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  • Writer's pictureFrank Visser

2003 the last Year for the Italian Zippers

Updated: Feb 7, 2018

For nearly fifty years after the first F-104 "Starfighter" took to the sky the Italian Air Force is the only country which operates this legendary fighter. Frank Visser visited Grosetto and Grazzanise Air Base to see and fly with the "Zipper".

Like many other countries Italy started flying the F-104 in the sixties. In 1963 the first F-104G was handed over to the 4 Aerobrigata and in total 105 F-104Gs, 20 RF-104Gs and 24 dual TF-104G were ordered by the Italian Air Force.

The 20 Gruppo at Grosseto flies two models, the F-104S/ASA-M and the TF-104G-M for training pilots to fly the F-104.

The second Gruppo at Grosseto is the 9 Gruppo flying the F-104S/ASA-M.

Breaks on for this 9 Gruppo pilot.

Mission completed for these two 20 Gruppo TF-104G-Ms.

By the end of the sixties the F-104S entered service and a total of 205 were delivered. This version was equipped with better avionics and engine performance. It could also carry the Sparrow air-to-air missile. The F-104s were build at Aeritalia which is now called Alenia. During 1984 -1985 an additional six TF-104Gs were brought from the Germans.

One of the six TF-104Gs bought from Germany. The M sign on the tail indicates that this aircraft was upgraded to TF-104G-M.

A unique photo from the cockpit at the moment this F-104 was flying at 68.000 feet.

Photo: Italian Air Force.

Another unique photo flying at the speed of 2.2 Mach. Photo: Italian Air Force.

From 1986 until 1993 143 F-104s were upgraded to the ASA-standard. This included a better radar

of the R21G/M1. Besides other modifications these "Starfighers" could also carry the AIM-9L "Sidewinder" missile. In the nineties 49 ASA and 15 TF-104Gs received their last conversion to

ASA-M and G-M standard. The focus for this upgrade was to improve reliability rather than combat enhancements.

A pair of TF-104G-Ms flying over the island of Montecristo.

During the last year of the F-104 with the Italian Air Force several aircraft got special colour shemes. This F-104 at Grosseto indicates 40 years of maintenance.

At Grazzanise this 10 Gruppo F-104S/ASA-M was painted in a red Ducati 999 colour sheme.

A 10 Gruppo F-104S/ASA-M.

A four-ship flown by the 20 Gruppo.

The last of the many.

Cap. Aldo Sgarzi of the 20 Gruppo achieving his 2.000 flying hour on the F-104. Soon after this moment he went on flying the Typhoon which replaced the F-104.

The Italian Air Force units operating the F-104 by the end of the nineties:

· 4 Stormo - 9 Gruppo F-104S/ASA-M Grosseto

- 20 Gruppo F-104S/ASA-M/TF-104G-M Grosseto

· 5 Stormo - 23 Gruppo F-104S/ASA-M Cervia

· 9 Stormo - 10 Gruppo F-104S/ASA-M Grazzanise

· 37 Stormo - 18 Gruppo F-104S/ASA-M Trapani

· 51 Gruppo - 22 Gruppo F-104S/ASA-M Istrana

· 53 Stormo - 21 Gruppo F-104S/ASA-M Cameri

· RSV - 311 Gruppo F-104S/ASA-M Practica di Mare

Arrivederci F-104.

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