Home » The Italy-US defence cooperation: a deep dive

The Italy-US defence cooperation: a deep dive

Italy from Space
As Minister Crosetto heads to Washington to meet Secretary Austin, we take a look at the growing cooperation between the two countries, as it extends from the Mediterranean to the Indo-Pacific and beyond the atmosphere

Guido Crosetto is Washington-bound. The Italian Defence Minister is expected to reach the United States capital and meet with Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin later on Friday. The two will touch upon shared dossiers, which stand atop thriving and ever-consolidating political and economic relations – especially in delicate areas such as defence.

  • As the US Ambassador to Italy, Jack Markell, told the Italian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, he intends to work to expand the already-extensive economic relations and bolster security and military ties.
  • Italy, he remarked, has a crucial role to play in the allied effort to uphold democracy, human rights and the free market.

Converging from the Med… Rome and Washington have a set of strategic priorities, many of which overlap. Italy’s primary region in terms of strategic interest remains the enlarged Mediterranean and Africa, where the US is interested in limiting the reach of autocratic powers such as China and Russia – as the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces himself, Mark A. Milley, told Minister Crosetto when he visited Rome in March, at the African Chiefs of Defence conference.

… to the Indo-Pacific, the region where Washington is increasingly interested in – and projected towards – as it seeks to contain China and protect global stability by working with allies. Italy is among the latters, bolstering its presence in the Indo-Pacific quadrant through military assets and economic outreach.

  • The most notable manifestation of Rome’s strategic interest is the Global Combat Air Programme, to develop the sixth-generation fighter jet together with the United Kingdom and Japan…
  • … together with the host of Italian Navy ships (including its flagship, the Cavour aircraft carrier), which are sailing towards Indo-Pacific waters.

Building in a shared Space. The US, a powerhouse in aerospace, is keen on maintaining its lead and building upon it, including through cooperation with allies. And the Italian aerospace sector is, as Minister Crosetto recently said whilst at Le Bourget Air Show near Paris, the country’s “business card around the world.”

It’s in the making. Rome and Washington are looking with increased interest at engaging further in all matters of aerospace. In their recent visits, both Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and Business Minister Adolfo Urso (who oversees space policies) touched upon these dossiers, with the latter meeting with the US National Space Council’s Executive Secretary, Chirag Parikh.

  • All these appointments are also preparing the ground for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s upcoming Stateside trip, during which she is also expected to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris, Chair of the National Space Council.
  • Back in April, Italy’s General Space Office of the Defence General Staff signed a memorandum of understanding with the US Space Command to assign a permanent Italian liaison officer to the latter.

Expanding cooperation. Further initiatives could entail concrete initiatives (such as GPS and encryption) to the exchange of Space Situational Awareness (SSA) data and information. Rome would also be keen on participating in the US Space Command’s Combined Space Operation (CSpO), which is about space domain awareness, support to operational forces from orbit, launch and re-entry management and contingency operations.

  • In 2014 and 2015 the initiative brought Five Eyes nations (US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK) together to coordinate activities in the space domain.
  • An additional breakthrough happened in 2020 when France and Germany, too, adhered to the CSpO. And given Italy’s prowess in all the CSpO’s fields, it looks like a natural candidate.

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