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Predator command and control: an Italian perspective.


Editorial Abstract: The author, an Italian Air Force officer, compares operations with Italian Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in Iraq with past and present US Predator doctrine and operations. After a brief overview of the significance of doctrine and command and control, Colonel Chianese analyzes problems he encountered during operations and recommends ways to improve strategic vision and policy for Italian UAV operations.

DURING OPERATION IRAQI Freedom, the Italian Air Force flew its new Predator fleet in support of combat operations. The Predator, an American-made, medium-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used for surveillance and reconnaissance, has a range of up to 400 nautical miles and can fly at altitudes up to 25,000 feet. Cruising at a speed of 70 knots, it can loiter for hours over targets. (1) Even though Italian Predator operations generally have been considered successful, some issues still need solving in order to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. Changes in the character of air warfare are occurring now, and the Italian air Force must adapt to them. During that service's Predator operations in Iraq, most problems originated in the command and control (C2) structure, reflecting a lack of strategic doctrine, an incomplete application of basic doctrinal principles, and an inadequate level of operational command.

In this article, the author compares his knowledge of the Italian Predator operation--derived from his experience as the Italian air component commander from December 2005 to April 2006 in Tallil, Iraq--with doctrine as well as past and present US Predator operations. After a brief overview of the significance of doctrine and C2, the article then introduces Italy's Operation Antica Babilonia (Operation "Ancient Babylon") and describes the C2 structure for the Italian Predator, pointing out the main problems encountered during operations and proposing some final recommendations to stimulate, develop, and integrate a strategic vision and policy for Italian UAVs in future expeditionary and national missions.

The Significance of Doctrine

the word doctrine has different connotations. For many people, it recalls lofty and arcane discussion by theorists and academicians that offers little to average military personnel trying to operate down at the unit level. The US air Force points this out very well in its basic doctrine manual, warning us against settling for the rules of thumb so often used in operations. (2) Instead, we must capture the accumulated body of knowledge, consciously and formally incorporating it into doctrine, which consists of fundamental principles by which militaries shape their actions in support of national objectives and, on operational and tactical levels, in support of the commander's intent. (3) Ideally, all major operations are based on a campaign plan that reflects doctrinal principles and tenets derived from the "accumulated body of knowledge" mentioned above.

But in some instances, the Italian Air Force has not followed these almost obvious recommendations, performing some military operations with neither a precise doctrinal strategy in mind nor a strategic directive--or simply without completely applying appropriate basic principles and tenets of doctrine. By way of accounting for this situation, historian Frank Futrell suggests that airmen, not known as prolific writers, have "developed an oral rather than a written tradition." (4) Additionally, some leaders believe that "adherence to dogmas has destroyed more armies and cost more battles than anything in war." (5) In fact, bad doctrine overly bounds and restricts creativity, and if "not properly developed, and especially if parochialism is allowed to creep in, doctrine will point to suboptimal solutions." (6) In the case of Italian Predator operations in Iraq, no strategic doctrine existed for UAVs in general or for Predators in particular. Although the first two reasons may have played some role, the main reason for not having such guidance was the lack of previous experience with this specific asset and insufficient time to develop sound, timely doctrine.

Even if UAVs are no longer considered a technical innovation in the United States, where research and development related to these aircraft are significantly advanced, they represent a significant leap forward for the Italian Air Force. But an Air Force needs more than advanced technology to provide effective capability. After purchasing Predator technology "off the shelf," Italy's air service rapidly fielded it in Iraq before developing a strategy or doctrine for employment. Predictably, its Predator force suffered the consequences, learned many valuable lessons, and should profit from this experience.

Command and Control of Airpower: Doctrinal Basics

In the realm of doctrine, C2 has always been considered an important issue for military organizations and leaders. A vital and integral part of war fighting, it requires careful planning and execution in order to be effective. In the beginning of Italian aviation history, the famous air theorist Giulio Douhet wrote that "the war in the air is the true war of movement, in which swift intuition, swifter decision, and still swifter execution are needed. it is the kind of warfare in which the outcome will largely be dependent upon the commander." (7) Indeed, Italians in Iraq learned what Americans had experienced in Serbia, just seven years before, as noted in the Air War over Serbia Report:
 In the air war over Serbia, command and control
 worked well at the tactical level. For example,
 the rapid re-targeting of attack aircraft against
 targets detected by the Predator unmanned aerial
 vehicle was innovative and quite successful. At
 the operational and strategic levels, however,
 Air Force leaders repeatedly noted two dominant
 problems. The first was that command and
 control structures and coordination procedures
 were overlapping and confusing. The principle
 of unity of command must be reinforced in future
 training, doctrine, and operations. (8)

