While we don’t often cover modern military aviation, we thought that the 60th anniversary of the Italian Air Force’s famed aerobatics team, the Frecce Tricolori (Tricolor Arrows), was worthy of mention. Officially known as 313° Gruppo Addestramento Acrobatico or Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (National Aerobatic Patrol), the team is marking this milestone with five unique tail marking designs, which the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) unveiled in a video they posted on their social media channels.
Interestingly, the Frecce Tricolori were not the Aeronautica Militare’s first aerobatics team, as the first stirrings of such ideas began during the late 1920s at Campoformido (home of the 1st Wing) under the supervision of Col. Rino Corso Fougier, a pioneer in military formation aerobatics. In subsequent years, except during the Second World War period, many fighter wings had their own demonstration teams such as the Cavallino Rampante (Prancing Horses), Getti Tonanti (Thundering Jets), Diavoli Rossi (Red Devils), Tigri Bianche (White Tigers) and Lanceri Neri (Black Lancers). These display teams represented the Aeronautica Militare, on a rotational basis, at air shows or flyovers in Italy and overseas. However, in 1961, the Air Force General Staff decided to form a single aerobatics team, the Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale.
To honor these five earlier teams, the tails of five Frecce Tricolori Aermacchi MB-339PANs each received a unique livery, with crests and markings representing the Cavallino Rampante, Getti Tonanti, Tigri Bianche, Diavoli Rossi and Lancieri Neri. Mirco Pecorari from AircraftStudioDesign was responsible for creating the artwork involved.
Mirco is well know in the aircraft design industry, and in particular within the aerobatics community, having designed some of the most stunning liveries on the circuit. “This project started several years ago, when I proposed to the Frecce Tricolori the idea of painting, in occasion of the 60th anniversary, each jet in the color of the five jet teams of the past,” Mirco told Warbird Digest. “While the idea didn’t [immediately] materialize for several logistical and operational issues, the concept was well received. The outcome of that initial idea are the special tails design we see today.”
The goal is to mark 11 aircraft, with 5 markings applied to 5 pairs of MB-339PANs while the eleventh aircraft will sport a special design specifically representing the Frecce Tricolori with a 60th anniversary badge. Interestingly, the Frecce Tricolori is the only team in the world flying their regular aerobatics routine with ten jets.
To achieve this beautiful new look, the artist employed special stencils and adhesive paper. Mirco’s team, in cooperation with the Frecce Tricolori, made several in-flight tests before they determined the most effective materials they could use to apply the markings on the aircraft, covering the existing paint, without the risk of them peeling off during high-speed flying.
On December 22, 2020, Italian aerospace giant Leonardo delivered the first two M-345 jet trainer aircraft to the Italian Air Force, a new type which the service refers to as the T-345A. As deliveries increase, these aircraft will gradually replace the present 137 Italian Air Force MB-339s, the first of which joined the service in 1982. As a result of this new fleet modernization, the T-345 will eventually become the new mount for the Frecce Tricolori. Here is hoping that this remarkable aerobatics team has at least another sixty years thrilling crowds with their magical displays.