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Italian Army

The Italian Army (''Esercito Italiano'') is the ground defence force of the Italian Republic. It has recently become a professional all-volunteer force of active-duty personnel, numbering 109,703 in 2008. Its best-known combat vehicles are the Dardo infantry fighting vehicle, the Centauro tank destroyer and the Ariete tank, and among its aircraft the Mangusta attack helicopter, recently deployed in UN missions. The ''Esercito Italiano'' also has at its disposal a large number of Leopard 1 and M113 armored vehicles. The headquarters of the Army General Staff are located in Rome, opposite the Presidential Palace.


The Italian Army originated as the Royal Army (''Regio Esercito'') which dates from the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy following the seizure of the Papal States and the unification of Italy (''Risorgimento''). In 1861, under the leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi, Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy was invited to take the throne of the newly independent kingdom.

World War I

The Italian Royal Army's first real taste of modern warfare was during World War I. Most of the actions were fought in northern Italy and the Royal Army suffered millions of casualties. This included over 700,000 dead. The frequency of offensives for which the Italian soldiers partook between May 1915 and August 1917, one every three months, was higher than demanded by the armies on the Western Front. Italian discipline was also harsher, with punishments for infractions of duty of a severity not known in the German, French, and British armies.

During the Interwar Years the Royal Army participated in the Italian Invasion of Ethiopia, provided men and materials during the Spanish Civil War to fight in the Corps of Volunteer Troops (''Corpo Truppe Volontarie''), and launched the Italian invasion of Albania.

World War II

On paper, the Royal Army was one of the largest ground forces in World War II, though in reality it could not field the numbers claimed, and it was one of the pioneers in the use of paratroopers. Due to the generally smaller size, many Italian divisions were reinforced by an Assault Group (''Gruppo di Assalto'') of two battalions of Blackshirts (MVSN).

Reports of Italian military prowess in the Second World War were, almost always, dismissive. This perception was the result of disastrous Italian offensives against Egypt and the performance of the army in the Greco-Italian War. Both campaigns were ill-prepared and executed inadequately. The Italian 10th Army advancing into Egypt surrendered after a six month campaign called Operation Compass to a British force one fifth its size.

The incompetent military leadership was aggravated by the Italian military's equipment, predominantly dating back to the first world war, which was not up to the standard of either the Allied or the German armies. More crucially, Italy lacked suitable quantities of equipment of all kinds and high command did not take necessary steps to plan for possible setbacks on the battlefield or proper logistic support of its field armies. There were too few anti-aircraft weapons, obsolete anti-tank guns, too few trucks and the Italian 'medium' M11, M13, M14 and M15 tanks were at a marked disadvantage against the comparatively heavily armed American Sherman tanks, for example.

The Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia fought bravely under General Giovanni Messe, who acknowledged the limitations of his Corps in material and equipment and thus was relieved of his command on November 1, 1942. When the Soviet offensive Operation Saturn began on December 12, 1942 the the Italian 8th Army was quickly crushed and only about a third of its troops managed to escape the Soviet cauldron; notably the three Alpini Divisions Tridentina, Julia and Cuneense fought stubbornly and to almost their total annihilation to escape the Soviet encirclement (see: Battle of Nikolayevka).

The Italian 132 Armored Division Ariete and the 185 Airborne Division Folgore fought to total annihilation at the Second Battle of El Alamein. Also determined resistance of the Italian soldiers at the Battle of Keren in East Africa is still commemorated today by the Italian military.

After the Axis defeat in Tunisia the morale of the Italian troops dropped and when the Allies landed in Sicily on July 10, 1943 most Italian Coastal divisions simply dissolved. The sagging moral led to the overthrow of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini by King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy 15 days later.

In September 1943, Italy surrendered and split into the Italian Social Republic in the north and "Badoglio's government" in the south. The Italian Co-Belligerent Army (''Esercito Cobelligerante Italiano'') was the army of the Italian royalist forces fighting on the side of the Allies in southern Italy after the Allied armistice with Italy in September 1943. The Italians soldiers fighting in this army no longer fought for Benito Mussolini as their allegiance was to King Victor Emmanuel and to Marshal of Italy (Maresciallo d'Italia) Pietro Badoglio, the men who ousted Mussolini.

Post war

The kingdom was replaced by a Republic in 1946 and the Royal Army changed its name to become the Italian Army (''Esercito Italiano'').