The Italian Air Force experienced surprisingly similar problems in Iraq. That service could have better exploited American lessons learned with Predators to compensate for its lack of experience with this asset, especially in the C2 architecture, since US forces have operated UAVs in general and Predators in particular since 1995. (9)

At an even higher level, each military leader should be able to apply C2 principles and tenets universally since they are considered common knowledge. Unity of command, for example, "ensures concentration of effort for every objective under one responsible commander." (10) Simplicity calls for "avoiding unnecessary complexity in organizing, preparing, planning, andconductingmilitaryoperations." (11) One must also prioritize air and space power, thus assuring that demand for air and space forces will not overwhelm air commanders in future conflicts. (12) But these abstract principles require an operational capability to put them into practice. Gen Ronald R. Fogleman, former US air Force chief of staff, once said that "a commander without the proper C2 assets commands nothing except a desk." (13) Effective C2 becomes possible only by dedicating significant resources for equipping, training, and exercising C2 operators; thus, US air Force doctrine directs commanders to "ensure their people are fully proficient at using designated C2 systems when performing wartime duties." (14)

Antica Babilonia: Italy's Debut in UAV Operations

Italy's involvement with the multinational forces in Iraq began on 15 April 2003 when Franco Frattini, minister for foreign affairs, addressed Parliament on the government's intent to support the military coalition in Iraq. About a month later, Defense Minister Antonio Martino instructed the military to plan the deployment of a national contingent to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483. The resulting military operation, known as Antica Babilonia, began on 15 July 2003, consisting of an Italian joint task force formed around an army infantry brigade. (15)

At that time, Iraqi Freedom had just "ended major combat" and had started security, stability transition, and reconstruction operations. (16) Combined Joint Task Force 7 in Baghdad included two US-led multinational divisions in north and northwest Iraq, a Polish-led multinational division in south-central Iraq, and a British-led multinational division in southeast Iraq. By 15 May 2004, coalition forces had organized into two commands, Multi-national Force-Iraq as the operational command, and Multi-National Corps-Iraq as the tactical command, with italy's participation described by a national operational directive. (17) For Antica Babilonia, three Italian general officers assumed key positions in the Baghdad headquarters. (18) A sector within the British multinational division was assigned as an area of responsibility (AOR) to the Italian joint task force, commanded by a fourth Italian general. (19)

Unfortunately, the end of major combat did not mean that peace had returned to Iraq. The Italian 3,000-soldier contingent, based in An-Nasirya, the capital of Dhi Qar province, faced violent conflict between US-led coalition forces and insurgents. (20) For the most part, antica Babilonia focused on stabilization operations, security-sector reforms, training, and nation-building measures. (21) Deployed forces and assets underwent adjustments according to the changing threat. Land forces were augmented by a joint air task group of two helicopter squadrons and, since January 2005, by a UAV squadron equipped with RQ-1 Predators for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. (22)

Predator Command and Control Architecture: A Complicated Puzzle

The following observation, found in a US joint publication on multinational operations, certainly applied to Antica Babilonia: "No single command structure meets the needs of every multinational command but one absolute remains constant; political considerations will heavily influence the ultimate shape of the command structure." (23) Italy, however, did not always keep in mind the principle of simplicity when it established the Predator C2 system. in fact, it opted for a model that allowed for coalition employment of its forces but also ensured national control, particularly for key assets (fig. 1). Drawing on its experience with the north Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Italy used the latter's doctrine to define its command relationships. For example, the Italian Capo di Stato Maggiore della Difesa (defense chief of staff) always wields operational command (OPCOM), the highest level of command in the military hierarchy, comparable to combatant command in the US military. His functions are similar to those of the US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, although the Italian officer has command authority over the service chiefs. The defense chief of staff in Rome retained OPCOM of the Italian forces deployed to Iraq. The following command relationships applied:

