The 17º Stormo Incursori: 17th Raiders Wing 

The 17º Stormo Incursori (17th Raiders Wing) is the special forces unit of the Italian Air Force. Identified as a Tier 1 unit, it is based in Furbara, Rome, and it is the latest special forces unit established in Italy.

The 17º Stormo Incursori
The badge of the 17º Stormo Incursori

History of the 17º Stormo Incursori

The history of the 17º Stormo Incursori dates back to the Second World War, even though the unit is quite new.

The unit draws its origins from the Arditi Distruttori della Regia Aeronautica (ADRA – literally translated “Arditi Destroyer of the Regal Aviation”). Based in Tarquinia, Viterbo, and established in 1942, the Arditi were responsible for sabotaging the enemy’s installations. Its actions and bravery became very well-known after the unit was deployed to North Africa.

The goal of the unit was to parachute into various airports of the Allies and destroy various aircraft. On the 18th of June 1943, two patrols managed to destroy 25 Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers at the Bengasi Airport.

From ADRA, the 17º Stormo Incursori also inherited the sand-coloured beret.

Its origins can also be found in the 17th Group (17º Gruppo), which was an air group formed in 1924. This group as well took part in missions in Northern Africa during the Second World War. Its name and structure changed throughout the years and on the 1st of November 1985 it assumed the name of “17º Stormo IT (Intercettori Teleguidati – Guided interceptors)”.

From this unit, the 17º Stormo Incursori inherited its motto “Sufficit Animus” (literally translated “the audacity is enough”).

On the 1st of March, the Italian Air Force formed the “Reparto Incursori A.M.” (Raiders Unit Air Force), which followed in the footsteps of the ADRA.

On the 2nd of April 2008, the 17º Stormo Incursori, based at the Airport of Furbara, gained its current name.

Structure

The 17º Stormo Incursori, is considered a Tier 1 unit, and is part of the Special Operations Air Brigade, but operationally it is under the Comando interforze per le operazioni delle Forze speciali (COFS – Joint Special Forces Operations).

The COFS, in charge of planning and conducting special operations, is responsible for all the special forces of each Italian armed force:

  • 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin” (Army)
  • Operational Raiders Group (GOI – Gruppo Operativo Incursori) (Navy)
  • 17th Raiders Wing
  • Special Intervention Group (GIS – Gruppo di Intervento Speciale) (Carabinieri)
  • 4th Alpini Paratroopers Regiment “Monte Cervino” (Army)
  • 185th Paratroopers Reconnaissance Target Acquisition Regiment “Folgore” (Army)
The organisational chart of COFS

The 17º Stormo Incursori unit consists of 100/200 individuals, divided into two groups:

  • The operative group consists of teams of six or 12 men each. Its goal is to take part and achieve the objective during joint and combined missions, and single services operations.
  • The training group is formed by rescue and raider personnel, and by personnel specialised in Explosive Ordnance Reconnaissance (EOR), Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), and Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD).  

Moreover, the 17º Stormo Incursori comprehends a support group, a forces protection company, and an administrative department.

The 17º Stormo Incursori: Responsibilities

This unit operates either in a national context or in multinational coalitions, and it takes part in missions with a strong connotation of aviation.

The members of the 17º Stormo Incursori have to be able to take part in various kinds of missions such as:

  • Combat Controller
  • Combat Search and Rescue
  • Counterterrorism Operations
  • Direct Action, especially against aeronautical compounds and airbases
  • Forward Air controller
  • Gathering intelligence
  • Ground Laser Target Designator
  • Hostage Release Operations (HRO)
  • Military Assistance
  • Pathfinder
  • Protection of infrastructure and personnel in areas characterised by crisis
  • Special Reconnaissance
  • Strategic Reconnaissance

Training

The selection process for this unit is open only to officers and petty officers and the requirements are:

  • Being younger than 35 years old
  • Excellent service record
  • Psychometric and physical fitness
  • Qualify for a secret level security clearance
17º Stormo Incursori’s operators during training

The Training Group of the 17º Stormo Incursori is in charge of the training process of the unit. This process is divided into two phases.

The first phase is the “Forces for Special Operations A.M.” Course. Once the course is over, the recruit becomes a STOS operator, which means “Tactical Support to Special Operations”.

This phase, used to assess physical and psychometric characteristics, consists of six modules:

  • Air Support Operations
  • Close-quarters combat (CQC)
  • Combat (individually and in teams)
  • Explosives (how to handle, sabotage, and dismantle them)
  • Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE)
  • Topography (orientation and land navigation)

The second phase includes two options. The first option focuses on the knowledge acquired in the previous phase and deepens the training on “combat readiness” for Special Operations Forces. The second option is to take part in the BIAM (Brevetto Incursore A.M. – Raider Brevet Air Force) Course. The BIAM course is long and tough and 90% of the recruits do not make it to the end.

(Video; 17º Stormo Incursori Training Exercises; via Mike on YouTube)

At the end of the training process, all the members of the unit can attend specialisation courses in:

  • Close protection and security detail course with the GIS (Gruppo Intervento Speciale) Carabinieri
  • Diving courses at the COMSUBIN, in Varignano
  • Joint Terminal Attack Controller
  • Parachuting course
  • Sniper course with the 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”.
  • Special Operations Combat Medics

Equipment of the 17º Stormo Incursori

The 17º Stormo Incursori unit is equipped with a variety of weapons including:

Personal Weapons

  • Beretta PX-4 STORM Type D
  • FN Five-seveN
  • Glock 17

Assault Rifles

  • ARX-160A2, specifically designed for the special forces
  • Benelli M-4
  • Colt M-4A1
  • Heckler & Koch G-36C
  • Heckler & Koch 416 and 417
  • MP-5A3
  • MP-5SD3

Sniper Rifles

  • Barrett M-82
  • Sako TRG-22
  • Sako TRG-42, often employed with Schmidt & Bender PM-2 riflescope
  • Sr-25/Mk-11

Accessories

  • Aimpoint
  • Trijicon
  • Holographic sight Red Hot EOTECH
  • Insight system AN/PEQ 2, AN/PEQ 4, AN/PEQ 15, and Mako MEPRO MOR
  • Laser pointer LAM 100/200
  • Thermal Camera Insight Mk23

Helicopters

  • Alenia C-27J Spartan
  • AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar
  • C-130J “Hercules ILS”

On the field, the unit adopts VTLM “Lince”, Polaris All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Quad, and jeeps.

17º Stormo Incursori’s combat controllers with an ATV Quad

Missions

The 17º Stormo Incursori took part in many missions both in Italy and abroad.

In Italy, the unit is involved in all the activities that characterise the Italian Special Forces. Thanks to its abilities and skills, the unit is considered the best aviation unit in the country.

In 2007, the unit was deployed to Afghanistan, and it was part of Task Force 45. Task Force 45 comprehended various Italian Special Forces units and it was related to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

The 17º Stormo Incursori was mainly involved in two operations: Sarissa and Aspis. Both missions aimed to support and train the Afghan troops, also assisting in the peacekeeping operations.

In 2011, the Italian unit joined the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector in Libya. The mission aimed to enforce the UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 related to the Libyan Civil War. During this operation, the 17º Stormo Incursori took part in Ground Laser Target Designator and Joint Tactical Air Controller tasks.  

In 2020, the 17º Stormo Incursori was also deployed to Mali alongside various Italian special forces units and it took part in the Task Force Takuba.

Rachele Momi
Rachele Momi
Rachele Momi is a graduate in Intelligence & Security Studies at Brunel University and in Middle East Politics at SOAS. Her research is mainly focused on the Middle East region, tradecraft, and defence issues.

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