Defense, tech plans are expensive. And Italy is hunting for money

Defense, tech plans are expensive. And Italy is hunting for money


In the autumn of 2022, the draft of a new project from the Ministry of Defense arrives on the benches of the Chamber and Senate. It's about drones capable of reaching the stratosphere. And moving for months at an altitude of 20,000 metres, where traditional cousins ​​normally do not arrive. “ Stratospheric platforms combine some of the advantages of satellite systems, such as high altitude and wide coverage area, with the typical ease of use of remotely piloted systems, overcoming their limits in terms of persistence on the same area, at altitudes well above commercial aircraft routes ", as well as costing less, writes the dicastery in its report in which it asks Parliament for a vote in favor of the project.

In the report there are some details on the future drone (for example, it will serve for intelligence purposes, border control and weather data collection) and much less on who will take care of it (the national industry, ok, but who?) and where. And then there are the estimates of the money needed. The sore spot. At least 20 million, while already putting pen to paper that in the 13-year duration of the program (2022-2034) it will cost at least twice as much: 55 million euros.

Drones are one of the technologies most funded by the dicastery now led by Guido Crosetto, founder with Giorgia Meloni of Fratelli d'Italia, but entrusted to Lorenzo Guerini of the Democratic Party at the time of the last spending planning document, 2022-24 . The Army alone plans to spend 209 million on mini, micro and light drones, weighing from 2 to 150 kilos and with one to six hours of flight autonomy, but so far there is coverage for only 143 million in eleven years. The same goes for the Navy, which will invest 10 million between 2024 and 2027 but aims to spend many, many more: 161.7, to be exact. A similar figure, 168 million, is used to equip the MQ-9, one of the most used drones by the armed forces in the world, produced by the Canadian General Atomic Aeronautical. Between 2021 and 2022 Palazzo Baracchini found almost 100 million more to cover the program up to 2033, which requires a total of 152.

The scenario:

The shopping list Telecommunications and space The bill rises What awaits us in the future Europe is investing billions in new war technologies

The shopping list

Among the 5.77 billion for projects that the Ministry of Defense intends to launch, 7 of those already operational and 3.85 of co-financing to the plans of the colleagues in Economic Development, the account includes 16.62 billion of expenditure on innovation, new weapons, technology and plant restructuring. To which add 2.76 billion ammunition in ten years (from 2022 to 2032).

Of the programs on the launch pad, just to stay in the field of drones, 12 million out of 20 will go to Gloria, name in code for a remote-guided flying object traffic data acquisition system. In defense of the ballistic threat, the Ministry of Defense instead foresees the creation of sensors capable of tracing its trajectory and point of impact, with an allocation of 400 million euros for the next 14 years.

The items to modernize the old vehicles and extend the life expectancy of the new weapon systems developed at a community level then appear on the shopping list. For 125 Ariete, the tank born in the 1980s and entered service in 1995, 848 million have been allocated to save them from rust and guarantee a second spring to the vehicles, but the Defense already calculates that it will have to reach 980 million to complete the restyling of the means. Which, however, is not around the corner: the construction of the first three prototypes started in 2019 and about half of the funding will cover development between 2028 and 2034. Another 150 million will go to the Pzh2000 self-propelled howitzer, in which the also a new generation of ammunition, the Vulcano from La Spezia Oto Melara, and 192 million have already been allocated for the restyling of the Dardo armored vehicle. For which, however, more than double it would be needed: 510 million.

Same script at the air level. While waiting for a new generation of helicopters, the life of the current AgustaWestland Mangustas is lengthening. 810 million are needed in 10 years, but for now 340 have been found. Updating the Merlins of the Navy, on the other hand, requires more than two billion in 15 years but for now there is only half available, 1.1 billion of which practically all since 2028. Finally, 330 million are used to prolong the activity of destroyers, out of a total of 500.