* tactical control (TACON): "the detailed and, usually, local direction and control of movements or manoeuvres necessary to accomplish missions or tasks assigned." (24)

* operational control (OPCON): "authority delegated to a commander to direct forces assigned so that the commander may accomplish specific missions or tasks which are usually limited by function, time, or location; to deploy units concerned, and to retain or assign tactical control of those units. It does not include authority to assign separate employment of components of the units concerned. Neither does it, of itself, include administrative or logistic control." (25)

* OPCOM: "authority granted a commander to assign missions or tasks to subordinate commanders, to deploy units, to reassign forces, and to retain or delegate operational and/or tactical control as he or she deems necessary.... it does not include responsibility for administration." (26)

* Administrative control (ADCON): "direction or exercise of authority over subordinate or other organizations in respect to administration and support, including organization of service forces, control of resources and equipment, personnel management, unit logistics, individual and unit training, readiness, mobilization, demobilization, discipline and other matters not included in the operational missions of the subordinate or other organizations." (27)

OPCON of most Italian forces, however, was transferred to the British commander of Multi-National Division-Southeast in Basra. The Predators represented a significant exception to this command relationship in that the Comandante del Comando Operativo di Vertice Interforze (COI) or chief of the permanent joint task force retained OPCON of those UAVs as a national-only asset, made available to the coalition on an excess-availability basis. The COI and his staff plan, prepare, and direct joint military operations and exercises for the defense chief of staff. The COI does not deploy from his location in Rome but can deploy a theater joint task force with OPCON of assigned assets. (28)

In Antica Babilonia, the chief of the permanent joint task force retained Predator OPCON, unlike that of helicopters, for all missions within the AOR, exercised through the national contingent commander, who also commanded the Italian joint task force on the coalition side and represented unity of command of the Italian contingent through a dual-hatted arrangement. Even though the same person holds these positions (national contingent commander and commander of the Italian joint task force), the remainder of this article uses the terms separately to indicate the chain of command (national only for national contingent commander, coalition for Italian joint task force) under discussion.

On the other hand, missions requested by other Italian national agencies and the coalition, if not in direct support of the Italian contingent, required case-by-case direct approval from the chief of the permanent joint task force, who exercised OPCON directly over Predator operations. The air component commander, head of an air-forward command element acting both as tasking authority for the Predator squadron and coordinating agency with Iraqi Freedom's combined air operations center (CAOC) in Al Udeid, Qatar, exercised TACON of the UAVs. (29) Although helicopters and UAVs were part of the same joint air task group of the Italian joint task force, the former fell under TACON of the joint air task group commander but the latter under TACON of the air component commander. (30) The commander of the joint air task group also exercised ADCON over the UAV personnel.

In summary, the Italian defense chief of staff assigned the mission and tasks (under his OPCOM authority) to a different subordinate commander--the COI commander or chief of the permanent joint task force--in order to deploy a joint task force in Iraq. The chief of the permanent joint task force then delegated OPCON to the joint task force commander, except for Predators. Figure 1 shows the dual-hatted relationship of the Italian joint task force on the left of the diagram (representing the coalition chain of command) and the national contingent commander on the right of the diagram (representing the Italian chain of command). US Air Force doctrine calls for caution when "multihatting" commanders because doing so could distract them from focusing on the right level of war at the right time. On the other hand, not multihatting a commander may degrade unity of effort, which, as we will see later, occurred in the case of Italian Predator activities at the tactical level.

Unity of Command and Unity of Effort

Unity of command is a principle of war. (31) As stated before, such concepts are not always taken into consideration, as was the case with Italian Predators in Iraq. Figure 1 shows that the Predator squadron had two separate lines of authority: a relationship with the commander of the joint air task group (ADCON) and one with the air component commander (TACON). Despite having a single commander at the operational level--the national contingent commander / commander of the Italian joint task force--in practice, this double relationship meant that two different tactical commanders existed for the same UAV squadron. This apparently minor issue turned out to be one of the main sources of C2 problems.

Presumably, the original rationale behind this structure entailed having a single commander for all air assets (commander of the joint air task group). But when Predators were "plugged in" to what was a joint helicopter squadron in 2005, headquarters in Rome required a national-only line of command and introduced the air component commander. (32) While the air component commander exercised TACON over the Predators, the joint air task group commander had responsibility for their administration and support. this arrangement often caused friction.

