“We will contribute to the under preparation EU mission to protect the vital maritime traffics for national and European economy with the Caio Duilio guided missile destroyer and Italy is expected to provide the force commander of the multi-national EU operation”, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Antonio Tajani told media accompanied by Admiral Aurelio De Carolis head of the Italian Fleet Command, on board the Vulcano Logistic Support Ship (LSS) in the port of La Spezia.
The ship has arrived there on the same day with Palestine’s minors who will be threated at children hospitals in Italy, alongside their accompaniers. The Italian Navy’s Vulcano LSS was arriving from Egyptian port of Al-Arish where the ship was moored since December 3 with an enlarged national joint armed forces medical team supported by Francesca Rava foundation and Qatar medical personnel to take care of Palestine’s civilians mostly minors thanks to the onboard Role 3 Level 3 medical facilities.
The Caio Dulio guided missile destroyer quietly left La Spezia naval base on 28 January and has reached the theatre of operations where it is operating in associated support of EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta as remarked by the same mission headquarters X social media on 5 February which provided the news of its arrival in the area, and “its contribution to provide maritime security in the region.”
The Italian Navy destroyer with on board an helicopter alongside diving and San Marco marine brigade detachments, Naval News understood, will operate in associated support of Operation Atalanta alongside the same service’s Martinengo Bergamini-class FREMM frigate which has joined the mission on 9 January replacing the same-class Fasan frigate, guaranteeing better situational awareness and providing an umbrella of protection to the Italian merchant shipping and to that of direct national interest, under the Italy’s command as part of a national operation already authorized by the Parliament. These activities will be conducted until the EU Foreign Affairs council planned for 19 February won’t approve the Aspides operation and the Italian Parliament will then give the green light to the Italian participation. The Caio Dulio is expected to embark the Force Commander and its international staff based on the multi-national participation to the operation.
Tasks of Operation Aspides
As remarked by both the Italian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Defence, the EU mission which was pushed mainly by Italy together with France, Germany and Denmark, is expected to provide the protection of the merchant traffic against potential attacks of Houthis forces. It will not conduct any operation on land – only at sea, in a purely defensive mode. D
“The European military ships will carry out tasks of merchant shipping escort protection, support to maritime situational awareness, maintaining close coordination with Atalanta with which Aspides will share part of the area of operations, and with distinction of tasks, with Operation Prosperity Guardian. As I said before, the operation aims to create a deterrent mechanism to defend merchant traffic throughout the area up to Suez,” said the Italian Minister of Defence, Guido Crosetto in an informative hearing in front of the two Defence Committees of the Italian Parliament on last 1 February.
“Aspides will be an operation that we hope will also include the participation of moderate Arab countries who wish to join this collective security effort.”
Guido Crosetto, Italian Minister of Defence
The European assets expected to be used for the operation, according to the same Minister, will currently include a minimum of three naval units, intelligence and logistical support, aerial early warning, cyber protection, satellite support, strategic communication in support of the so-called information warfare.
“The Italian Defence, in addition to the fundamental contribution in terms of naval assets for which we set ourselves the objective of guaranteeing the sustainability of the continuous use of at least one ship in the Red Sea for 12 months (with assets rotation), is also evaluating the possibility of providing air assets with the ability to provide surveillance and data collection”, he highlighted. Such capability could be supplied with the deployment in the theatre of operation of at least one of the two Gulfstream G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) in service with the Italian Air Force which are already busy with the NATO defensive operations on the Eastern Flank for the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
The Italian Minister of Defence also highlighted that the EU mission command will probably fall on Greece and Larissa as the headquarters of the operation, which was reiterated on 5 February by the Minister of Foreign affairs and International Cooperation to be officially confirmed and the mission details, duties of operations approved on 19 February.
“It is appropriate to underline that the picture that is emerging envisages an increased use of Defense capabilities in the region which cannot be foreseen in the phase of preparing the financial allocations for the 2024 commitments, I say as of now, which is difficult to compensate through a review and remodulation in a reductive sense of other commitments in other crisis areas. I therefore believe that our commitment to the security of the Red Sea and other crisis areas must find support through additional funding that goes beyond the scope envisaged with the recent approval of the budget law,” the Italian Minister of Defence said.
According to Crosetto, the crisis in the Red Sea has highlighted even more the limits of law 145/2016 concerning the participation of Italy to the international operations. This, according to him, pushed the current Government to the development of an improved regulatory instrument that allows the country to equip itself with a better and more effective response capacity to crises and the growing instability that derives from it. “But this will come without taking anything away from the prerogatives and role of Parliament which will remain central. All this was pursued with the bill to amend law 145 issued by the Ministries Council on 25 January, which need was included in the Defence Ministry’s programmatic lines since months.”