Italy Grapples With Internal, External Transformation

February 2009
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Lt. Gen. Pietro Finocchio, ITAF,
is the general director of Italy’s General Directorate for Information Technology and High Technology.
The NATO member is building network centricity among military and other governmental forces.

Italy is moving toward a defense transformation that involves nonmilitary governmental organizations as well as traditional forces. Recognizing that many defense and homeland security activities are cross-functional, the Mediterranean nation is building a network-centric architecture that will connect all of its military elements along with civil security equivalents.

The Italian military is encountering its own challenges as it moves from information silos to network centricity. Its armed forces are undergoing a transformation similar to that of other Western militaries in the transition from a post-Cold-War structure to one better suited for the Global War on Terrorism. Italy is moving from reliance on heavy weapons to a focus on information superiority.

Lt. Gen. Pietro Finocchio, ITAF, is the general director of Italy’s General Directorate for Information Technology and High Technology, known by its Italian acronym TELEDIFE. His organization procures information technology systems, including air defense, navigation, Earth observation and communications—“from mobile telephones to satellites,” he explains.

Italy is well aware of its geopolitical position, Gen. Finocchio states. A longtime member of NATO, it sits in the center of the Mediterranean between Europe and Africa and the Middle East and the Atlantic. It also hosts the Vatican, which is the center of Catholicism, Christianity’s largest denomination. The general notes that Italy is sensitive to religious issues—it hosts the oldest Jewish community outside of Israel, and it receives many immigrants who practice different religions. And, Italy’s multiethnic nature relates to its having had relationships with many of the region’s countries for centuries.

Italy always will be cognizant of its responsibilities, Gen. Finocchio warrants. “Italy is a small country,” he notes. “We cannot roar like a lion, but we don’t like to roar like a mouse.”

At the heart of this transformation is a shift away from telecommunications platforms to an interconnected global network. Without it, the military cannot function in the post-Cold-War environment. As a linchpin of the Free World, Italy cannot predict how or where its forces might be deployed.

And, the enemy cannot be identified with a specific geographical location. Adversaries could be anywhere in the world, including within Italy itself. So, traditional borders between the military and homeland security have come down.

This does not mean that Italy no longer will respect the rules of individual institutions, the general emphasizes. But, depending on the kind of emergency, a different group may lead operations. Italian forces need to be able to share information, and traditional backbones will become part of this all-encompassing network.

Gen. Finocchio describes a future in which platforms are lighter but networked. They will not carry all the sensors that they might possibly need for a mission, but they will be able to share operational information with other platforms that bear the sensor needed for a type of data.

The general relates that Italian forces already are able to achieve this for some specific geographic areas, especially with advance notice such as for planned special events. But Italy seeks this capability full time for any situation. Participants would be identified for the network, and sensor input would be provided to the correct recipients automatically according to the services they provide.

As with other high-technology forces, Italy’s existing defense information infrastructure is rife with different systems that do not always interoperate smoothly. Lacking a single protocol, it uses information exchange gateways to overcome legacy silos. Gen. Finocchio states that the military is counting on software-defined radio (SDR) and the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) in particular to pave the way to effective wireless links. The general offers that SDR “is the wireless pillar” for applications in a network-centric environment.

Italy also is working to invent new radio waveforms to suit its own military needs, and these SDR waveforms would be shared with others, the general posits. This effort is an outgrowth of early SDR development. Italy took part in international joint SDR research with the United States, but at one point development of waveforms was closed off to other nations. Italy then returned to Europe to join in establishing a European SDR standard. Information gateways can provide interoperability between European and U.S. systems, but these European waveforms might not be directly portable to U.S. radios, Gen. Finocchio points out. Italy is working with the United States to develop waveforms for the Multifunction Information Distribution System (MIDS)-JTRS.

New waveforms might be especially useful in satellite communications, Gen. Finocchio offers. Instead of engineers being locked into designing a satellite’s communications capabilities many years before its use would end, equipping a satellite with software-defined transceivers would allow it to be upgraded from the ground while in orbit.

Satellites will play a big role in Italy’s transformational communications. The nation uses the SICRAL 1 satellite, which has been in orbit since 2001, for ultrahigh frequency (UHF), super high frequency (SHF) and extremely high frequency (EHF) communications. It will be using the new SICRAL 1B satellite in tandem with SICRAL 1, and portions of its UHF and EHF bands will connect with the territorial communications network for Italy’s Carabinieri internal police force.

Italy and France are building SICRAL 2 for UHF and SHF satellite communications. It will replace SICRAL 1 when it is launched in 2012. The EHF communications capability present in SICRAL 1 was moved from SICRAL 2 to ATHENA-FIDUS, which is another joint Franco-Italian satellite. It also is slated for launch in 2012.

“From a single satellite service, we now are moving toward a constellation of satellites that are complementary to ensure continued services,” the general points out.

But simply upgrading communications satellites is not Italy’s sole goal. It hopes to build and launch multimission satellites that combine other functions with communications. Gen. Finocchio describes future constellations that might combine communications with navigation. Galileo, Europe’s version of the hugely successful Global Positioning System, is slated for launch soon, and that will open up a new era for Europe in satellite navigation. Italy is examining the concept and weighing it against need and potential enabling technologies.

Italy also hopes to use satellite connectivity to enable advanced telemedicine capabilities. Homeland resources and operational theaters would be connected by high-definition satellite links.

