“Bipartisan” concurrence on the JSF in Italy

translation: L. Bionda

The first memorandum was signed in December 1998, during D’Alema’s government; the second one followed in June 2002, with Berlusconi at the head of the government; the third one was signed in February 2007 by Lorenzo Forcieri, Deputy Minister of Defense during Prodi’s government, and included further engagements regarding the antimissile shield imposed by the United States.
These are the three agreements signed by Italy as partner in the project for the development of the new strike fighter plane “F-35 Lighting II (Joint Strike Fighter)”. Italy – whose intention is to replace by 2015 the Harrier, AMX and Tornado fighter jets used by the Italian Air Force – has already spent 638,000,000 USD in the first step of the project development (which is expected to cost more than one billion dollars), but we have to add other 900 million dollars more for the following step of implementation and production of the aircraft.
At the beginning a very positive spin-off on our economy was expected, with a workforce of ten thousand people employed for almost fifty years, as a large group of Italian companies (lead by Alenia and Fiat Avio) takes part to the project with subcontracts for designing and constructing the fighters’ wings.
According to the last estimate, howewer, no more than a thousand people would be employed, two hundred of them directly and the others in the allied industries, for ten years; these are the “expected” results, since they will come true only with the assemblage of the aircrafts, to be completed in a military base near Cameri, in the province of Novara (North-Western Italy), and with the subsequent purchase of 131 strike fighters, as planned, for an economic pledge of 11 billions USD approximately (and with a cost of 84 million USD each, if the estimate will be confirmed, but who knows …).
Small things, we could say, if compared with the 2,500 strike fighters that the United States and the United Kingdom have planned to purchase, and with the 4,500 strike fighters that the Lockheed Martin company, leader of the American companies’ group that represents the primary contractor, would like to produce.
But the nearly two billion dollars spent in the JSF project are public funds, and the deals signed by the Italian companies, for less than a billion dollars, will produce private profits; however, everything will become reality only when the government effectively acquires the aircraft.
Moreover, the JSF plan is in direct competition with the Eurofighter “Typhoon”, the strike fighter that Italy is building with the United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain; Italy would purchase 121 of these planes (at 58 million euros each, for a total spending of almost 7 billion euros ).
According to some experts, the choice of JSF interferes with the evolution of the European defense strategies and distracts resources away from the Eurofighter project. Others point at a strategic industrial dependence, arising from the United States’ unwillingness to share technology and information in order to protect their technological superiority in that field.
The discussion in our Parliament and on the media regarding the JSF project had good impact in Norway, Denmark and Holland only, while in Italy it was almost ignored.
According to the website “Dedefensa”, citing an anonymous Italian official linked with our former Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, the Italian government was very much pressed by Washington to go on with the JSF project.
The Italian official declared: “We couldn’t do anything, there has been such a pressure, such a great and continuous pressure that totally absorbed our political system. We are captives, literally. This goes beyond a common situation of political ‘influence’. This situation lies deep into the psychology and the very essence of our political system”.
Decades of subjection not caused by weakness and declining power, but by “the psychology and the very essence of our political system”. A habit to subsiervience so rooted that we don’t even think of shaking it off, because that woul mean rethinking our strategy and geopolitics. And our politicians and lawmakers often don’t even know that such issues exist.

Italian version

USA nuclear warheads in Europe

translation: L. Salimbeni

There are 12 air bases, located in 7 countries, that are able to lodge atomic warheads under US control. In 2005 the nuclear weapons amounted to 480 units. The details of the Agreements regarding nuclear deployments in NATO countries are classified. The bombs are managed through a Weapons Storage Security System, that was established during the Cold War and planned to store the nuclear warheads, together with conventional arms, in underground vaults equipped with time locks. These vaults have been built since 1987 under the hangars that lodge the airplanes able to carry those warheads. Completed in about ten years, each one of these vaults can hold 4 warheads. In some bases, their care and maintenance are assigned to the so-called Munitions Support Squadrons (MUNSS), with up to 150 personnel each.

The full picture is the following:

