups to provide national emergency rescue services with the HH-3F, continued to support the civilian population, during public emergencies as well to transport persons in imminent danger of death.
The training of the flight crews was carried out by the 81st Centro Addestramento Equipaggi (CAE) at Cervia (Ravenna), for ground training in preparation for the follow-on flight phase.
Full operational capability was achieved in a short time thanks to the contribution and solid experience of the 84th C/SAR center at Gioia del Colle (Bari) and the 82nd C/SAR at Trapani (Sicily) on new aircraft, and with the support of the 31st Stormo based at Rome’s Ciampino airport. The logistical support by the 6th RME (Helicopter Maintenance Department) that provided expertise, staff and equipment needed for the new machine also proved important.
The conversion of the 85th C/SAR center completes the 15th Stormo’s transition to the new helicopter, while the 80th C/SAR center based at Decimomannu, in Sardinia, will continue to provide search and rescue services using the HH-212.
The service introduction of the HH-139A will allow effective search and rescue operations using a modern avionics configuration and sophisticated sensors available in all weather conditions and in all environments.
The helicopter, in fact, was designed to be used for multiple missions. It can be configured in the SAR version for search and rescue operations on sea and land, and for emergency medical transport, but it can also be reconfigured, in a short time, for the personnel transport, with up to 14 passengers.
The 85th SAR center is one of the units of the Italian air force’s 15th Stormo, which guarantees search and rescue support, 24/24 hours and 365 days a year, for flight crews in distress, while also contributing to public service missions such as recovering people lost at sea or in the mountains, the medical transport of emergency patients in life-threatening situations, and the primary rescue of severe trauma patients.
From its inception to the present day, the crews of the 15th Wing have saved about 7,000 people in life-threatening situations.