At the beginning of the World War, the air forces were part of the army and navy and were under the control of the Ministry of War (General Directorate of Air Force) and of the Navy (Office of the Chief of Staff, 5th Department).
The supreme necessities of the world war overcame every obstacle deriving from particular visions of the effectiveness of the new weapon, and the aeronautical organisms rapidly changed and increased in number and efficiency. Immediately after the war, the program of a new organization of the air forces, already being implemented, was suddenly interrupted. A hasty demobilization led to the disintegration of the aeronautical forces, just when the merger of the aeronautical bodies into a single ministry was already advocated and the aeronautics was spoken of as a new formidable armed force for future wars.
With the decree of 24 May 1923, the remains of the demobilized air forces of the army and navy were united in a single body called the Air Force Commissioner, with its own budget and independent organization. A general air force command and a general stewardship were part of the commissariat. All the aeronautical forces of employment depended on the general command, while the intendency embraced all the technical and civil services. In the same year 1923 the Corps of Staff of the Air Force, the Corps of the Aeronautical Engineers and the Corps of the Aeronautical Commissariat were constituted, thus forming the R. Aeronautica, that is the third armed force of the state. This purely transitory organization was consolidated in August 1925 with the transformation of the police station into a ministry.
This law created, in turn, the first order of the new great military body. Having established the guiding principle in the formula “organic and professional unity of the weapon and specialization of use”, the legal system established the proportion of the various aeronautical specialties, on the basis of the foreseeable needs of war and the characteristics of mobilization, and defined the organic composition of the new armed force.
Subsequently, with the law of January 6, 1931, without prejudice to the military concept of the only technical-professional entity, the final structure was given to the air force, increasingly enhancing the air army, which currently brings together all the available forces.
The air army is the complex of air forces intended to carry out the tasks of air warfare, including the air defense of the territory. It is made up of the squadron, which is its fundamental organic unit; the group, which consists of a command and a variable number of squadrons; the flock, consisting of a command and a variable number of groups; the brigade, consisting of a command and a variable number of flocks; the air division, consisting of a command and a variable number of brigades; by the air team, made up of a command and a variable number of divisions. The squad, division and brigade make up the great air units. The air army is made up of 42 groups of squadrons, which can be grouped into a variable number of higher-order air units.
Aviation for the army includes the air forces destined to carry out the tasks that will be assigned to it by the army commands in peace and in war. It is made up of 15 groups of air observation squadrons, each made up of a command and a variable number of squadrons; the squadron is the basic organic unit of aviation for the army. The groups of squadrons will be ordered into five flocks, having a similar constitution to that of the flocks of the air force.
Aviation for the navy consists of the air forces intended to carry out the tasks in peace and war assigned to it by the navy commands. It consists of four aviation commands, a variable number of maritime reconnaissance squadrons and the planes embarked on the ships.
The Air Force, the Army Air Force and the Navy Air Force constitute metropolitan aviation. Then there is the colonial air force, made up of all the air forces deployed in the colonies and destined to act under the command of the colonial troops. Colonial Aviation includes four aviation commands: Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, Eritrea and Somalia.
According to the war tasks for which they are organized, the air force units are divided into: a ) hunting specialties, which groups together the means intended for offense and defense against aerial targets; b ) reconnaissance specialty, which groups together the means suitable for distant or strategic exploration and for the close, tactical one; c ) bombing specialties, which groups the means suitable for offense on land or naval targets. Bombing aviation, already divided into day and night, light or heavy, is uniting towards a single specialization.
For the body of the aeronautical genius, see genius (XVI, p. 533). The body of the Aeronautical Military Commissariat is made up of the officers of the Aeronautical Commissariat and exercises logistical, technical-administrative and accounting functions with regard to cash services, subsistence, clothing, equipment and barracks. The military schools of the aeronautics include: a ) the air warfare school with courses of high military studies (in the course of being established); b ) the Royal Aeronautical Academy, based in Caserta, from which the navigating officers of the air weapon in effective permanent service are recruited; c) the aerial observation school, based in Cerveteri, where army and navy officers prepare for the special air-ground and naval cooperation air service: d ) hunting and bombing specialty schools, with offices in Lonate and Castiglione of the lake; e ) the specialists school, based in Capua, for the recruitment and improvement of all categories of aeronautics specialists; f ) the high-speed school (over 500 km. per hour) in Desenzano; g ) the high seas sailing school of Orbetello (see also organic).
Alongside the armed forces that have exclusively military purposes, there is in Italy the voluntary militia for national security, a characteristic expression of the fascist revolution (see fascism, XIV, p. 878), which is dealt with extensively in a specific article.
Also included in the general qualification of state armed forces are the R. Guardia di Finanza (see finance, direction guard of), and the corps of police officers (see police).