“Fighter aircraft’ role in crisis management operations: Italy’s trends and needs” is the title of the new IAI’s research paper, presented at the conference held on May 13 in Rome, in Palazzo Rondinini. The conference, organized by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), offered the opportunity to go beyond stereotypes which often dominate current debates on defence matters and to conduct an informed and fruitful dialogue.
After the welcome speeches by Ferdinando Nelli Feroci and Vincenzo Camporini – IAI’s President and Vice President respectively – Alessandro Marrone and Alessandro R. Ungaro, IAI researchers, presented the research paper.
In order to give voice to different points of views, experts from various fields and with different backgrounds took part to the conference: the Director of Postgraduate School of Economics and International Relations, Vittorio Emanuele Parsi; the Italian NATO Permanent Representative, Gabriele Checchia; the Air Force Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Pasquale Preziosa and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Alenia Aermacchi, Giuseppe Giordo.
Following the presentation of the study, the debate focused on the importance of the Italian fighter aircraft’ role within international operations and highlighted “trends and needs”. In particular, the crisis management operations considered reveal an Italian tendency to deploy fighter aircraft within multinational coalition, mostly participated by NATO members. During the discussion this point has been accounted as a revealing factor of the Italian inextricable relation to international organizations as a result of an increasingly interconnected and globalized world. In such a context, the Italian participation in international missions turns out to be an effective tool to pursue Italian national interests, both directly, through the resolution of crisis threatening the internal stability and security, and indirectly, as a means to increase clout and reliability at the international level.
In this regard, the necessity to ensure an active and effective participation has been underlined in various speeches. Against this background, the effectiveness and sustainability of the fighter aircraft are becoming vital elements. Bearing in mind that the Italian Armed Forces, in particular Air Forces and Navy, will have to replace a substantial portion of their current combat fleet in the near future – due to their gradual obsolescence – the discussion analysed the options procurement available for maintaining the capabilities required so far to participate in crisis management operations.
In this context, the study presents the acquisition of F-35 as the only way forward for Italy, given the lack of a European alternative, ruled out in the ‘90 by the absence of investments by Member States for the development of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Given its interoperability, net-centric technology, low observability and high deployability, the F-35 represents the efficient and sustainable tool able to ensure the effectiveness of the Italian participation in international missions. Further confirmations of this choice come from the analysis of economic aspects which demonstrate its advantages even in terms of industrial returns.
More generally, the discussion underlined the importance of investing in aerospace and defence also in consideration of the positive implications of dual technology even in, but not limited to, the economic field. Nonetheless, a critical statement followed this evaluation and pointed out a substantial lack of investments in aerospace and defence industry sector.
Concluding, as far as the replacement of the currently deployed Italian fighter aircraft is concerned and referring to the options available for Italy, it was almost unanimously stated that the complexity of the international scenario should play a crucial role in the decision-making process. The unpredictability of the current international context and the increasing interconnection as well as the globalization are elements that the Italian government should considered in order to avoid the risk of being unprepared in facing future challenges.