The Italian Army has participated in operations to aid to populations hit by natural disasters. It has, moreover, supplied a remarkable contribution to the forces of police for the control of the territory of the Province of Bolzano-Bozen (1967), in Sardinia ("Paris" 1992), in Sicily ("Vespri Siciliani"1992) and in Calabria (1994). Currently, it protects sensitive objects and places throughout the national territory ("Operazione Domino") since the tragedy of 11 September 2001. The army is also engaged in Missions abroad under the aegis of the UN, the NATO, and of Multinational forces, such as Beirut in Lebanon (1982), Namibia (1989), Albania (1991), Kurdistan (1991), Somalia (1992), Mozambique (1993), Bosnia (1995), East Timor and Kosovo (both in 1999), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2001), Darfur (2003), Afghanistan (2002), Iraq (2003) and Lebanon again (2006) (in fact during the period between 1980 and 2009, Italy was the third major world contributor (after USA and UK) in peacekeeping missions).

The Carabinieri, once the senior corps of the Army, is now an autonomous armed force (alongside the Army, Navy and Air Force). The Carabinieri provides military police services to all the Italian armed force.

Command structure

The Armed Forces of Italy are under the command of the Italian Supreme Defense Council, presided over by the President of the Italian Republic. The Italian Army is commanded by the SME or "Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito" (Chief of the Army General Staff) in Rome.
The Chief of staff has direct control of all support and logistics operations in Italy (i.e. military clinics, repair facilities, acquisitions,…), but no direct control of the operational forces, which are all assigned to and commanded by COMFOTER: "Comando delle Forze Operative Terrestri" (Command of Operational Land Forces).

Operational forces

COMFOTER has direct command on a NATO rapid reaction Corps Command (NRDC-IT), of four support brigades (Artillery, Air Defense, Logistics, Engineering), as well as command of the Army Aviation, the Army Communication and Transmission command and of three commands called COMFOD 1, COMFOD 2 and COMALP, which between them command the actual 11 Italian combat brigades and various support units. The attached units are in detail:

Combat brigades

Support brigades

Effective operational capability

All brigades may be deployed outside Italy and are often involved in peace-keeping operations on foreign soil.
The brigades are combat brigades, numbering between 3-7,000 troops each. These units are the pride of the Italian Army and are a front-line well-equipped force capable of dealing with most emergency situations. They are characterised by quality, efficiency, motivation and mobility.
In total numbers the Italian Army can field about 85,000 ground troops out of a total Army strength of 112,000 men and women.

Units designated as regiments are large battalions which consist of a large Command, Logistics, and Support Company plus a combat battalion, which, in the case of the infantry (Alpini, Bersaglieri, Granatieri, Lagunari, Infantry) units, consists of:

: 3 or 4 Infantry Companies
: 1 Mortar/Weapons Company
: 1 Antitank Company

The naming has historical reasons. Most regiments are deployed singularly, especially the support brigades' regiments as adjuncts to combat units, formed for the task ahead.



* Beretta AR70/90 - 5.56 mm assault rifle (also in SC and SCP versions)
* M4 Carbine - 5.56 mm assault rifle (special forces)
* Beretta Model 12 - 9 mm Luger Parabellum Submachine gun
* Beretta 92FS Glock-19,Glock 17 - 9 x 19 mm pistol
* Heckler & Koch MP5 - 9 mm Luger Parabellum Submachine gun
* Minimi - 5.56 mm light machine gun
* MG42/59 - MG3 - 7.62 mm machine gun
* M2 Browning - 12.7 mm machine gun
* Franchi SPAS-15 - Shotgun
* Sako TGR-42 - .338 Lapua sniper rifle
* Barrett M82A1 - .50 BMG sniper rifle
* Panzerfaust 3 - Anti-tank rocket launcher
* TOW II - Anti-tank guided missile
* MILAN 2T - Anti-tank guided missile
* Spike MR/LR - Anti-tank guided missile
* FIM-92 Stinger - Man-portable air-defense systems

Combat vehicles

* Ariete - Main Battle Tank (200)
* Leopard 1A5 - Main Battle Tank (120 in reserve)
* Centauro - Armour fire Support Vehicle/Tank destroyer (300 in service,100 in reserve)
* Dardo - Infantry fighting vehicle (200)
* VBM Freccia - Infantry fighting vehicle (49 in delivery of 249 planned)
* M113/M113 A1 - Armoured personnel carrier (3000+ purchased, few in service as TOW or Mortar carrier)
* VCC-1/VCC-2 - Armoured personnel carrier (1300 purchased, 700 in service)
* Puma 6x6 - Wheeled armoured personnel carrier (360)
* Puma 4x4 - Wheeled armoured recon vehicle (180)
* Bv206S - Armoured personnel carrier (189)
* VM90/Armored VM90 - Infantry Mobility Vehicle (1280)
* VTLM Lince - Infantry Mobility Vehicle (1260, delivery 2006-2010)
* AAV7-A1 - Amphibious assault vehicle (35 LVPT7, 25 upgraded to AAV-7A1 standard)
* SIDAM 25 - Self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon
* Bergeleopard/biber/pionier - Armoured engineering vehicle (120+)
* Cougar - Armored fighting vehicle (6)
* Buffalo - Mine protected vehicle (6)


