Despite the release of Italian fishermen seized by General Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), the controversy regarding the lack of protection of our compatriots abroad and, more widely, of our national interests in the world, does not abate.
Among all the various proposals to reach a rapid solution of the case, there was a call for forceful action for their immediate release. In addition, many authoritative voices also intervened in favor of an increase in the level of awareness and assertiveness of the national posture on the sea, especially on the waters of our most direct interest, the infinite Mediterranean.
On this occasion, together with the polemics against politicians, the military instrument was also accused of guilty inertia, for not having first defended the compatriots and then for not immediately trying to free them.
It is therefore worth emphasizing that a more assertive posture and any forceful action follow a political decision. In this context, the decision maker makes his choices after having carefully evaluated all the variables involved (political, economic, legal, etc ...) and having heard the military representatives about the feasibility of any operation (availability of means, staff training , specific experience, etc ...). The military, in fact, is the only one who can make an objective assessment of the theater of operations and indicate whether it is operationally possible to achieve the objectives indicated by the policy. Only dialogue between the political decision-maker and the military will, therefore, make it possible to ensure that the objectives are politically acceptable and operationally achievable.
A democratic country normally decides for military action after economic measures (in the form of incentives or the embezzlement of resources) and the initial diplomatic action have failed to achieve the intended purpose, i.e. to support further diplomatic activity with arguments additional, given the political will to make use of the military instrument to protect national interests, whether they are the protection of the safety of their citizens or the defense of the legitimate economic and political objectives of the nation, if they are harmed or threatened by aggressive and contemptuous behavior of international law.
The military options
If economic and political measures prove ineffective in defending the legitimate interests of a country, possible military options are aimed at changing the opponent's attitude, sending a clear message of the willingness to use force if the dispute does not find a peaceful settlement that respects international law.
If you decide to use force, the area of operations must first be evaluated, from which the identification of the forces to be used derives.
If the target to be hit is at a distance of no more than 1.000 km from the coast, a possible demonstration action could be the launch of missiles on the main infrastructures, which would cause significant economic damage to the counterpart. This solution would not involve the use of personnel in contact with the opponent and would allow to send him a clear and concrete signal.
An example of such an action is the operation Hamilton with which, in April 2018, French, US and British ships launched missiles at Syrian targets on the coast and inland.
A higher level, which would also allow for greater effectiveness of the attack, could be represented by an AV-8B or F-35B raid against a number of selected targets. In that case the capabilities stealth some F-35B aircraft would favor surprise, a fundamental element for this type of action.
If, on the other hand, an action with the participation of units on land is necessary, such as, for example, the release of fellow countrymen / hostages, the most plausible option would be that of a blitz of the Special Forces.
Once the intensity and objectives of the operation have been decided, it is necessary to identify the means and departments most suitable for the purpose, considering the geographical location and the infrastructural characteristics of the objectives.
Generally, the most effective tools to use are those with projection capabilities from the sea, with weapons, aircraft and personnel (flight crews and any special forces) trained to operate from naval platforms in all weather conditions. This is because the Navy has natural capabilities expeditionary, as it is composed of permanently self-sufficient units that possess defensive and offensive capabilities, capable of being a complex command center and of moving autonomously with immediacy and without any authorization from foreign authorities, allowing the projection of power without territorial constraints, to protect of national interests.
All the other tools available to the political decision-maker need, in fact, to rely on bases placed on foreign territory, with the need for authorization and with the obvious strong limitations on secrecy, or long round trips from safe bases, which they expose the participating forces to the possible discovery and imaginable reaction by the opposing Forces. A solution of this type is conceivable only if the objectives are deeply inland and are in no way reachable from the sea.
An example of this type is the operation "Mivtsa 'Kadur Ha-ra'am" (Lightning) with which, in the night between 3 and 4 July 1976, the Israeli Special Forces released numerous hostages kept by the Ugandan forces at the interior of the airport of the city of Entebbe. On this occasion, also considering the discovery technologies available at the time, the Israeli C-130s managed to land on the runway without being discovered and this was crucial for the success of the operation.
If, on the other hand, the targets were reachable from the sea (even at considerable distances), they could be hit with cruise missiles, as happened in the case of the wars in Iraq, favored by the fact that many surface units already have cruise missiles and many anti-ship missiles have been retrofitted for ground attack, albeit with a range limited to 200-300 km. For greater effectiveness and operational flexibility however, it would be advisable for ships to be armed with cruise missiles or long-range artillery, capable of hitting targets placed well within the opponent's territory and far from the coast if necessary.
In this context it is interesting to observe how the capacity strike in depth you do not need large launching platforms. An example is the Russian corvettes Buyan-M (photo), who carried out ground attacks at distances greater than 1.000 km in Syria in 2015.
