Italian navy aids US, NATO efforts to deter Russia
Stars and Stripes May 25, 2023
NAPLES, Italy — Italy’s participation in a NATO exercise in the North Atlantic demonstrates its commitment to bolstering the U.S.-led alliance’s efforts to check Russian aggression across the globe, Italian navy officials say.
For the crew of the Italian frigate Carlo Margottini, the U.S. 6th Fleet and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO-led Formidable Shield exercise tested their maritime mettle outside the Mediterranean Sea in challenging weather conditions.
“Those elements gave us a strong opportunity to understand how our performances are affected by the cold temperature during open-air activities,” said Cmdr. Giovanni Melchiorre, the ship’s commanding officer.
He noted that the crew also had to adapt to longer daylight hours, which affected some of the ship’s scheduling.
The exercise, which ends Friday, offered insights into how the ship’s Italian-made radar and European-made missile defense systems would perform against Russian threats, such as Kalibr and Zircon missiles, an Italian navy spokesperson said Tuesday.
And Formidable Shield was a proving ground for the training needed to address the “daily confrontation” between Russia’s Mediterranean flotilla and NATO ships, the spokesperson said.
Italian naval officials said in February that Russian ships were transiting the Mediterranean in numbers not seen in decades and were exhibiting an aggressive attitude.
Italy has participated in the biennial exercise since 2017. Italian air forces also participated in this year’s drills.
But Italy’s commitment to expanding its naval presence beyond the Mediterranean extends past participation in nearby exercises. Eleven Italian navy ships are deployed outside the Mediterranean in military and diplomatic operations, an all-time high, the spokesperson said.
Italian crews are sailing with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in the eastern Atlantic, patrolling Middle East waters and joining operations against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. And an Italian patrol ship in East Asia is cooperating with the U.S. 5th and 7th fleets, the spokesperson said.
Formidable Shield allowed the U.S. and Italian navies to build on shared experiences, such as multi-carrier operations, said 6th Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tyler Barker.
“Formidable Shield builds on that strong and enduring maritime relationship by allowing the U.S. and Italian armed forces to train together in more scenarios and situations,” Barker said.
Italian officials characterize the situation in the Mediterranean as reminiscent of that 40 years ago, but they stress that the global political environment, including the Russia-Ukraine war, and the country’s global strategy have changed significantly since the Cold War.
Online naval analysts have said satellite images appear to show fewer Russian ships operating in the Mediterranean recently, compared with the number after the February 2022 start of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Earlier this month, a U.S. Navy commander aboard the destroyer USS Arleigh Burke in Cyprus said Russian naval and air forces in the eastern Mediterranean were acting professionally, and no increased aggression or hostility had been noted, The Associated Press reported May 17.