Goliath against Davide: the Italian Navy compared to the Israeli one

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

The Heil HaYam HaYisraeli (the Naval Corps of the State of Israel) was considered, until a few decades ago, the least important armed force within the IDF. However, Israel's economy depends almost entirely on the communication lines. Their protection against possible attacks is therefore of fundamental strategic importance.

In consideration of the strategic position of the country and the previous conflicts there are three possibilities for a possible naval blockade:

• Blockade of the Suez Canal, which the Egyptians could close to Israeli merchant traffic.
• Blockade of the Tiran Canal, also controlled by the Egyptians.
• Blocking of maritime communication lines in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

Most of these lines of communication pass near nations hostile to Israel, such as Syria, Lebanon and the countries of North Africa. Furthermore, the Tel Aviv merchant ships must cross the stretch of sea between Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia, as well as having to overcome the bottleneck of the Bab el Mandeb strait.

The possible strategic framework outlined has forced the Israelis to analyze new concepts of deterrence.

One of the first to propose the new role of strategic element of the country for the Israeli navy was not an admiral but the general Tal who, in his book National Security, few against many, published in the 1996, underlines the concept of strategic depth extended also to the sea, in consideration of the existence of a combat fleet that uses it in depth, both on the surface and under it.

The role of the Navy, according to Tal, must no longer be that of an auxiliary element, but that of an element of strategic deterrence. It was going, therefore, towards a revaluation of naval forces, too long relegated to a wholly secondary role.

The proliferation of ballistic missiles in hostile countries, especially in Iran, has made it possible to reduce Israeli air superiority, forcing Tel Aviv military analysts to review the role of the Air Force as Israel's only instrument of deterrence (despite having entered service of the F-35I), since it depends on land bases as regards logistics and therefore vulnerable to missile attacks.

The naval units, both surface and underwater, are practically perfect elements based on modern concepts of strategic deterrence.

The Naval Force of the Jewish State deploys small surface vessels (such as class corvettes SA'AR 5 - photo), while class submarines Dolphin (German-made U-214, modified to Israeli specifications) are able to launch cruise missiles Popeye equipped with nuclear warheads.

Despite the absence of aircraft carriers, naval aviation, offshore units (such as FREMM class frigates and HORIZON class fighters - following photo) and amphibious assault ships (LHD and LPD), the Israeli Navy manages to to guarantee the opening of maritime supply routes and the coastal protection of the country.

From this we can deduce the fundamental importance of having a country system that works, with a political class that has clear strategic objectives, regardless of the colors of the parties. Equally important is an efficient industrial fabric that produces according to the needs of the armed forces, and not for political interest.

On the other hand, our Navy is able to deploy a naval device - both in terms of numbers and overall displacement - which has few equals in the Mediterranean Sea (in Europe the Navy comes after the English and French).

Already at the beginning of the 90, the Navy leaders had developed a long-term strategy that would allow the Armed Forces to play a prominent role in future international scenarios, consequent to the end of the Cold War.

The concept of Mediterranean Enlarged, in fact, arises from the need to get out of the terrestrial limits of the Mediterranean basin. Indeed, in addition to the actual geographical Mediterranean basin, it also includes Western Europe as a whole with its wealth of geopolitical, geostrategic and economic interests in the region; central-southern Europe as a borderline with Eurasia and a site of instability and conflict.

Its operational area extends to Maghreb Africa and the sub-Saharan continental belt, to East Africa and the Indian Ocean; to the complex area of ​​the Middle East that runs from the countries of the eastern Mediterranean to the Indian subcontinent, running north along the critical Caucasian-Caspian-Afghan belt and south as far as the waters of the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf to reach that Indian Ocean lapping that critical basin that from Pakistan and India touches the regions of Southeast Asia.

This vast area represents a unicum of interdependencies and influences that revolve around the Mediterranean as a natural epicenter.

Il Enlarged Mediterranean it is a strategic thesis that, of course, the Navy defines maritime, but this term does not mean in absolute strategy or specific naval or military maritime interest, but rather a global strategic scheme of the entire country system.

Thesis to be interpreted as a strategy of prevention and protection of peace, law and order, summarized in the operational definition of Forward, ahead of the sea, which is not only a military-strategic expression of the Navy, but a complex of international choices and relations that can give Italy prominence and weight among the allied or associated nations, as long as there is the capacity and the will of the political leadership.

It is precisely in our political class that the dichotomy with the Israeli political-industrial system is highlighted. Where the latter is aimed at the affirmation of the strategic interests of the Jewish State and therefore, despite having a very small naval apparatus, it is able to protect its economic interests, not only in the eastern Mediterranean area.

While Italian executives (of various political colors), despite having a decidedly superior aero-naval apparatus compared to the Israeli one, in the last few years have failed to protect national economic interests (the case of the Saipem 12000 ship engaged last year in drilling activity on behalf of ENI in the waters of the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone and blocked by Turkish naval units - v.articoli) and allowed the situation in Libya to plummet without attempting to prevent it.

The final analysis presents us with an unedifying picture: we have expensive military devices - both in terms of means and personnel - but which fail to bring strategic advantages to the country system.

Photo: IDF / IAF / US Navy / web