Current capabilities strike of the Navy are represented by the Mk2 / A missiles, heirs of the Otomat “Teseo”, an anti-ship missile adapted for attack on the ground and whose range is just over 200 km. The missile can be loaded aboard “Duilio” class destroyers (Orizzonte), “Bergamini” class frigates (Fremm) and also on the new “Thaon di Revel” class patrol vessels. In this context, it should not be forgotten that the "Bergamini" class frigates could also employ long-range cruise missiles with the simple and inexpensive modification of a room currently used for troop transport, where a Sylver A70 launcher (SYstéme de Lanchement VERtical) could be installed, capable of launching missiles such as the French MDCN "Scalp", a naval cruise missile (Missile De Croisière Navale) with a range of about 1.000 km, already used by transalpines during the aforementioned operation Hamilton. To this it must be added that the Fremm GP (General Purpose) was born with a strong vocation for overseas power projection, as it can be an effective starting point for Special Forces operations, as it can embark three fast boats, has a excellent precision bombing capability, excellent medium range air defense as well as good command and control systems.
The second option immediately brings to mind the anachronistic and nostalgic in-fighting in progress, which sees the Air Force acquire the F-35B aircraft (naval version expressly aimed at use on aircraft carriers without catapult) necessary for the Navy, effectively hindering the achievement full operational capability of the aircraft carrier Cavour.
The lack of adequate aircraft on a ship that would already be ready to host them seriously undermines the operation of the fleet as a whole, depriving national foreign policy and possibly the European Union of an important instrument of presence (after Brexit only the France and Italy have an aircraft carrier) on the waters of an economically fundamental sea, which is becoming increasingly disputed.
As for the third option, the most suitable personnel to conduct a blitz on objectives reachable from the sea would be the Incursori Operational Group (GOI) as formed and trained to perform special operations originating from the sea with objectives that can be naval units, mining platforms and infrastructures placed on the coast but also within the opponent's territory. The Special Forces of the Army, in fact, are not trained to operate with a departure and return point on the sea, while the Carabinieri GIS is mainly trained to operate on national territory and already discreetly engaged in the homeland in the fight against organized crime and international terrorism.
As regards the Special Forces of the Air Force, the same assessments made for the Army are valid, to which are added the specific training and training which, as underlined by the Armed Force itself, are aimed at satisfying more distinctly aeronautical missions such as the Airfield Seizure (operations of conquest of airports) and the preparation of Assault Zone. One could reasonably hypothesize their use, as an alternative to the Army, for operations such as the aforementioned Entebbe action. To hypothesize their use for a different type of operations would be quite irrational, or at least they would not represent the first choice.
Expanding now the discourse on the need for a different national posture, more assertive and able to more effectively protect our widespread economic, political and security interests on the sea, it is necessary to reflect on the concept of deterrence.
The manifestation of a credible willingness to use force if necessary is and always will remain an important component of international relations. An element that, when properly used, together with diplomacy, allows to achieve the strategic objectives set. In this context, a trained, efficient, operational military instrument equipped with modern means / weapons is essential so that the voice of diplomacy is listened to more carefully by the interlocutor.
However, such a military instrument also presupposes adequate capabilities strike ed expeditionary, the only ones capable of giving greater "weight" to the demands of diplomacy. In the absence of these, the military instrument, in its various and important components, certainly remains adequate for defense but not for effectively supporting national foreign policy.
Deterrence, in fact, makes use of a complex of alternatives, which offer the political decision-maker (supported by the military) a range of initiatives aimed at discouraging any opponents from carrying out aggressive actions or in any case harmful to legitimate interests and national prestige. A clear political intention to use force, if necessary, to achieve national strategic objectives, and the acquisition of an adequate and credible military capability, represent a strong deterrent to aggression and incentivize any opponent to negotiate in the case of unequal views / objectives.
But to develop a foreign policy that protects national interests, first of all it is necessary to have clear what are the objectives to be pursued and what are the limits beyond which any negotiation is impossible. The aim and sole mission of each government and gods leaders political is to guarantee the security of the nation in the international context, promoting its values and principles, increasing the prestige of the state and the economic and social well-being of its citizens. This is even more true in a world like the present, extremely fluid and from the changing, flexible and unpredictable scenarios that they bring out ever new threats to security and freedom.
A more assertive international posture would make it possible to better fulfill the mission of protecting the prestige and interests of the country and a credible, trained and operationally ready military instrument allows to better support the national foreign policy, having the ability to effectively use force and being willing to employ it should deterrence and diplomacy prove inconclusive.
To do this, therefore, the approach of the last ten years should be reversed, showing a strong political will to protect our legitimate needs against those who arbitrarily threaten our security, which is linked to the freedom of navigation endangered by the presence of pirates. o the kidnapping of compatriots, which is connected to the protection of economic interests (such as the impediment of the regular activities of SAIPEM 12000) or the self-proclaimed extension of the Exclusive Economic Zone to Sardinian territorial waters.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the greatest threats to our economy, security, prestige and freedom do not come from crises developed in the hinterland of the various continents, but from the coasts and the sea and it is in this particular operational environment that they must be countered, promptly providing adequate tools to those responsible for carrying out this mission. Pretending nothing does not solve the problems and allows the threat to grow and thrive. As the popular saying goes: the wolf eats whoever makes sheep.
Photo: Twitter / US Marine Corps / US Navy / US Army / Navy