* M109L Self-propelled howitzer (192)
* PzH 2000 Self-propelled howitzer (70)
* FH-70 Towed howitzer (96)
* MLRS Multiple Launch Rocket System (22)
* 120mm F1 Mortar (180)
* Hirtenberger M6-111 60mm Mortar (300+)
* MIM HAWK - rocket surface to air (60)
* SPADA 2000 - surface to air missile system (50)
* Aspide - surface to air missile system
* FSAF-SAMP IT - surface to air missile system (6)

Aircraft inventory

! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Aircraft
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Origin
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Type
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Versions
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|In service"World Military Aircraft Inventory", Aerospace Source Book 2007, ''Aviation Week & Space Technology'', January 15, 2007.
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Notes
| Agusta A129 Mangusta || || attack helicopter || CBT || 60 ||
| Agusta A109 || || utility helicopter || A109EOA ||12 ||
| Bell 205 || || utility helicopter || AB 205A1 || 42 || built by Agusta
| Bell 206 || || utility helicopter || AB 206C1 || 40 || built by Agusta
| Bell 412 || || transport helicopter || AB 412 || 23 || built by Agusta
| Boeing CH-47 Chinook || || transport helicopter || CH-47C || 24 || built by Agusta
| NHI NH90 || || transport helicopter || TTH || 60 ||
| Dornier Do 228 || || utility transport || Do 228-200 || 3 ||
| Piaggio P180 Avanti || || utility transport || P.180 M || 3 ||


A post-World War II peace treaty signed by Italy prevented the country from deploying military forces in overseas operations as well as possessing fixed-wing vessel-based aircraft for twenty-five years following the end of the war.

This treaty expired in 1970, but it would not be until 1982 that Italy first deployed troops on foreign soil, with a peacekeeping contingent being dispatched to Beirut following a United Nations request for troops. Since the 1980s, Italian troops have participated with other Western countries in peacekeeping operations across the world, especially in Africa, Balkan Peninsula and the Middle East.

As of yet, the Italian Army has not engaged in major combat operations since World War II; though Italian Special Forces have taken part in anti-Taliban operations in Afghanistan as part of Task Force 'Nibbio'. Italy was not yet a member of the United Nations in 1950, when that organization went to war with North Korea.

Italy did take part in the 1990-91 Gulf War but solely through the deployment of eight Italian Air Force Panavia Tornado IDS bomber jets to Saudi Arabia; Italian Army troops were subsequently deployed to assist Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq following the conflict.

As part of Operation Enduring Freedom in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, Italy contributed to the international operation in Afghanistan. Italian forces have contributed to ISAF, the NATO force in Afghanistan, and a Provincial reconstruction team and 5 Italian soldiers have died under ISAF. Italy has sent 411 troops, based on one infantry company from the 2nd Alpini Regiment tasked to protect the ISAF HQ, one engineer company, one NBC platoon, one logistic unit, as well as liaison and staff elements integrated into the operation chain of command. Italian forces also command a multinational engineer task force and have deployed a platoon of Italian military police. Three AB 212 helicopters also were deployed to Kabul.

The Italian Army did not take part in combat operations of the 2003 Second Gulf War, dispatching troops only after May 1, 2003 - when major combat operations were declared over by the U.S. President George W. Bush. Subsequently Italian troops arrived in the late summer of 2003, and began patrolling Nasiriyah and the surrounding area. On 26 May, 2006, Italian foreign minister Massimo d'Alema announced that the Italian forces would be reduced to 1,600 by June. As of June 2006 32 Italian troops have been killed in Iraq - with the greatest single loss of life coming on November 12, 2003 - a suicide car bombing of the Italian Carabinieri Corps HQ left a dozen Carabinieri, five Army soldiers, two Italian civilians, and eight Iraqi civilians dead.

As of 2006, Italy ranks third in the world in number of military forces operating in peacekeeping and peace-enforcing scenarios Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Lebanon following only the United States and United Kingdom.

A recent law promotes membership of the Italian Army guaranteeing volunteers post-Army careers in the Carabinieri, Italian State Police, Customs Police, State Forestry Department, Fire Department and other state bodies.

Source: Wikipedia