The military of modern day Italy.
A brief history
Italy has had a mixed record on warfare since its unification. While they did a good job during the Crimean War
(1856) and in Libya, defeating the Ottomans during the Turkish-Italian War
(1911) - where the first aerial bombing in history took place - the Italians had been humiliated during the ambush at Adowa (1896) note
, in what was then Abyssinia, a loss they would later avenge in 1936 under the rule of Mussolini.
Italy won WWI or, at least, won on its front by defeating Austria-Hungary, completely destroying its army and that of its German ally after three years (1915-1918) of bloody fighting over the Alpine arch; this triggered the collapse of the multi-ethnic Austrian-Hungarian Empire.
However, the country - due to a combination of factors such as lack of resources, scarce indutrial production, inadequate equipment, poor training, inept officers, poor logistics and coordination, mutual distrust between allies and... fighting a war it didn't want against an ex-ally it din't want to fight, all while being forcibly allied to Germany (which most Italians despised) - did not, as you may have guessed, fare so well in World War II
; it was occupied by both the Germans and the Allies, lost all its overseas possessions and some of its north-eastern territories.
Nowadays, Italy's military consists of the standard features - namely, an Army
), a Navy
), an Air Force
) and the Carabinieri
, military police who also do domestic law enforcement. Italy is a NATO member and its forces have seen combat action in Lebanon, Somalia, Rwanda, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Due their historical and current engagements, Italian armed forces also have a well-deserved reputation for Combat Pragmatism
, born from such things as inventing aerial bombing back when dropping bombs from aircrafts had been preventively declared a war crime, strapping torpedoes to commercial speedboats and sending them into enemy harbours to sink battleships, developing the Human torpedo
to complement and replace the aforementioned vessels (which had proven useful against Austria-Hungary
, but had become obsolete by the time of World War II
), as well as still
fielding and using man-portable flamethrowers
. In spite of this, they have managed to earn and keep a reputation as 'nice guys' when deployed for peace-keeping missions, mostly by honestly policing and bringing food and useful things to the civilians living in the areas they control.
Law Enforcement in Italy
Italy has eight police forces, but...
...we'll only see those with some military relevance (the State and Jail Police, as well as the Forestry Corps, have been demilitarised in 1981, 1990 and 2004).
- Carabinieri - Created in 1815 (well before the Italian Unfication); served under the banners of the Kingdom of Piedmont; and inspired by the French Gendarmerie), their names coming from the carbines they used as a weapon. The Carabinieri have been historically the First Corps of the Army, and were upgraded to full branch in 2000, just about damn time. They handle serious cases of law-enforcement throughout the country by conducting operations against the mafias, organised crime, and unsanitary preparation of foods and drinks (given how much food and drinks Italy exports and a surprisingly high number of scams involving altering them, sometimes in poisonous ways). During World War II, after the fall of Mussolini, many carabinieri joined the Resistenza, or the Allied forces and fought bravely against the Germans. In more recent times, they're often employed in peace-keeping operations (Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq).
- They are also are the butt of many jokes in Italy, which portray them as Book Dumb and simple-minded ("Why do carabinieri always go around in groups of three? Because one can read but can't write, the other can write but can't read, and the third keeps in check the dangerous intellectuals!") note . This is probably because in the past many lower-class citizens enlisted in order to earn some money for their families; despite this, they are still nicknamed respectfully "l'Arma" ("THE Corps") or "la Benemerita" ("The Meritorous") and are well-respected (and invent many of the jokes on themselves. Telling them such jokes when they're on duty still constitutes an offence, as many have learned the hard way). They also tend to be hated by members of the other military forces due their role as Military Police - unless they show up to close the post's refectory for unsanitory preparation of food, as it means the soldiers will eat in restaurants for a while with the State paying!
- The ordinary carabiniere uniform is black with a white sash and a red stripe on the trousers; it comes with a black Commissar Cap with a heraldic grenade (with a spread-out flame) in silver on it, definitely a Nice Hat. In the past, their hats were even nicer◊. Of course, when employed in war zones and peacekeeping operations they wear sensible camouflage. The Carabinieri also have a paratrooper regiment and a special regiment of guards of honour called Corazzieri ("Cuirassiers"), who are quite◊ blinged out and whose duty's to protect the President or - before 1946 - the King of Italy. Finally, we've got the the G.I.S. (Gruppo di Intervento Speciale, "Special Intervention Group"), an élite counterterrorism force.