In 2005 official quarterly reports from Italian air component commanders to their superior command in Italy showed continuous evidence of confusion, rivalry, and overlapping authority between officers appointed as air component commanders and joint air task group commanders. (33) Personnel assigned to the UAV squadron frequently referred their problems either to the air component commander or the joint air task group commander, without really understanding who was responsible for what. The national operational directive lacked sufficient detail to distinguish between the authority of the joint air task group commander and air component commander. According to that directive, the joint air task group commander was responsible for providing all daily support to personnel and for filing efficiency reports for every single Italian aviator deployed in Tallil, Iraq, except the air component commander. He commanded a full staff, which enabled robust support in ensuring the execution of his decisions.

On the other hand, although the air component commander had only one officer and one warrant officer directly supporting him, he exercised full authority over Predator missions and tactical command over personnel involved in them, from planning through execution. The authority of the air component commander, typically functional in nature, was often misinterpreted by some operators and sometimes by the two commanders themselves, especially in overlapping activities involving both supporting and operational tasks such as management of the intelligence-exploitation cell, distribution of imagery-intelligence products, and management of technical personnel. This slowed decision-making processes, and personnel appeared generally confused and sometimes even reluctant to speak up about problems. For example, in May 2006, when an Italian UAV crashed due to a malfunction, there was no specific, detailed plan for its emergency recovery. (34) Although analysts had predicted the problem in previous months and despite intensive effort to lay down plans and procedures, lack of a decision about who had approval authority prevented agreement on a final plan. (35)

Because of the location of the joint air task group commander and air component commander under separate chains of command, unity of effort required a strong working relationship and a shared sense of mission. The two commanders eventually committed to daily meetings in tallil to solve issues related to UAV C2, but one should not consider this a permanent fix. Competition for resources, lack of understanding of aircraft capabilities, and competing mission priorities could destroy even the most cordial arrangement.

One must not leave the effective C2 of precious air assets to chance. Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, tells us that "unity of command ensures concentration of effort for every objective under one responsible commander. This principle emphasizes that all efforts should be directed and coordinated toward a common objective." (36) AFDD 1 also calls for centralized control and decentralized execution to assure concentrated effort. (37) During World War II, the Allies learned from their mistakes and adapted their doctrine accordingly:
 As Supreme Allied Commander in Europe,
 General Eisenhower invoked new doctrine by
 insisting upon a single air commander reporting
 directly to him. The Allied campaign in
 North Africa during World War II began with air
 power parceled out to various commanders....
 the limitations of this arrangement quickly became
 apparent, particularly during the battle at
 Kasserine Pass. During the 1943 Casablanca Conference,
 Roosevelt and Churchill approved a
 new command structure that centralized control
 under an airman. This new concept quickly found
 its way into army doctrine: "Control of available
 airpower must be centralized and command must
 be exercised through the Air Force commander if
 this inherent flexibility and ability to deliver a decisive
 blow are to be fully exploited." (38)

The above example draws its lessons learned from one of the largest conflicts in history, whereas the Italian air effort in Iraq drew support from a relatively small number of helicopters and Predators (10 and four, respectively). Unity of command, unity of effort, and simplicity constitute fundamental principles of war that one must apply across the range of military operations and at all levels of war. (39) The Italian Predator operation should not have been an exception to this basic doctrine.

Consequences of Misplaced Operational Control

OPCON of the Italian Predators during Antica Babilonia resulted in several problems, such as inappropriate employment in relation to their capabilities and characteristics, slower decision-making processes, and confused target prioritization. (40) Simply "falling in on" the existing joint task force clearly showed a lack of operational innovation. For instance, the headquarters of the joint task force would request UAV support with little or no advance notice in response to the immediate tactical needs of ground troops, as if the Predators were an air-defense asset ready to be "scrambled." This practice probably resulted from the Italian joint task force's familiarity with the pointer, a man-portable, low-altitude, short-range small UAV. However, a Predator, unlike a Pointer, needs at least one hour of ground checks, so by the time it reaches the area of operations, it is too late to meet the immediate intelligence requirements of ground forces. This procedure initially caused significant problems with the CAOC in Al Udeid because, although Italian helicopters did not not require inclusion in the CAOC's air tasking order, the Predators did. Predators, which usually fly at higher altitudes than helicopters, require air-traffic deconfliction. Failure to follow airspace-control orders and air-traffic procedures greatly increases the risk of a mishap with other aircraft flying in the same altitude block.

