The Last Piston Fighters of The Italian Air Force

A P-51 Mustang of the of the Gruppo Scuola Volo (training squadron) based at Lecce Air Base. The first Mustangs arrived in Lecce in the spring of 1949.

The end of the World War Two, saw the Regia Aeronautica ranks practically destroyed and the  once powerful air force  had to be completely rebuilt from technical, human and moral aspects. In his latest book Gli ultimi caccia a pistoni: una storia per immagini Italian aviation historian and photographer Luigino Caliaro brings us a photographic research about the last piston fighters of the Italian Air Force.

The Peace Treaty of Paris of 1947 placed severe restrictions on all of the Italian armed forces, but the establishment of NATO in 1949 with Italy as a founding member brought about the necessity for the modernization of all of the Italian armed forces, including the Italian Air Force. American military aid sent by the Mutual Defense Assistance Program brought about the introduction of America’s premiere piston-powered fighters,  P-47 Thunderbolt, P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang into Italian service.

In the fall of 1947, the company Industrie Meccaniche Meridionali was commissioned to modify five F-5 Lightnings to a dual control training version. At least two airplanes remained in service with the Italian Air Force until the mid ’50s.

The Air Force, as it was renamed by June 1946, in the immediate post-war period depended exclusively on the Allies supplies, who provided hundreds of airplanes to refit front-line units. These aircraft, which until a few months before represented the summit of technology in the aeronautical field allowed for the rebirth of military aviation in Italy and allowed Italian pilots to fly and train with the adequate means in view of the arrival of the first jets, on the other hand, created quite a few problems.

Supermarine Spitfires of the 51st Wing parked on the flight line of Treviso airport.

In fact, most of the aircraft received from Italy were already at their operational limits due to the many months of hard use during the war, different philosophies of maintenance, scarcity of parts which put also a strain on the tenacity, and the ability of the maintainers.

Former USAAF P-47 Thunderbolts parked on the ramp of the Vicenza Air Base in 1951. USAAF markings are still visible on some of the airplanes.

This book deliberately gives a large emphasis on photographs collected by Caliaro, many of which were never published before. The book contains 280 rare photographs, 96 pages and the text is available in Italian and English. To purchase a copy of this book visit

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