A series of tactical events were carried out at Pratica di Mare airbase to show the ability of the Italian military assets to be used for both military and civilian operations.
“Dual use” is a term that refers technologies that can be used for military and civilian purposes.
“Dual use” has also become a sort of mantra of the Italian approach to the defense matters. Investments, developments, exercises: it looks like no military activity can be carried out just because it serves specific defense purposes, it must also support civilian operations. Actually, the Italian Armed Forces have always been “Dual”, regularly conducting peacetime operations in support of the population. Search And Rescue, Humanitarian Relief, Medical Transportation, Medical Evactuation, Firefighting, National Security: these are just a few of the many missions regularly carried out by the Italian military for the community.
However, especially in recent times, the “Dual use” purpose of the military technologies has increasingly emerged in official statements and public discussions, as if being “Dual” made choices pertaining to the defense, which are periodically at the center of political controversy, more acceptable.
That said, on May 7, Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, hosted a “Dual use”-related demo.
Dubbed “Duplice Uso Sistemico” (Italian for “Systemic Dual Use”), the demo was aimed at showing how the Armed Forces and the Carabinieri (Military Police) can coordinate and support the Civil Protection in case of national emergencies.
Attended, among the others, by the Italian PM Giuseppe Conte, the Italian Ministry of Defense Elisabetta Trenta and the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli, the demo focused on a scenario where the Italian military and civilian agencies had to respond to a earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the coast west of Rome. The relief operation was managed from a joint and inter-agency operation room aboard Italian Navy Etna auxiliary ship, operating in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off Pratica di Mare, where VIPs were transported using two Italian Navy EH-101 helos escorted by an Army A-129D Mangusta gunship and an ItAF HH.139A carrying riflemen.
The simulated events included the rescue of injured people and the medical evacuation of civilians from the area hit by the seismic event; the air escort of an aircraft carrying a person infected with a highly contagious virus to Pratica di Mare; and the biocontainment and the decontamination activities from chemical, bacteriological and radioactive substances from an individual once on the ground.
The SAR segment of the demo involved the helicopters of both the Italian Air Force, Navy and Army (HH-139A, SH-90, AB-412) and an escorting mainly performing winching demos).
Worth of note is the fact that the Italian Air Force F-35A belonging to the 32° Stormo (Wing) from Amendola were deployed to Pratica di Mare and took part in the air escort of a P-180 of the Protezione Civile (Italian Civil Protection): they were scrambled to intercept the aircraft carrying the infcted individual and shadowed it to landing, while a G.550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) aircraft from the Pratica di Mare-based 14° Stormo, provided Air Management from a nearby orbit.
Although it’s somehow unusual to see an F-35 in the interceptor role, it must be remembered that since Mar. 1, 2018, the Italian F-35A aircraft have been declared IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in the air defense mission and ready to support the SSSA (Servizio Sorveglianza Spazio Aereo – Air Space Surveillance Service) – normally carried out by the Eurofighter Typhoon. This means that, if needed, the 5th generation aircraft can undertake regular QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) shifts or be diverted from a different mission to intercept and identify unknown aircraft, with a Standard Conventional Load (SCL) that includes the AIM-120C5 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) missile. In this case, it was probably decided to use the F-35 because the demo was an interesting opportunity to showcase the new stealth aircraft at “work” (also in cooperation with the new CAEW).