Because the CAOC included no Italian liaison officer, the Predator mission had no advocate and frequently lacked the information and coordination channels to make timely decisions. On several occasions, the author witnessed ineffective Predator missions because he could not obtain air-traffic deconfliction over busy areas such as Baghdad or last-minute changes to the air tasking order. Flights were sometimes cancelled at the last minute, resulting in frustration and wasted effort for both the Predator crews and the tasking agencies in Rome.

When broadcasting capability of satellite imagery became available and the chief of the permanent joint task force in Rome began to receive Predator imagery, strategic needs soon trumped tactical ones, and the C2 architecture appeared even more inappropriate than before. When, for example, other commands--such as the British in Basra or intelligence agencies in Rome--tasked specific strategic missions, only vague priority criteria existed to deconflict missions assigned at the tactical level. This situation forced the air component commander to seek clarification and case-by-case authorizations from Rome, a task made even more difficult by limited secure communications.

Since Predators originally "fell in" as an organic tactical asset under the deployed joint task force commander, no special mechanism was in place at higher levels of command to deal with immediate operational issues. There was no continuously functioning operations center with visibility or decisional authority over UAV missions in Rome, the source of many strategic Predator missions. One had to process necessary clearances during working hours, coordinate extensively with different offices, and--since no one was officially in charge--obtain authorizations from the highest levels. This resulted in confusion, frustration at all levels of command, a slower decision-making process, and unclear prioritization of missions. Additionally, some Italian joint task force commanders regarded Predators as a limited resource for the fulfilment of the Italian contingent's mission in Iraq, despite the significant expenditure of money needed to rent the satellite bandwidth required to fly strategic missions tasked by Rome. (41) These examples demonstrate why we must take a fresh look at our doctrine and ad hoc C2, particularly the assumption that UAVs should remain under a land component commander deployed in-theater.

In doctrinal terms, Americans have never assigned Predator OPCON to a commander deployed into a theater. The Italian choice could prove dangerous because of the strong temptation to control these aircraft at the tactical level, which would prevent optimum employment and even abort operational innovation. In particular, one could conclude that Predators are too expensive if one uses them simply to watch what happens on the other side of the hill--a role for which pointers and other kinds of UAV shave been specifically engineered. Imperfect understanding of the characteristics and missions of Predators could jeopardize the potential roles of UAVs in the Italian armed forces since their cost-effectiveness might appear insufficient.

In the near future, technology will offer Italians better opportunities to link Predator imagery to a strategic headquarters in italy or a CAOC anywhere in the world. UAVs may have an attack role, and their flights will require integration into a more complex and robust air effort--likely at a CAOC. One will understand and employ them as more than a tactical asset, but current Italian C2 relationships and capabilities are not up to the task. Learning how to command and control UAVs from a distance takes time and resources--improvisation is not an option.

Operational Control: An Examination of Alternatives

Ultimately, one develops doctrinal principles from real-world experience. (42) In Iraq, the chief of the permanent joint task force chose to delegate OPCON of UAVs to the national contingent commander, who, in practical terms, served as the land component commander deployed into the AOR (Air Force personnel comprised only 3 percent of the total Italian force). (43) this modus operandi--assigning OPCON of air assets to the deployed joint task force commander--has been used in every past Italian expeditionary joint operation, and the joint task force commander is usually an army officer. But since 1995 Americans have never assigned Predator OPCON to a deployed land component commander, and we should remember that US forces have accumulated more than a decade of operational experience with UAVs.