1. Kleine Brogel Air Base (from now on, AB) in Belgium – where F-16s of the Belgian Air Force operate – has 11 vaults for a capacity of 44 warheads. It lodges 20, entrusted to the 701° MUNSS’ care.
2. Buchel AB in Germany – where German Tornados operate – has 11 vaults and 20 warheads, looked after by the 702° MUNSS.
3. Norvenich AB in Germany – with German Tornados – has 11 vaults but no warhead. Until 1995 there were 20, then relocated to Ramstein.
4. Ramstein AB in Germany – home to United States F-16s and German Tornados – has 55 vaults for a total capacity of 220 warheads. In 2005 there were 130, later we’ll try to explane what has probably happened in the following years.
5. Araxos AB in Greece – where A-7s of the Greek Air Force operate – has 6 vaults but no warhead. The 20 present until spring 2001 (when Greece unilaterally retreated from the “NATO Nuclear Strike Mission”) have been probably transferred to Ramstein in Germany.
6. Aviano AB in Italy – home to United States F-16s – owns 18 vaults and 50 nuclear warheads.
7. Ghedi Torre AB in Italy – where Italian Tornados operate – has 11 vaults and lodges 40 warheads, under the care and maintenance of the 704° MUNSS.
8. Volkel AB in Netherlands – home to F-16s of the Dutch Air Force – has 11 vaults and 20 warheads, left to the cares of the 703° MUNSS.
9. Akinci AB in Turkey – where Turkish F-16 operate – has 6 vaults, but no warhead.
10. Balikesir in Turkey – home to Turkish F-16s – has 6 vaults. The 20 nuclear warheads, present until 1995, have been relocated to the Incirlik base.
11. Incirlik AB in Turkey – where United States F-16s operate – has 25 vaults and 90 warheads.
12. to wind up with a flourish, Lakenheath in the United Kingdom, which is formally a RAF (Royal Air Force) base, is home only to United States F-15s. It owns 33 vaults and holds as much as 110 nuclear warheads: so this is very probably the place in Europe that lodges today the greatest number of United States nuclear weapons.

We must actually underline that in January 2007 the United States Air Force (USAF) has removed the Ramstein base from the list of the installations that receive periodic inspections of the nuclear weapons, probably as a result of the transfer to the United States of the existing warheads. If this is the case, the number of the warheads deployed in Europe can be reduced to 350, about the equivalent of the whole nuclear arsenal of France (but anyway still higher than the total of the Chinese warheads and than the sum of those held by the three countries – India, Israel and Pakistan – that haven’t signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

According to an anonymous official from the German Defence, quoted by the newspaper Der Spiegel, the United States have removed temporarily (and discreetly) the nuclear warheads from Ramstein beacuse of important works of restoration; the above-mentioned removal of the base from the list of the periodic inspections seems to mean that the decision has become definitive.

In spite of the apparent reduction, the NATO Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) has reasserted – in June 2007 – the importance of the deployment of US-nuclear weapons in Europe. Their purpose should be “to keep the peace and to avoid threats and every kind of war”, even though NATO doesn’t specify who is the enemy against whom these weapons should be used. It asserts instead that the nuclear warheads symbolize “an essential political and military link between the European and North American members of the Alliance”.

Have you taken the hint?

Italian version

Operation Sarissa

Or, in other words, the Italians’ secret war in Afghanistan.

translation: L. Bionda

The year 2007, ended with more than 7.000 casualties including at least 1.400 civilians mostly killed by NATO air bombings, has been the bloodiest since the Talibans’ defeat, also for the Atlantic Alliance, which has reportedly lost 232 soldiers. According to a recent statement from Senlis Council, Talibans control nowadays about 54% of the afghan soil, they are active in another 38% and threaten also Kabul, the defence of which is now the responsibility of the Italian troops.

Although in a limited way and largely without their fellow countrymen knowing it, the Italian troops have been taking part to military operations for nearly two years, precisely since the summer of 2006. From that period the Task Force 45 has been operating in the Western part of the country: it is “the largest special forces unit ever deployed by Italy since the so-called ‘Operation Ibis’ in Somalia” explained a military advisor. About 200 troops who, openly violating the Italian Constitution, are involved in the Operation Sarissa, fighting the Talibans jointly with the American Delta Force and the British Sas, especially in the Farah Western province.

During the Prodi administration, the Italian military units in Afghanistan have constantly increased in quantity (today Italy keeps there 2.350 soldiers, 550 more than those sent during the previous Berlusconi’s administration) and, most of all, in quality, with a really impressive deployment of equipment (for example, assault helicopters ‘A-129 Mangusta’, tanks ‘Vcc-80 Dardo’ used by Bersaglieri from Garibaldi Brigade, surveillance aircraft ‘Predator’ or transport helicopters SH-3d supporting Task Force 45). The Deputy Secretary of Defence Lorenzo Forcieri invited everyone not to be deceived, as “we will have to stay remain in Afghanistan for a very long period”. Thinking about the allocation of nearly 338 millions Euro during 2008, the idea of spending some other billions more than those already paid in the last five years does not reassure anybody.

We also want to underline the statement made by Italian Former Defence Minister, Hon. Parisi; with ‘astonishing’ insight and knowledge he remarked clear analogies between Italy and Afghanistan: “we cannot leave Herat and Kabul because it would be like our Police leaving Sicily and Campania in the hands of criminal gangs”.

That’s to say, Afghanistan like a security issue, to be solved with the help of some raids.

During this spring a very harsh Taliban assault is expected. What will Italy reply to USA/NATO demands for a still larger military involvement?

Italian version