The 7 last May was held at the Military Airport of Pratica di Mare (RM) a demonstration1 with the theme "Dual Systemic Use: Innovative use of FA at the service of the country". The President of the Council of Ministers, the Minister of Defense, the military leaders of the Defense, the Head of the Civil Protection Department and about a thousand students as external guests were present.
The activity aimed to demonstrate the new capabilities achieved by the FA in the area of dual-use capabilities systemic to be made available to the country in cases of declared need and urgency, including public disasters. As highlighted by the Minister of Defense Elisabetta Trenta, the objectives achieved are the result of a long and tortuous path undertaken in the present legislature.
In the face of these statements that allow us to glimpse a new way of conceiving Defense, even the collective one (that is, within NATO) it is good to examine the capacities shown to realize the progress made in a context of serious financial deficiencies.
In particular, We learned that the FAs have reached the following dual abilities (I will mention only a few for the sake of brevity):
Search and rescue activities for missing / injured personnel, also through the use of helicopters and medical support in embarked complexes;
Demolition activities and works of the Engineer following an earthquake;
Air Defense of the national air space;
Satellite detection of the earth's surface.
If the defense of the country were not a serious matter, as well as the Civil Protection or Civil Defense, the activity of Pratica di Mare would be included in the list of manifestations of "public information" and filed as such. But unfortunately, the words spent by the Minister of Defense are likely to have a devastating impact on the FA system where these, and others yet to be developed, are indicated as new capacities that will have to lead to an adaptation of the FA towards a primary role of support to the other functions of the State, given the lesser use in primary missions.
No one doubts that interdisciplinary and inter-ministerial / inter-agency employment is rewarding. But it remains a prerogative of the political level in ensuring that it is implemented. That is, a process top-down and not bottom-up. FA, as they have always done, will continue to train themselves in these scenarios (as long as there are resources to train) and to ensure that military capabilities are able to support the country in case of need.
If this were not the case, the Minister of Defense should explain to us how he made the skills shown dual, given that all the means used were acquired before his advent to the dicastery.
Going into detail, then, we do not see that the SAR activity2 is a novelty within the FA, as well as its availability to the community. It is at least since the advent of the helicopter in the national territory that the FA supports the requests coming from the so-called "civil world".
That the mountain rescue was converted to dual use is another novelty. We thought, in all honesty, that it was the civil sector that followed in the footsteps of military aid and not vice versa.
The Military Engineers, to continue, has operated in all the major, and not, national natural disasters. It is an excellence from the time of ancient Rome and, to come to recent times, it is the only Genius NATO component to have helped the populations of the Pakistani Himalayas3, as well as in Haiti, with an (unplanned) projection of over 10.000 km. Imagine if they can not help populations located a few tens of kilometers from their barracks. But being able to do it is not enough, it is clearly necessary for someone to allow it and here politics comes into play: in other words, if the use by the military of the resources available for such events is not authorized, everything the institutional castle collapses, or nothing is done!
Then, when the national air defense capabilities were shown, mentioning them as duals, I think the maximum has been reached. Defense of NATO airspace4 it is an operation integrated by decades and decades. There may also be situations that require a national chain of command and control, but this does not make it "non-military".
The fact that the ultimate decision maker is not military does not make the operation "civil". Constitutionally, the Supreme Commander, as well as strategic and military-strategic leadership, compete with "political" bodies.
As icing on the cake, then, we discovered that also earth observation satellites can have a dual use, that is the products (photos and radar maps) can be used both by the military and by other departments of the state. But someone warned the Italian Space Agency5 of this big news? Maybe they think it was always like this!
In summary, to show the potential of the Defense to support the country to the mass media as well as to school children there is no need to dress military capabilities in a "pacifist" manner. An air defense pilot as well as a military engineer is proud to do his job wearing the stars and defending the country. If it can help populations or free institutions, it will do so with absolute self-denial and a sense of duty.
To conclude, instead of adapting military capabilities to dual use (it has been done for centuries) why do we not provide adequate resources for Defense?
Photo: Royal Navy / Ministry of Defense