The first European deployment of US Predators occurred during Operation nomad Vigil in April 1995 in support of Joint task Force provide promise, based in Gjader, Albania. The joint task force's headquarters provided tasking through the Southern Region Joint Operations Intelligence Center in Naples, Italy. The NATO CAOC in Vicenza, Italy, performed the required airspace coordination. (44) The second European deployment occurred in March 1996 for Operation Nomad Endeavor in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, with Predators based in Taszar, Hungary. Tasking came from a forward element of US European Command through the US National Intelligence Cell at Vicenza, Italy. OPCON of the Predators remained with European Command, and NATO's CAOC exercised TACON. (45)

One finds the same architecture in 1999 during Operation allied Force in Kosovo, where the united States used Predators for the first time in the targeting role. (46) Before Allied Force, Predators could transmit targeting imagery to their operators on the ground as part of the intelligence-collection network. During the Kosovo operation, the Americans invented new processes to exploit Predator data feeds with advanced technology and procedures for analysis. Doing so enabled review of Predator video in real time, and analysts immediately provided pilots with the location of mobile Serb targets. In Afghanistan and Iraq, tasking came from US Central Command's CAOC in Al Udeid, while imagery was centrally analyzed in the United States, where operators remotely controlled the Predator missions and received imagery via satellite communications. (47) So, forward air-command elements exercised TACON only--limited to launching, recovering, and maintaining the aircraft; in none of these missions did the Americans delegate OPCON to a land component commander deployed in the AOR, as the Italians have done in Iraq.

This does not mean second-guessing Italian military planners since at the beginning of the operations, that was the only option available. In fact, until Predators reached full operational capability, one could broadcast their imagery only within the theater, so OPCON by any element outside the theater would have destroyed the usefulness of near-real-time imagery. Surprisingly though, even the attainment of full capability on 17 February 2006 changed nothing in the C2 structure, raising the question "Why?" (48)

One possible explanation is that the Italian Air Force has mainly deployed helicopters in past joint or combined expeditionary operations. (49) Typically considered an organic asset of terrestrial units according to Italian army doctrine, helicopters have always remained under the OPCON of the deployed task force commander since they better served tactical, rather than strategic, roles. Over the years, this has reinforced a doctrinal mind-set that if one had to deploy land forces, any air asset (usually helicopters) would come under the authority of a land component commander, who also headed the joint task force. So when Predators first deployed to Iraq, a lack of operational experience and the absence of Predator doctrine led planners to assume they could be managed just like helicopters; thus, the deployed task force commander exercised OPCON of these aircraft. Another plausible reason for this choice is that the Italian joint task force already included a reconnaissance, surveillance, and target-acquisition army regiment equipped with pointer UAVs. (50) the similar roles of Predators and Pointers may have led to the assumption that one could manage their C2 in the same way.


Based on the considerations discussed so far, what would represent the most appropriate C2 architecture for Italian Predators in future expeditionary operations? First, the Italian Air Force should review its air doctrine from an expeditionary perspective and articulate a strategic vision for near-term and midterm UAV operations. It should incorporate current and future UAV capabilities and missions for supporting the joint force with near-real-time reconnaissance and surveillance and possibly target acquisition, as well as widely accepted doctrine on C2. (51) Additionally, UAV units should support a single chain of command. (52) The Italian experience in Iraq has confirmed what US doctrine recognized as early as 1993: when "UAV units are tasked to support more than one command ... simultaneously, degradation of effectiveness can result." (53)

Second, UAV doctrine should also emphasize the appointment of a single air component commander, rather than two commanders, in order to grant better unity of command and simplicity. Deployed air units, typically a joint air task group, should remain subordinate to a single deployed commander with tactical command over all air assets and should receive a single air tasking order from the Italian air and space operations center (AOC), NATO CAOC, or coalition CAOC, depending on the nature of the conflict.

Third, doctrine should describe the roles of the national AOC and lay a foundation for determining the necessary capabilities and resources it requires. (54) the US Air Force has dedicated tremendous effort to standing up its aOCs as a "weapon system" to support joint and coalition operations. (55) For instance, it awarded a $589 million contract to Lockheed Martin Corporation to serve as the aOC Weapon System integrator, evolving C2 centers to support net-centric joint and coalition operations worldwide. (56) Although the Italian Air Force may have neither the requirements nor resources to go this far, it does need to carefully determine the aOC's role in the C2 of its UAVs, the ways in which it can play a role in better integrating UAV operations, and the resources it will apply toward the problem. Figure 2 provides a basic sample layout for future C2 architectures in expeditionary operations that assumes full connectivity with deployed UAVs: (1) a single, dual-hatted airman for helicopters (or other air assets) and Predators (unity of command and simplicity) and (2) Predator OPCON assigned to the Italian air Force's joint force air component commander in Italy and exercised through the AOC.

