“A few weeks ago during an exercise our specialists paralyzed a Centaur armored car without firing a shot: with a computer virus they blocked the computer that controls the engine. cyber to achieve ‘incapacitating effects’ can allow us to achieve the same results without employing lethal tools. This will lead to a complete review of the way operations are conducted: the cyber component will have an exponential growth. “Seven months after taking office at the top of the Army, the general Pietro Serino speaks for the first time and describes the scenarios of change of the armed force. Broadcasting Officer, Serino has a passion for technological innovation and a long experience in strategic planning. And since the beginning of the pandemic, as head of the cabinet of Minister Lorenzo Guerini, he has helped manage the intervention of the military against the virus.
What lessons has the Covid emergency left you?
“The main one is that we have managed to react well because we are trained in combat: a term that may seem strong, but it is the synthesis of the facts. The ability to operate even when we ourselves are under threat I think distinguishes us from other structures. the eventuality of a conflict is the essence of our profession and it is what enables us to be useful to the country in every situation “.
Not surprisingly, many heads of state have compared the pandemic to a war. Were you ready to face it?
“In the emergency we understood the importance of logistical autonomy. What does it mean? The armed force must be independent in all its departments. Twenty years ago we had made different assessments: at the time it seemed that there were only missions abroad and we thought we could entrust some tasks to companies and civil entities, obtaining savings. For example, it happened in military health that has suffered very severe cuts or in some transport sectors. Finally, it has proved the value of a distributed presence in the territory. If we had not had departments located throughout the peninsula, we would not have been able to contribute in a capillary way to the fight against the pandemic “.
Today the Army brigades are fifteen in all, fewer than the Regions
“However, the individual departments are present in a homogeneous manner and cover the most populous areas. Perhaps there is a lack of greater unity in Lombardy, where however there is the NATO command of Solbiate Olona which has shown great readiness”.
Our soldiers today have a very high average age. What are you planning to do?
“We want to change the recruitment criteria. The bill prepared by my predecessor, General Salvatore Farina, eliminates the figure of volunteers enrolled for just one year: the minimum stay will be three years, renewable for another three. And so with a We will be able to invest in training for a long time. The more specialized the staff, the easier it will be to enter the world of work once they leave the Army. There is already an agreement with Confindustria for qualification courses “.
His predecessor had presented in Parliament the urgent need to increase the number of the Army
“I am thinking of a targeted increase because we need specific skills. First of all doctors, nurses and laboratory technicians. Then engineers and computer scientists to meet the cyber and space requirements”.
They are the most requested figures on the job market. How do you plan to recruit them?
“We have the ability to train them. We have high-level schools with the possibility of making young people grow through operational activity. Furthermore, all public administrations need the same figures: it can be assumed that they are selected and trained by the armed forces , to then pass after a certain number of years at the disposal of other state structures “.
So you don’t want foot soldiers, but specialists. How many?
“Not very high numbers: a few thousand. Other personnel will be recovered with the decrease in the commitment to the Safe Roads operation, which was born as a temporary response to the wave of attacks and then continued. The minister’s guidelines allowed a reduction of one thousand men in 2021 and another thousand are expected for next year. Then we hope that the pandemic will end soon and those soldiers will also return to their activities “.
You spoke of space specialists. Does the Army have them too?
“Sure, and they are fundamental. Satellite communications have been increased for years: the new Lince vans will largely be equipped with these tools. And then we have the surveillance network: we have organized ourselves to receive the information collected by the satellites in real time and use it in the field “.
And how much will the new cyber war affect?
“When I was a young officer we were taught to plan operations like in the time of Julius Caesar. Everything was based on three factors: forces, space and time. Now the cyber dimension has contracted time enormously; we no longer speak of hours. but in minutes. It has gone beyond the traditional concept of space: even in countries far from its borders, NATO has identified cyber threats. And I don’t even know if the idea of forces still has the same relevance. In short, all the parameters of the idea are changing. of conflict. And it takes humility to define the future “.
For the past thirty years you have been on missions abroad to keep the peace. Today, however, conventional warfare scenarios are returning to the world, requiring heavy forces such as tanks and cannons
“We are reviewing everything in this perspective, which since the end of the Cold War had faded into the background. In 1993 we had about one thousand hundred tanks, today they are just over a hundred. The modernization of the armored forces is a need but also an opportunity for the whole country. AND the opportunity to satisfy the Army’s ambition to have a strong interlocutor in the industry sector, as is Fincantieri for the Navy, who becomes our point of contact “.
No Italian industry produces these vehicles. Are you thinking of a national or European company?
“Virtue is in the middle. I believe that the solution is a national industry capable of participating in European consortia. Producing large numbers of vehicles, in order to lower costs, and keeping the know-how at home. Minister Guerini often says that national sovereignty also passes through the defense industry and we have seen with Covid how in the emergency we cannot rely so much on supplies from abroad “.
Rebuilding the heavy forces will take several billions. Are there the resources?
“Initial funds of two billion have been foreseen, above all to replace the Dardo combat tracked vehicles. Precisely because the investments are significant, we cannot limit ourselves to acquiring a system abroad: we must find ways for the Italian industry to participate as a protagonist. this we are assuming to extend the operational life of the Dardo for ten years: the time gained will allow us as a country to equip ourselves to be part of the European programs that are emerging “.
Is modernizing the means the best solution? They will still be over thirty years old
“I read that the Germans are doing it with the Marder, a vehicle similar to our Dardo but even older. Even if we wanted to buy new tanks, today there are none on the market: the Franco-German project is in the study phase. therefore that our one hundred Aries will remain in service for a long time. I can tell you, however, that a department has long been deployed in a German polygon, where they challenge the American tanks as “aggressors”: thanks to the preparation of the crews, the results of the Aries are not absolutely inferior to those of the allies “.
Polygons are another problem. To return to training in conventional warfare, large spaces are needed, which in Italy are almost no longer there
“However, we have a series of virtual polygons inside our bases. And we sent our artillery to train in Qatar: it hadn’t happened for a long time. There the Pzh self-propelled guns have tested and certified the new Vulcano long-range shells. , which have a laser or gps guide in the final trajectory. These hi-tech ammunition allow us to obtain innovative performances, without the need to change guns “.
The mission in Afghanistan that has just ended was the longest and most difficult carried out by the Army
“It happened to me during a recent exercise to ask the officers why they lined up on the ground in a certain way. They replied:” In Afghanistan we did this … “. , but where the counterpart had characteristics that are difficult to replicate elsewhere. Now we need to recover the preparation to respond to a full spectrum of scenarios and threats. And what happened at Kabul airport, with the need to create a shield against very close threats, we shows another need: mobile systems to protect against drones and rocket launches. They will complete and integrate the capabilities of the Folgore, the paràs with which we can intervene to secure an airport and open a humanitarian corridor. A situation that already exists. verified in the past during the evacuation of fellow countrymen “.