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Italian air force struggles to prove air power relevance

Italy’s air force is “taken for granted” by the general public, politicians and the nation’s other armed services, according to a leading academic.

“There are no new visions of air power,” Gregory Alegi, who works for the Accademia Aeronautica – or air force academy – told a Royal Aeronautical Society conference in London.

“It is difficult to make surface forces realise that they have some of their freedom because of the air [operations],” he says.

And despite notable recent milestones – including it performing the first transatlantic crossing with the Lockheed Martin F-35 – the air force is still perceived less favourably than its sister services.

That flight was also made against the backdrop of wider doubts, he says: “There was scepticism [about] letting the Italians go first, but it worked out well.”

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Rome is exploring the wider use of its air assets outside conflicts, and is trying to expand the F-35’s role into new areas, such as data collection, Alegi says.

“What if we can find a use for air power during peacetime? We’re thinking about how to do that.”

“Air power is not seen as the way of approaching a problem, other than during humanitarian crises.”

Growing the number of roles performed by the Joint Strike Fighter is vital, he says, not least as a future replacement for the Eurofighter Typhoons currently operated by the service.

“We need to make the most of this [the F-35],” he says. “When you point out that the Typhoon is more expensive than the F-35, it doesn’t really resonate, because air policing is a good use of them.”

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