Giving OPCON of UAVs exclusively to the joint force air component commander will ensure command of Air Forces by an airman. the peculiarity of air assets in general, and Predators in particular, requires specifically trained personnel and consolidated experience in the C2 of the air domain--better achieved by an airman. AFDD 1 makes it clear: "the axiom that 'airmen work for airmen, and the senior airman works for the joint force commander ...' not only preserves the principle of unity of command, it also embodies the principle of simplicity." (57) As Predators and future UAVs move closer to Douhet's original vision, becoming a decisive asset in a "true war of movement," they will indeed require "swift intuition" and "swifter decision." It follows, then, that we must empower the joint force air component commander to both command and control.


Antica Babilonia was the first military operation with Predator UAVs for the Italian armed forces. Because the general trend in military aviation is toward unmanned systems, we must be ready. The Italian air Force, in particular, must ensure that its unmanned-aviation technology is paired with sound, timely doctrine--starting with the fundamentals of C2.

If properly applied without overly bounding or restricting creativity, basic principles and tenets such as unity of command, unity of effort, simplicity, priority, airmen commanding airmen, and appropriate levels of C2 will offer a good starting point for future UAV doctrine. In the specific case of Predators, we should not limit lessons learned to Italian national experience. Rather, we must include other valuable perspectives, such as those of the Americans, since they have operated the same system worldwide for more than a decade. Our way forward will require not only an investment in technology but also an intellectual investment. As Douhet's proud successors, we cannot morally afford to ignore his teachings. For the Italian air Force, the time to change is now.


(1.) Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v., "MQ-1 Predator," (accessed 8 February 2007).

(2.) Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 17 november 2003, 1.

(3.) Ibid., 3.

(4.) Quoted in Ibid., 2.

(5.) J. F. C. Fuller quoted in ibid., 4.

(6.) Ibid.

(7.) Quoted in AFDD 2-8, Command and Control, 16 February 2001, 1. (This document was replaced by a new version as of 1 June 2007.)

(8.) Quoted in ibid., 13.

(9.) "RQ-1 Predator MAE UAV, MQ-9a Predator B,", 20 October 2006,

(10.) AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 20.

(11.) Ibid., 26.

(12.) ibid., 32.

(13.) Quoted in AFDD 2-8, Command and Control, 43.

(14.) Ibid.

(15.) Ministero della Difesa, "Comando Operativo di Vertice interforze (COi), Cosa e," 2003,

(16.) On 1 May 2003, from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, Pres. George W. Bush declared major combat ended. "president Bush announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have ended," The White House, 1 May 2003,

(17.) "Multi-National Force-Iraq," SourceWatch, 2 September2006, The national operational directive (Direttiva Operativa Nazionale in Italian) is the military directive describing the assigned mission and C2 relationship among units. Direttiva Operativa nazionale COi-O-153-r (roma: Comando Operativo di Vertice interforze, April 2005).

(18.) The three generals held the following positions: chief, coalition operations (Multi-national Force-Iraq), deputy commander/ITSNR (Multi-national Corps-Iraq), and deputy commander (Multi-national Division-Southeast). Direttiva Operativanazionale COI-OPR-153-R. (restricted) information extracted is unclassified.

(19.) An Italian brigadier general was permanently appointed as deputy commander, Multi-national DivisionSoutheast. Direttiva Operativa nazionale COI-OPR-153-R. (restricted) information extracted is unclassified.

(20.) Wikipedia: L'enciclopedia libera, s.v., "Guerra in Iraq" (see "il coinvolgimento Italiano"), (accessed 5 February 2007).

(21.) Direttiva Operativa nazionale COI-OPR-153-R. (restricted) information extracted is unclassified.

(22.) Ibid.

(23.) Joint publication (Jp) 3-16, Multinational Operations, 7 March 2007, ii-5.

(24.) NATO Standardization agency, aap-6 (2007), NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions (English and French), 2-t-2,

(25.) Ibid., 2-O-3.

(26.) Ibid.

(27.) AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 93. the Italian armed forces refer to aDCOn as comando gerarchico--typical of an air expeditionary unit commander. normally, this authority includes tactical command over operational units, so the Predator's case has been an exception.

(28.) Ministero della Difesa, "Comando Operativo."