While it currently must rely on other space organizations to launch its satellites, Italy is working toward its own access to space. It is developing Vega, a rocket that would launch small satellites.

For networking, the new IPv6 Internet protocol will allow giving priority directly to the information for distribution. It will enable nodes of communication that are not located regionally, which likely will define future military operations.

Italy’s ultimate goal is a command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (C4ISTAR) architecture. This architecture would be driven by the general staff in collaboration with defense procurement. This architecture would be capable of interoperating with other national architecture, both military and civil. People at all levels in effect will become human hubs that interact with each other by sharing information, situational awareness and responsibility.

Gen. Finocchio explains that this architecture must be flexible and comprise several different interconnected layers. This would permit connectivity anywhere, anytime. He describes “bricks” of hardware, software and services building this architecture across operational communities. It would be a service-oriented architecture that would be adjusted to suit user needs as required.

This architecture will take considerable time to develop, Gen. Finocchio cautions. “Rome was not built in one day,” he analogizes.

NATO standards are providing the building blocks of this architecture, the general adds. “We must be interoperable with NATO,” he declares.

Italian troops in Afghanistan escort an aid convoy through rugged mountainous terrain. The changing mission of the Italian military is impelling a transformation to enable communications connectivity among its forces anywhere in the world.
Italy’s equivalent of homeland security is civil protection, and it has its origins in the military. Although civil protection forces are independent of the military, they are beginning to consolidate information with the military. This includes knowledge in existing databases as well as new data from satellites and reconnaissance aircraft.

All this information will be entered into a common repository accessible to all authorized users, the general reports. Known as the System for Control of the Territory, or SICOT, it will be able to provide information ranging from pollution data for the Coast Guard, to financial data for the police, to situational awareness for the military. “They will benefit from a common shared picture from the information,” he says.

Currently, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard have their own stovepiped sensors. While collaboration exists, the future architecture will provide access to a common repository that does not rely on collaborative efforts. “Information will be led by someone, but it [also] will be commonly shared,” Gen. Finocchio warrants.

For example, improved overhead surveillance will do more than just help military operations, the general points out. Multispectral remote sensing will help prevent civilian death tolls in disasters such as volcanic eruptions or earthquakes, because geologic researchers can track earth changes as they begin to unfold—in some cases, before a catastrophic onslaught.

Italy’s C4ISTAR program comprises several elements. The country is consolidating three single-service systems into a single C4I joint system that will support the top-level operational officer in charge of the Italian Joint Operations Headquarters. These three—the army’s SIACCON, the navy’s MCCIS and the air force’s SICCAM—would constitute a system that is interoperable with its NATO equivalents. The general notes that industry will play a major role in this consolidation effort, which will entail planning, decision-making support, operational conduct, a real-time comprehensive operational picture and operational simulation.

Another key element is the army’s SICCONA program, which covers command and control (C2) of its combat vehicles. This program also introduces navigation to army vehicle C2 so that forces can have real-time tactical and logistical capabilities such as maps, messages, secure voice and secure datalinks for database access.

SICCONA will succeed SIACCON in the army. After SICCONA is implemented will come digitization of the battlefield. This effort will aim to provide information services to the individual soldier.

That individual soldier may be unrecognizable after the implementation of Italy’s Future Soldier program (SIGNAL Magazine, September 2008). Battlefield digitization is essential to this effort, which will equip individual soldiers with all manner of sensors and displays. It will require a data exchange system with a network-centric design, the general points out.

Friendly fire accidents will be reduced through two programs. The next-generation identification friend or foe (NGIFF) will operate by NATO and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) civil air traffic control standards. The Battlefield Target Identification Device (BTID) will serve as an NGIFF for ground vehicles.

Gen. Finocchio notes that the army does not have as much experience in battlefield information technologies as do the navy and air force. Infusing the army with graphical situational awareness systems will require cultural as well as technological changes. “We are introducing a revolution inside the army, thanks to the new technologies,” he observes.

Italy already is developing semantic engines to enable information research and synthesis, Gen. Finocchio relates. One center comprises people who are able to correlate seemingly unrelated data into solutions. Another center run by industry identifies data from messages in different languages. This capability is particularly useful in the war on terrorism.

Collaboration between government and the defense industry is strong, and that connection should increase. Gen. Finocchio describes “a new frontier of system engineering” in which new technologies are developed in a more collaborative environment. In this new approach, engineers use a testbed to evaluate a possible architecture for the acquisition and distribution of information. When a solution passes muster—after constant information exchanges between government and industry—it moves into full development. It is similar to the concept of spiral development, he notes.

Defense procurement is awarding research and development contracts for satellite communications. It also is awarding contracts for the network-enabling capability and network integration infrastructure for future SDR development.

Ultimately, the synergies released by the enhanced government-industry collaboration must be international in nature. Gen. Finocchio notes that strategic alliances with European and non-European partners are necessary to meet the new global challenge.

And that international cooperation may become even more essential given the new economic reality facing the Free World. Economic resources are declining in the face of growing needs across the entire government budget. Personnel and operational costs tend to be constant and required, so savings must come from elsewhere. Gen. Finocchio foresees further cuts in research and development, acquisition and, to a lesser extent, maintenance. This places even greater importance on innovative government-industry synergies to produce “higher quality really cheaper,” he says.

Web Resource
TELEDIFE (Italian language):


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