- Guardia di Finanza - Also known as the Fiamme Gialle ("Yellow Flames"), from the golden colour of their uniform's collar patches, they are in charge of financial crimes: smuggling, money laundring, drug trafficking, frauds and such. They depend from the Minister of Economy and Finance, but they're still technically a military Corps (like the Carabinieri, although they don't count as a full service branch) so, in the unlikely event of a full-scale war, might well still be employed on the front just as they'had been during WWI. They have a Commissar Cap like the Carabinieri, but it's grey instead of black (like the uniform), and with a golden grenade with an upright flame instead of a silver one with a spread-out flame (the female version of the hat is flat on top but looks to be some odd combination of a bowler hat, cowboy hat with the sides pushed up to the crown, and top hat. Here's a look at the female version of the uniform◊.
- Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard) - They guard the metric fuckton of coastline Italy has, obviously. They work for the Ministry of Transports and as such, they're unarmed; and despite being a police force, the CG is technically part of the Navy. Oddly enough, they seem to prefer the baseball cap.
...can you say "Interservice Rivalry
" and "Jurisdiction Friction
Special Forces of the Italian Army
Besides "ordinary" infantry, the Army has a few special corps:
- "Folgore" ("Thunderbolt") Parachute Brigade - created in 1941, they're an élite airborne unit (among the best in the world) that fought bravely at El Alamein. After the war, they have been deployed as part of peace-keeping missions in Lebanon, Kosovo, Somalia and Afghanistan.
- Bersaglieri ("Marksmen") - founded in 1836, they're a high-mobility, light infantry Corps with a penchant for sharp-shooting (as the name suggests). They fought at the Battle of the Chernaya river, during the Crimean War, where they earned a fame as Crazy Awesome for countercharging the Russian cavalry and routing it (to be fair the Russians got charged on the side while they were busy, and could have won by regrouping and charging again but panicked when they tried and saw that those madmen with strange hats were not only giving chase but almost on top of them); they were also the first corps to enter Rome on September 20, 1870, thus ending the temporal rule of the Pope and completing the Unification of Italy. Being the shock troops of the Regio Esercito (Royal Italian Army), they suffered enormous casualties during WW1. In WW2, they fought in Africa (distinguishing themselves at the battle of Marsa Matruh and El Alamein), Greece and on the Eastern Front; after the war, they served in Yugoslavia, Somalia and Iraq. They're easily recognisable due to the wide hat decorated with black feathers and their fast pace they keep on parades (instead of marching) while playing trumpets. Their hat outside of combat and parades is the fez, given to them by the French Zouaves as a sign of admiration after their performance during the battle of the Chernaya.
- Alpini ("Alpine Troops") - They're the mountain troops of the Italian Army; having been founded in 1872, they are the oldest active mountain infantry in the world (and arguably, one of the best). They fought all over the Alpine arch during WW1 and took part in some of the bloodiest battles of that war and engaged in a contest on who would manage to blow up more pieces of mountains with their Austro-Hungarian counterparts (the Austro-Hungarians won: they blew up the top of an Italian-held mountain before the *Alpini* could do the same with them, and at that point they both decided to stop before escalating too much); during WW2 the Corps fought in Greece, suffering heavy casualties due to the valiant resitance of the Greek soldiers, and in Russia, where they were deployed in the plains (as the Axis never quite reached the Caucasus mountains) and terrified the Red Army by outfighting them in winter (there's a rumour in Italy that the Red Army declared them the only invading army that left Russia undefeated). After the war, they served in Iraq and are currently deployed in Afghanistan.
- They have a... uhm, somewhat unhealthy rivalry with the Bersaglieri as they used to fill the role of mountain infantry before the Alpini were created.
- The Alpini can be recognised by their traditional hat, which has a bird feather on it. And recently, some politicos suggested for it to be replaced by a modern-looking cap, as the Army was undergoing a major modernisation effort. They didn't take it well (and the glorious ol' hat's still in its place).
- Sassari Mechanised Brigade - The Brigade, whose soldiers originate mostly from Sardinia, dates back to WW1 when many Sardinians were hastily called to the arms after the defeat at Caporetto. The Brigade suffered heavy casualties through the war but was nevertheless one of the most feared by the enemy. Nowadays, it's one of the toughest Corps of the Army (they've been nicknamed dimonios, or "devils" in the Sardinian language).
- The Brigade's own anthem, written (and sung) entirely in that language, is also called Dimonios.
Special Forces of the Italian Navy
- The COM.SUB.IN. is the élite combat frogmen force of the Italian Navy; their origins go back to WW1 (Italy developed the idea of modern combat frogmen forces). Their rooster: sinking of the Austrian-Hungarian warships Szent István and Viribus Unitis (1917, 1918); raids against the British naval bases of Souda Bay, Gibraltar and Alexandria (1940, 1941); sinking of the HMS Valiant, of the HMS Queen Elizabeth and of other Allied ships throughout WW2. After the war, the early U.S. Navy SEA Ls were partially trained and advised by former Italian frogmen...
