Introduction

The Sezione Aerea Guardia di Finanza, located in Pratica di Mare, Italy, serves as a pivotal operational and training hub for the Guardia di Finanza’s aviation division. As part of the esteemed Italian law enforcement agency, the Sezione Aerea Guardia di Finanza plays a crucial role in conducting aerial surveillance, border control, search, and rescue operations, and combating illegal activities such as smuggling, financial crimes, and drug trafficking. The facility at Pratica di Mare houses a fleet of state-of-the-art helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and specialized equipment, enabling the Guardia di Finanza to effectively carry out its missions across land, sea, and air domains. With its strategic location, advanced infrastructure, and highly trained personnel, the Sezione Aerea Guardia di Finanza Pratica di Mare stands as a symbol of excellence, professionalism, and commitment to ensuring the safety and security of Italy’s borders and citizens.

Helicopters and Fixed-wing Aircraft

The flight unit at Pratica di Mare proudly operates a fleet of state-of-the-art helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, representing the agency’s commitment to employing cutting-edge technology in its aerial operations. These sophisticated aircraft are meticulously maintained and equipped with advanced avionics, navigation systems, and mission-specific equipment, ensuring optimal performance and reliability during a wide range of operational scenarios. The helicopters, renowned for their agility and versatility, enable the Guardia di Finanza to conduct critical missions such as aerial surveillance, search and rescue operations, and maritime patrols with exceptional efficiency and effectiveness. Meanwhile, the fixed-wing aircraft provide extended range, endurance, and enhanced capabilities for surveillance, border control, and anti-smuggling operations, further bolstering the agency’s ability to safeguard national security. With their advanced features and robust capabilities, the Sezione Aerea Guardia di Finanza Pratica di Mare’s helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft embody the agency’s dedication to staying at the forefront of technological advancements to fulfil their crucial mandate of ensuring law enforcement, safety, and security throughout Italy’s airspace and territorial boundaries.


Aircraft Observed

  • 2x MH-169A – MM82055/GF-507, MM82066/GF-514
  • 1x PH-139D – MM81964/GF-414
  • 1x NH500M – MM81067/GF-109
  • 1x AW109N – MM81699/GF-311
  • 1x AB412HP – MM81504/GF-216
  • 2x P-72B – MM62311/20, MM62321/22
  • 2x ATR42-400MP – MM62166/GF-14, MM62251/GF-16
  • 2x P180 – MM62248/GF-18, MM62249/GF-19
  • 3x P166DL – MM62264/GF-06, MM62266/GF-09, MM62267/GF-10

Maintenance

The maintenance department places paramount importance on the meticulous upkeep of its helicopter and aircraft fleet. Recognizing that the reliability and airworthiness of these assets are vital to successful operations, the maintenance teams employ stringent standards and rigorous procedures to ensure the highest levels of safety and performance. Highly trained and experienced technicians meticulously inspect and service each aircraft, adhering to manufacturer guidelines and industry best practices. This includes regular checks, preventative maintenance, and timely component replacements to maintain optimal functionality. By upholding these thorough maintenance practices, the maintenance team guarantees that its helicopters and aircraft are in peak condition, ready to undertake critical missions, and fulfill their roles.

Simulator

MAR also had the opportunity to visit and explore first hand Europe’s first Air and Naval Operations Simulation Center that was recently opened on 2nd of February 2023. This cutting-edge facility features a range of technologically advanced simulators, including two helicopter simulators for AW169 and AW139, a full-scale helicopter simulator equipped with a winch for wounded recovery, a P-72B aircraft simulator, a naval bridge simulator, and a ground command station simulator. These simulators utilize innovative solutions such as virtual reality viewers and gloves that replicate the resistance of controls in extreme situations.


Developed by Leonardo, a leading aerospace company, the simulators accurately replicate the AW169 and AW139 helicopters, as well as the P-72B aircraft, including their performance, avionics, and cockpit environments. Integrated actuators on the platforms provide realistic physical responses to pilots, ensuring an authentic training experience. In addition to pilot training, the simulation centre also offers specialized training for personnel responsible for managing Leonardo’s Airborne Tactical Observation and Surveillance (ATOS) mission systems for the AW139 and P-72B platforms, as well as training for recovery winch operators in the cabin. A highly immersive virtual reality environment is dedicated to search and rescue missions.


The simulation centre has obtained the prestigious qualification of Approved Training Organization from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), demonstrating its compliance with rigorous training standards. It has also received the Certificate of Approval for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Training (RPAS) from the National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC). Housed in the ‘L’ hangar of the Pratica di Mare base, the centre seamlessly integrates into the wider network of Leonardo’s helicopter training academy, ensuring a comprehensive and interconnected training experience for aviation and naval personnel.

Crew

Guardia di Finanza takes immense pride in its highly skilled and dedicated crew members, who form the backbone of the agency’s aerial operations. Comprised of experienced pilots, specialized technicians, and mission-critical support personnel, the crew members exemplify professionalism, expertise, and unwavering commitment to their duties. Pilots undergo rigorous training, acquiring exceptional flying skills and operational knowledge to navigate diverse and challenging environments with precision and proficiency. The specialized technicians exhibit exceptional proficiency in aircraft maintenance, ensuring the airworthiness and reliability of the fleet. Each crew member, regardless of their role, upholds the agency’s core values of integrity, accountability, and excellence in every aspect of their work.

Guardia di Finanza Museum

The aviation museum belonging to the Guardia di Finanza is a testament to the rich aviation heritage and accomplishments of the agency. The museum showcases a remarkable collection of aircraft and artifacts, offering visitors a captivating journey through the history of aerial law enforcement and surveillance. Carefully curated exhibits feature iconic aircraft models, historical photographs, and interactive displays that highlight the evolution of aviation technology and its pivotal role in the Guardia di Finanza’s operations. The museum at the Pratica di Mare airbase stands as a beacon of heritage, knowledge, and inspiration, preserving the past while inspiring future generations to continue the agency’s legacy of excellence in airborne law enforcement.

Aircraft Observed

  • 1x AB47J.3 – MM80305/GF-37
  • 1x AB47G.2 – MM80166/GF-16
  • 1x AB412HP – MM81454/GF-209
  • 1x AW109A – MM81334/GF-133
  • 1x C-45F – MM61714
  • 1x NH500M – MM80850/GF-51
  • 1x NH500M – AS9213 (ex MM80848/GF-49)
  • 1x NH500MC – MM80998/GF-74
  • 1x NH500MD – MM81137/GF-117
  • 1x P166DL – MM25182/GF-12

Conclusion

MAR expresses its sincere gratitude for the extraordinary privilege of visiting the Sezione Aerea Guardia di Finanza at Pratica di Mare. The opportunity provided valuable insights and knowledge, for which our team is deeply thankful. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the entire personnel for their warm welcome, gracious hospitality, and meticulous organization of the visit. It has been an honour to witness firsthand GDIF’s unwavering dedication to safeguarding Italian national security and protecting the well-being of its citizens.