Italian Navy Maristaeli Luni5° Gruppo Elicotteri
Global Aviator|May 2021
The 5th Helicopter Group was the first operational group at the La Spezia naval base, established on 1 November 1969, together with technical and logistical support for the helicopters.
Gian Carlo Vecchi
Helicopters assigned to the Group over the years – AB-47J followed by AB-47G, AB-47J3 and SH-34J Sea Bat were sold by the 1st Helicopter Group which at that time operated from the MARISTAELI Catania Fontanarossa base. The arrival of the Sea Bats marked the beginning of the collaboration with the COMSUBIN and with the San Marco Battalion.

From 1971 the Group was equipped with AB-204 AS helicopters and from 1976 the first AB-212s arrived which gradually replaced all previous helicopters.

Since its establishment, the 5th Group has been engaged in operations in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Albania, Lebanon, and Afghanistan; while at the same time assisting with interventions by the Civil Protection.

In 2000, a group of pilots and operators trained for support operations by the Special Forces, was set up at the Group using an aircraft that had been configured by the Navy as suitable for the use of NVG night vision goggles.

Arrival of the SH-90A

On 15 June 2011, the 5th Helicopter Group received the first SH-90A (aircraft side number 3-04). The introduction of the SH-90A represented an epochal turning point in the helicopter sector of the Armed Force, aimed at ensuring the interoperability of the fleet with those of the most advanced allied navies and maintaining the high standards required by NATO.

The new helicopter, SH-90A (ASW / ASuW) and MH-90A (Maritime Eliassalto), weighing up to eleven tons and the first helicopter equipped with flyby-wire type flight control logic, is powered by two General Electric T700-GE-T6E1 motors; it replaces the glorious AB212 ASW as the supporting pillar of the Naval Aviation.

Depending on the configuration, the helicopter can carry up to 14 fully equipped soldiers and can be used in surface and under surface combat missions (ASW / ASuW), maritime surveillance and Eliassalto in support of the Navy's amphibious and special forces. Characterised by high configuration versatility and equally effective flexibility of use, it can also be used for Search and Rescue (SAR), MEDEVAC and CASEVAC missions.

5° Gruppo Elicotteri today

Two hangars are used in Luni for the SH-90A, one for the operational aircraft for first-level maintenance, the second for more advanced second/ third level maintenance.

A more advanced training sector with a new simulator, the NMST (Naval Mission System Trainer), which recreates being in the helicopter and allows the personnel to gain experience, was also installed. The Navy already has a flight simulator for the EH101 and would like to acquire one for the SH-90A. At the moment, the flight personnel use a SH-90A simulator at the AgustaWestland training site.

Transitioning from the AB212 to the SH-90A was a huge change. A sophisticated machine with a greater loading capacity, higher autonomy, and very advanced sensors, it can deploy the MU-90 torpedo and has a Link system.

The SH-90A configuration includes a very high tech radar with range profile and ISAR (Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar), a sonar HELRAS (Helicopter Long-Range Active Sonar), and weapons (MU-90 torpedo, “Marte” and APMG).

The airframe is made from composite materials which guarantee a greater resistance, less weight, less vulnerability and less radar signaling, but all this requires a different approach in its maintenance, thus making the SH-90A more difficult in its management.

A polyvalent machine defined as an Operative Fighting Unit that can have RMP (Reconnaissance Maritime Pictures) in real time guaranteeing an incredible situation awareness. This is a pre-requisite to carry out any mission, thinking about the anti-piracy context and the control of the cargo traffic.

All the SH-90A units have been brought to FOC (Full Operational Capabilities) standards, which increases engine rpms to 104%. The increase in power increases the maximum when taking off, from 10.6 to 11 tons.

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