Operazione Locusta is the code name given to the contribution of the
Italian Air Force
Italian Air Force in the Gulf War.
Following the invasion and annexation of
Kuwait by Iraq, on September
25, 1990 the Italian Government sent eight multirole fighter bombers
Tornado IDS (plus two spare) in the Persian gulf, belonging to the
6º, 36º and 50º Stormo, which were deployed at the Al Dhafra Air
Base, near Abu Dhabi, in United Arab Emirates.
These planes formed the "Autonomous Flight Department of the Italian
Air Force in the Arabian Peninsula". The Department's staff, initially
made up of 239 men, including twelve Carabinieri of the Air Force for
supervisory needs and military police, was subsequently brought to 314
The deployment of Italian aircraft was part of the international
security system implemented by UN Security Council Resolution 678.
The use of Italian aircraft as part of the
Desert Storm operation
represented the first operational employment in combat missions of
Italian Air Force
Italian Air Force aircraft after the end of World War II.
During the 42 days of war, Italian fighters made 226 sorties for a
total of 589 flight hours. General Mario Arpino was head of the Air
Coordination Unit during the war operations in Saudi Arabia from
October 1990 to March 1991.
Added to this commitment is the activity carried out by the RF104-G
tactical reconnaissance aircraft (for a total of 384 sorties and 515
flight hours) operating in Turkey under the NATO AMF (ACE Mobile Force
NATO) . This cell had been resettled on the Anatolian peninsula on 6
January 1991, in the face of a decision in NATO, to protect a possible
Iraqi attempt to widen the conflict, and the support of transport
aircraft, which carried out 244 missions for 4156 hours of flight,
ensuring logistical support for national air and naval units as well
as the evacuation of nationals from areas at risk.
The RF104-G returned to Italy on March 11, 1991.
The Tornado fighter jets returned to the
Gioia del Colle
Gioia del Colle air base on
March 15, 1991, two weeks after the end of the military operations.
The return of Italian fighter planes to the homeland was welcomed by a
ceremony attended by the Minister of Defense Virginio Rognoni, the
Chief of the Defense, General Domenico Nardini, and the Chief of Staff
of Italian Air Force, General Stelio Nardini.
Loss of an Aircraft
During the conflict, the
Italian Air Force
Italian Air Force recorded the loss of a
On the night between 17 and 18 January 1991, the first military
mission of Italian aircraft departed.
Gianmarco Bellini (pilot) and captain Maurizio Cocciolone
(navigator) took off on board their fighter-bomber along with the
other seven Italian aircraft and a formation of allied aircraft for
the first mission that saw them employed in the airspace controlled by
The squadron's mission was an areal depot (provisioning, ammunition
and means) in southern Iraq, northwest of
Kuwait City, defended by
radar-enslaved anti-aircraft artillery. Bellini and Cocciolone, like
many others from the base of the Emirate, were the only ones capable
of completing refueling in flight; all other aircraft, including 7
Italian Tornados and about 30 other aircraft from other countries,
hindered by weather conditions, failed to approach the aircrew and had
to return to base.
Bellini, as head crew, decided that their aircraft would have to go on
alone, knowing that the mission profile envisaged to carry on the
attack even in such a situation, despite the enemy's defensive
deployment . Received the ok by the air tactical command, the aircraft
leveled at about 250 feet of altitude, activated the automatic control
TF and unhooked the war load (5 Mk 83 bombs) on the target around at
4.30 in the morning. After about 40 seconds their plane was hit by
Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery, trained to defend against low-altitude
attacks, and the two Italians had to launch themselves with the
ejection seat. The plane hit the ground about 20 km northwest of
the Kuwaiti capital, a few hundred meters from an Iraqi Republican
Guard barracks. The two airmen were immediately captured by Iraqi
troops, separated, confiscated everything they had with them
(including clothing and boots) and forced to wear a yellow suit, which
qualified them as prisoners of war.
Gianmarco Bellini and Captain Navigator Maurizio
Cocciolone were released at the end of the conflict, along with the
other prisoners of war captured by the Iraqi forces.
^ a b c d e "25 years from the "Locust" operation". 25 September
^ a b c d e "
^ "Celebrato il 93° Anniversario dell'Aeronautica Militare - Aviation
Report" (in Italian). Retrieved 2018-02-01.
^ "Generale Mario ARPINO - Difesa.it". www.difesa.it.
^ a b c d e f http://www.venticinquennale.altervista.org/storia.htm