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Location in Italy
General Dynamics F-16C Block 40A Fighting Falcon 89-030 of the 510th Fighter Squadron

Aviano Air Base is a USAF airbase in northeastern Italymarker, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. It is located in Avianomarker municipality, at the foot of the Carnic Alpsmarker, about 15 kilometers from Pordenonemarker.


Aviano is hosted by the United States Air Force 31st Fighter Wing (31 FW), a part of the United States Air Forces in Europe, a major command of the Air Force and also the air component of the United States European Command, one of the Unified Combatant Command of the Department of Defensemarker.

The 31 FW includes a maintenance group, a mission support group, a medical group and an operations group (OG). The 31 OG's operational fighter squadrons are:
510th Fighter Squadron "Buzzards"
555th Fighter Squadron "Triple Nickel"

Both are equipped with Block 40 F-16CM Fighting Falcons, tail coded "AV".

Aviano's current mission is to conduct regional and expeditionary operations under NATOmarker, SACEUR or national tasking.


Aviano Air Base was established by the Italian government in 1911, and was used as training base for Italian pilots and construction facility for aircraft parts. During World War I, Italy used the airfield in missions against the Austro-Hungarian and German armies. At that time, two Italian aviators, Captain Maurizio Pagliano and Lieutenant Luigi Gori, conducted an unauthorized, but heroic and successful, air raid on the Austrianmarker naval yards in Pulamarker, in what is now Croatiamarker. In their honor, the base's name was officially changed to Aeroporto Pagliano e Gori, in 1919. During the war the airfield was also overrun by the Austro-German army. Between the two wars the airfield was again used as a training base.

During World War II, both the Italian Air Force and the German Luftwaffe flew missions from Aeroporto Pagliano e Gori. Britishmarker forces captured the base in 1945; they conducted air operations there until 1947, when the Italian Air Force resumed operational use of the airport. The Italian Air Force used the base until 1954.

United States Air Force Use

In 1954, the U.S. and Italian governments signed a joint-use agreement that brought the base into the North Atlantic Treaty Organizationmarker (NATO). Headquarters of the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) officially activated the airfield on February 15, 1955 with the activation of the 7207th Air Base Squadron.

Aviano had no permanent tactical combat aircraft assigned. Instead, the base hosted rotational fighter deployments from Tactical Air Command bases in the United States in support of NATOmarker alert commitments and Air Force weapons-training deployments. The 7227th Combat Support Group was the host unit at Aviano effective December 1, 1957, being replaced by the 40th Tactical Group on April 1, 1966 to handle the rotational units from the United States on a permanent basis.

With the closure of U.S. operations at Torrejon Air Basemarker Spainmarker on May 21, 1992, the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing moved to Aviano, supplanting the 40th Tactical Group. After Hurricane Andrew destroyed Homestead AFBmarker, Floridamarker, the 401st was deactivated and replaced by the 31st Fighter Wing on April 1, 1994.

On June 2, 1995, US Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady, attached to the 555th Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Deny Flight over Bosnia, was shot down by a Bosnian SA-6 surface-to-air missile and forced to eject from his aircraft. Six days later, he was rescued by United States Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit based on the USS Kearsarge.The event would come to be known as the Mrkonjić Grad incidentmarker.

In the Cavalese cable-car disastermarker, on February 3, 1998, a jet flying too low on a training exercise from Aviano Air Base severed a cable car's cable over the Alps at Cavalesemarker, Italy, causing 20 deaths. Current Secretary of State Massimo D'Alema, a Prime Minister at the time of the tragedy, admitted having decided to trade the release of Lexington AMX detainee and activist Silvia Baraldini with the promise to US officials that no further investigations on the Cavalese incident would have been allowed or putten forth.

Allegations have been made that on February 17, 2003, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr was kidnapped by CIA agents while he was walking to his mosque in Milanmarker, transported via Aviano Air Base to Alexandriamarker, Egyptmarker, and turned over to the custody of Egypt's State Security Intelligence. In 2005 and 2006, Italian authorities issued warrants for dozens of persons they believe are connected to the kidnapping including a security forces commander at Aviano Air Base at the time of the alleged abduction.

The United States Department of Defensemarker awarded Aviano Air Base with the Best Anti-Terrorism Program Award for 2008.


The layout of Aviano Air Base is unique because the community consists of seven areas, which include the administrative, community and support areas, the 16th Air Force command compound, the flight line area, a munitions storage area, a civil engineering complex, a recreational area and a decommissioned fuel railhead. Aviano Air Base is divided into nine areas stretched between the towns of Aviano and Pordenone, nine miles south of the base. In the wake of the Aviano 2000 project, many elements of the scattered areas are being consolidated into the flightline area. The major areas are:

  • Area A1 contains a few of Aviano's support functions (such as the library and chapel) and the newly built school for the base population's children.
  • Area A2 contains the Fitness Centers, Dining Halls, some older Dormitories, Thrift Shop and Fire Department.
  • Area C contains Civil Engineering activities, Initial Issue, and contractor facilities.
  • Area D contains a soccer/football field and picnic area.
  • Area E, 16th Air Force Headquarters area, contains AFN, some communications functions (base operators) and K-9 facilities. The Italian Carabinieri (military police) also have their base headquarters in this area.
  • Area F is the flightline area, and by far the largest area in Aviano. This sprawling complex contains the active runway and two taxiways, the operational and support units: 31st Fighter Wing Commander's Office, a portion of the Traffic Management Office, Air Mobility Command Passenger Terminal, Supply, Security Force Offices, flying squadrons, new dormitories, Billiting, BX and Commissary, Food Court, Post Office, Movie Theater, Fitness Centers, Recreational Area (ball parks, track, campground), Golf Course, Pass & Registration, and Drivers Testing.

See also


Some of this text in an early version of this article was taken from pages on the Aviano Air Base website, which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource. That information was supplemented by:
  • Donald, David (2004) Century Jets: USAF Frontline Fighters of the Cold War. AIRtime ISBN 1-880588-68-4
  • Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
  • Fletcher, Harry R. (1989) Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6
  • Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History. ISBN 0-88740-513-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present

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