- The Reggimento San Marco is the Italian Navy's Marine corps; the so-called Lagunari ("Lagoon Troopers") are under its jurisdiction but, actually, they're the amphibious troops of the Army. Their origins go back to the jolly good ol' times of the Republic of Venice, their "ancestors" being the 17th-century Fanti da Mar - that is, "Marine Infantry" in Venetian. They're still based in Veneto, more precisely at Mestre (near Venice).
Equipment of the Italian Army
- Beretta AR70/90, standard-issue assault rifle
, now being the replaced by the ARX-160.
- Beretta ARX160, the (newer) standard-issue assault rifle.
- M4 Carbine - 5.56 mm assault rifle
- Beretta 92FS - 9 x 19 mm pistol
- Minimi - 5.56 mm light machine gun
- MG42/59 - MG3 - 7.62 mm machine gun
. In case you were wondering, yes, that's the one the Nazis used (and we love it as well).
- Franchi SPAS-15 - Shotgun
- Sako TGR-42 - .338 Lapua sniper rifle
- Barrett M82A1 - .50 BMG sniper rifle
- OD-82 - grenade
. And a highly controversial model, at that.
- M203 - 40mm grenade grenade launcher
- Breda Folgore - Recoilless Gun
- Tirrena T-148/B - Flamethrower
- Panzerfaust 3 - Anti-tank rocket launcher
- MILAN 2T - Anti-tank guided missile
- Spike MR/LR - Anti-tank guided missile
- FIM-92 Stinger - Man-portable air-defence system
("Ram") Main Battle Tank
- B1 Centauro
, Tank Destroyer
(actually a reconnaisance vehicle which just happens to have the firepower of a MBT
, and can pull double duty as a light tank
- VBM Freccia
("Arrow"), Infantry Fighting Vehicle
4x4/6x6 Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carrier/Recon Vehicle
- VTLM Lince
("Lynx"), Infantry Mobility Vehicle
- M109L, Self-Propelled Howitzer
- PzH2000, (same as above).
- FH70, Howitzer
- SIDAM 25, Self-Propelled AA weapon
. Also known as "yet another relic of the Cold War the Army desperately needs to do away with".
- 120mm F1, Mortar
Equipment of the Italian Navy/Air Force
Italy's ever-upgrading Navy possesses also:
- Giuseppe Garibaldi
- the country's first aircraft carrier (which will be "soon" equipped with F-35Bs).
- another, newer, STOVL aircraft carrier.
- AV-8B Harrier IIs
The country's Air Force owns:
- Tornado IDS, an aging ground-attack aircraft to be replaced by the fabled F-35.
- AMX International AMX Ghibli
, another good ol' jalopey scheduled to be scrapped "soon".
- Eurofighter Typhoon, multi-role fighter
- A-129 Mangusta ("Mongoose"), attack helicopter
. The nickname's actually a contrived coincidence
on the manufacturer's part, for a mongoose can kill a cobra...
- A few MQ-9 "Reaper", an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Designed to Blow Talibans Up From the Comfort of Your Own Bunk
The Air Force was also notorious for holding to the F-104 Starfighter (and fielding the Italian-designed F-104S version) for a long time in spite of the fighter having very poor reliability (indeed, the indigenous version was developed specifically to correct the reliability issues. Being faster and capable of acting both as interceptor and fighter-bomber were just bonus). The last F-104S has been retired in 2004, being replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Conscription and other amenities
Since 1846, conscription is mandatory for every able-bodied citizen... despite it having been suspended (not abolished!) in 2005.
And since 1999, women too are allowed serve in the Army - to the delight of a whole generation of drill istructors.
The Forze Armate in fiction:
- In Gunslinger Girl, most of the SWA's black ops personnel are either from the ranks of the Italian military, police or intelligence services. For instance, Amadeo and Giorgio are formerly with the Gruppo di Intervento Speciale before they were placed in Section 2 to support the cyborg operators in the field when needed. The Croce brothers were ex-Carabinieri officers stationed with the Tuscania Regiment. Raballo was also ex-Carabinieri with GIS forced to retire due to a leg injury when his rifle misfired (anime)/pistol misfired (manga).
- In Jormungand, R used to be with the Italian Army's Bersaglieri during the 1990s in Bosnia as a UN peacekeeper before Koko recruited him. And he became a double agent working for the CIA.
- In the Rainbow Six series, Antonio Maldini is with GIS prior to his Rainbow assignment.
- In End War, he is a Colonel with the European Federation Army's Battlegroup 4 and is their commanding officer.
- The Italian military is represented by their A-129 Mangusta attack helicopters as part of the NATO faction in World in Conflict.
The Polizia in fiction:
- In Gunslinger Girl, Marco was with the Polizia di Stato's Criminal Police Central Directorate, plus he had combat experience with NOCS. Priscilla was an ex-officer with the Guardia di Finanza.