Italy is spending more than it says on weapons and military technologies From euro drones to Tempest fighters , from funds for artificial intelligence research to surveillance satellites: the Ministry of Defense's shopping list is long, Parliament is overwhelmed with programs to approve and purchases require more funds than those allocated

Telecommunications and space< /h2> The largest expenditure foreseen in the plan is to renew the combat systems of tanks and other connected armored infantry vehicles. There are 3.7 billion on the plate (of which, however, 93 million until 2028), but double that would be needed at the table. Another substantial item of expenditure is that of intelligence and telecommunications tools: 29 million for smart video surveillance systems, with facial recognition and anti-drone tools; another 29 to develop more modern networks that are resistant to the cyber threat (a project that would require 147 million); 37.6 million for a new communication system. Telespazio (a company controlled by the defense champions of Italy and France, respectively Leonardo and Thales) is working on an Earth observation program via satellite on behalf of the Ministry of Defence: it is called Opsat 3000, it will be developed by Israel aerospace industries, it will have to acquire images resolution of the earth and remain in orbit for about 7 years.

There are also dozens of war projects on the launch pad to be financed. For the command and control item alone, under which spending on radar, sensors, telecommunications networks, satellites and the development of information protection algorithms end up, Palazzo Baracchini expects to commit around 3 billion. Similar technologies also serve to fund the information capacity of the defence, for which an investment of 7 billion is estimated. Projects slated to receive funding to launch include a naval sensor system to detect threats deep beneath the seas, new batches of air, land and sea surveillance drones to replace older models (like the Predators A+, retired after 18 years by the Air Force at the end of 2022 in favor of more discreet vehicles), satellites and a new aircraft for the protection of communications, the Ew-Jedi, evolution of the Alenia C27-J Spartan.
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The bill is rising

Italy's military spending is growing. “ In 2019 a budget of 5 billion euros was dedicated to weapon systems, which in 2023 increased to more than 8 ”, comments to Francesco Vignarca, spokesman of the Milex Observatory, a research center that for years studies national investment in war spending. This year, the increase in national military spending is 800 million euros. A figure that is still incomplete, because the forecasts have not been presented. “Budget spending is not final. The Meloni government has only given the ok to what has already been foreseen in recent years ”, says Vignarca.

Defense funding, which in 2022 weighed on the total state budget by 3.6%, is steadily increasing since 2018. From 20 billion euros last year we reached almost 25, not counting the resources that come indirectly from the ministries of economic development and the economy and finance. The war in Ukraine was also the driving force for greater investments. “ If the government's goal is to increase military spending in a short time, the only way is to buy weapons ” comments Vignarca, adding that “ other lines of intervention have an effect above all in the long term ”. In 2014, Italy made a specific agreement with NATO: to raise the incidence of military spending on GDP to 2%. A commitment that has never been fulfilled, as well as in other European countries. But Vignarca is not optimistic: “ We expect that with next year's budget law more structural choices will be made, which will probably increase the already high military expenditure even further”.

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What awaits us in the future

Minister Crosetto himself, in a hearing before the joint Defense commissions of the Chamber and Senate last January, clearly referred to the 'increase in military spending to 2%. Remotely piloted systems, artificial intelligence, anti-drone defense and a particular eye on the cybernetic dimension are the main lines of investment, for which the minister, in tandem with his colleague in the Treasury, Giancarlo Giorgetti, underlined the need for a " new financing model for the investment and defense sector ” as well as an ad hoc three-year law “ which brings together in a single maneuver the financial volumes ” currently distributed over three years. The two ministers also proposed to the European Commission to exclude expenditure in the defense sector in view of the reformulations of the Stability Pact scheduled for the end of 2023.

At the end of February, it was the turn of the chief of staff of the 'Army, General Pietro Serino, who complained about the lack of military personnel, to be increased as soon as possible to 110,000 people. Reason which, moreover, pushes the army to invest in robotics and artificial intelligence, to prevent dangers in the field, but also to reorganize the roles and functions of the camouflage suit machine. On drones, a widespread item of expenditure, Serino asked for "a regulatory simplification that streamlines the certification of aircraft and the qualification of operators, integrating the rules and procedures already used in the civil sphere". Finally, the general reiterated that the technology is proving useful for training and simulating war scenarios, but it is still necessary to practice in the field. However, Italy discounts a few polygons and small ones, which is why it is necessary to spend money to go abroad, especially in Eastern Europe.

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