Italy is a silent pillar of NATO air police

The world has heard a lot about the various weapons that NATO members send to Ukraine, and about the 5,000 helmets sent by the Germans. But less is heard, if anything, about Italy’s current police in the Black Sea sky, about its recent Baltic air police, or, for that matter, about patrolling the Mediterranean on an aircraft carrier. Indeed, Italy has established itself as a faithful leader in various NATO air police programs. But because Rome rarely raises noise about rotation, its significant contribution is largely unnoticed.

Tensions in Ukraine are reaching boiling point, and the Russian and Ukrainian parts of the Black Sea have become so dangerous that global insurers listed them. A little further south is the sky off the Romanian coast patrolled quartet of Italian aircraft – the first Eurofighters, now the F-35– together with Luftwaffe and Romanian Air Force planes. The mission is part Improved air police efforts by NATO after Russia annexed Crimea and helped separatists occupy eastern Ukraine.

“Italy is one of the main members of NATO Air Police a mission across Europe, which is a strong sign of Italy’s capabilities and commitment to the alliance, “said Manfred Reudenbach, a spokesman for NATO Air Force Command. “In addition to protecting the skies over Italy 24/365 with high-tech Eurofighters and F-35 fighters, the Italian Air Force regularly contributes to NATO’s air police mission in the Baltic region and to our allies Iceland, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Northern Macedonia and Montenegro.” .

Italy was a pioneer in using the F-35 for NATO air police missions; he was the first to patrol planes from Iceland and Estoniaand last year recorded Baltic Air Police mission the first F-35 interception.

Today it is an Italian F-35 patrolling The Mediterranean from the Italian aircraft carrier Cavour, a joint mission with strike groups built around the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle and the USS Harry S. Truman. Indeed, Italy is the only EU member state to have both an aircraft carrier and an F-35. France has an aircraft carrier but no F-35, and the Netherlands and Norway have aircraft but no aircraft carrier. In Germany, meanwhile, there is neither.

Italy is NATO’s air anchor, or, perhaps, the maestro of NATO’s skies.

“We’re doing a great job. Iceland, the Baltics, the Black Sea, ”said Vincenzo Camparini, a retired general who was a fighter pilot, chief of the Italian Air Force and chief of defense. “We are doing exactly what one would expect from the Italian Air Force, and the same is true of our ground forces.”

In Italy it is now almost more than 9,000 Armed forces personnel have been deployed in 34 missions in 21 countries, including 1,100 in Iraq and more than 600 in Kosovo. (Germany has about 3,000 troops deployed in 11 countries.)

“Most people don’t know that,” said Donald Trump said after discovering a fact known to most people. In the case of Italy’s role in preserving NATO’s skies, however, most people are unaware of it. Through no fault of their own, Italian pilots (and its ground forces) are, so to speak, flying under the radar.

“Soldiers of peace have long been talked about in Italian politics,” Camparini said. “This is the legacy of the Cold War, when the Communist Party was very important, and it is also the result of the role of the church. The Pope always speaks of peace. I support it! But peace does not mean disarmament. Unfortunately, our history has not changed since the Cold War. “

An indicator is NATO airstrikes on Serbia in the 1990s. The bombings, aimed at ending Serbian aggression against minorities in Kosovo, included more than 38,000 combat sorties by Allied pilots, including Italian ones.

“Our pilots dropped bombs on Serbia, and our politicians called it ‘integrated defense,'” Camparini said. “My pilots were very angry about this. I remember the wing commander told me, “We are risking our lives, and no one knows about it!”

At one point during the war in Afghanistan, when Camparini was chief of defense, Italian troops killed several Taliban fighters.

“I remember our defense minister saying, ‘What will happen if the public finds out about this?'” Camparini told me. “I said we could say we neutralized them.”

Given the political culture that is so reluctant to talk about military realities, it is not surprising that Italian governments do not emphasize their country’s significant contribution to NATO air police, although the police have not yet cost lives. This does not make Italy’s contribution to the air (or land) less important. Conversely, as NATO’s skies become less friendly, the alliance needs air police like never before. In 2021, NATO fighters rose 370 times in response to invasions or imminent invasions. Most of the interceptions took place in the Baltic skies, and 80 percent involved Russian aircraft.

It seems that the next Italian government has decided that the contribution to the protection of NATO air police is just what Italy is doing, just as it contributes a disproportionately large number of soldiers to a number of NATO, UN and EU missions in the Mediterranean and beyond. . It seems that politicians are all right when countless voters live in ignorance of this impressive feat. What seems more important seems to be the fact that the two main districts are well acquainted with this: NATO allies and NATO opponents. Italy is a silent pillar of NATO air police

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