(29.) For this operation, the term air component commander identifies the uaV (only) air component commander. His authority did not affect helicopter assets, which remained under a separate authority (commander of the joint air task group). the author was uaV air component commander from December 2005 to May 2006. Direttiva Operativa nazionale COi-O-153-r.

(30.) The joint air task group (Reparto Operativo Autonomo in Italian) was based on an Air Force helicopter squadron for combat search and rescue and a dual-role (attack and mobility) army squadron. ibid.

(31.) AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 20.

(32.) The joint air task group was based on two Air Force squadrons (one equipped with helicopters for search and rescue and the other equipped with Predators for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions) and one army squadron (equipped with attack helicopters).

(33.) The air component commander reported daily and quarterly to the Italian Comando Operativo Forze aeree (COFa), based in poggio renatico (Ferrara), italy. Commanded by the joint force air component commander, the COFa had only logistic support authority over Predators. nevertheless it received quarterly reports from the air component commander and joint air task group commander, as the Air Force command.

(34.) Official news of the Predator accident was reported to the joint force air component commander in italy in May 2006 at the COFa during a briefing by the air component commander on the postmission report. this information has also appeared in the quarterly Operation antica Babilonia report, but details remain classified. On the Web, one can find general information in specialized international magazines. See "Italian Predator Crashes in Iraq,", 18 May 2006, news/news_article/1617/Italian-predator-Crashes-in -Iraq.html.

(35.) Author's participation in postmission briefings and experience drafting procedures for Predator recovery in Operation antica Babilonia.

(36.) AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 20.

(37.) Ibid., 29.

(38.) AFDD 2-8, Command and Control, 5.

(39.) JP 3-0, Joint Operations, 17 September 2006, ii-1.

(40.) "Operazione Antica Babilonia," air Component Commander quarterly report (poggio renatico: Comando Operativo Forze aeree, May 2006).

(41.) Ibid.

(42.) AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 7.

(43.) Direttiva Operativa nazionale COi-O-153-r (roma: Comando Operativo di Vertice interforze, April 2005).

(44.) "RQ-1 Predator Mae uaV, MQ-9a Predator B."

(45.) Ibid.

(46.) Statement of General John P. Jumper, Commander, United States Air Forces in Europe, 106th Cong., 1st sess., 26 October 1999,

(47.) According to the author's experience in the daily uaV tasking process in tallil, all Predator missions had to be coordinated with US Central Command air Forces' CAOC in al udeid, qatar, which disseminated the air tasking order after the appropriate air-traffic deconfliction.

(48.) "Operazione Antica Babilonia."

(49.) After World War II, Italian tactical aircraft have flown in joint and combined combat operations in only two cases: Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991, the first combat mission since World War ii) and allied Force in 1999. "L'aeronautica Militare Oggi: La Guerra del Golfo," Aeronautica Militare, 9 September 2002, &idente=1394; and Wikipedia: L'enciclopedia libera, s.v., "Operazione allied Force" (see "La partecipazione Italiana"), La_partecipazione_Italiana.

(50.) Direttiva Operativa Nazionale COi-O-153-r.

(51.) Unlike the US Predator, the current version of the Italian air Force's Predator lacks target-designation capability.

(52.) JP 3-55.1, Doctrine for Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Support for Joint Operations, 14 April 1993. even if it is no longer current, this publication underlines some capstones and tenets that remain important, such as those in chapter 2, "employment." See doddir/dod/jp3-55_1/3-55_1c2.htm.

(53.) Ibid.

(54. The Italian aOC is presently embedded in a major command--the COFa (see note 33), colocated with natO's CAOC 5 in poggio renatico, italy. this means that the integration between the national and natO C2 functions could also be enhanced for future coalition uaV operations if natO's joint force air component commander and his aOC exercise OPCON.

(55.) The air and Space Operations Center--Weapon System, an/USq-163 Falconer, for example, is the senior element of the US theater air control system. the cost of this program in 2004 was $26.982 million. See various unclassified exhibits regarding the air and Space Operation Center--Weapon System, February 2005, Y2006/airForce/0207410F.pdf.

(56.) John McHale, "ESC awards $589 Million aOC Weapon-System integrator Contract," Military and Aerospace Electronics, October 2006, article_display.cfm?article_id=275862.

(57.) AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, x.
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Author:Chianese, Ludovico
Publication:Air & Space Power Journal
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Sep 22, 2007
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