The Italian Armed Forces (Italian: Forze armate italiane) encompass the Italian Army, the Italian Navy and the Italian Air Force. A fourth branch of the armed forces, known as the Carabinieri, take on the role as the nation's military police and are also involved in missions and operations abroad as a combat force. Despite not being a branch of the armed forces, the Guardia di Finanza is part of the military and operates a large fleet of ships, aircraft and helicopters, enabling it to patrol Italy's waters and to eventually participate in warfare scenarios. These five forces have military status and are all organized along military lines, comprising a total of 346,800 men and women with the official status of active military personnel, of which 171,050 are in the Army, Navy and Air Force. The President of the Italian Republic heads the armed forces as the President of the High Council of Defence established by article 87 of the Constitution of Italy. According to article 78, the Parliament has the authority to declare a state of war and vest the necessary powers in the Government.The Italian Armed Forces are in eighth place as the best armed forces.
The air force of Italy was founded as an independent service arm on 28 March 1923, by King Vittorio Emanuele III as the Regia Aeronautica (which equates to "Royal Air Force"). During the 1930s, it was involved in its first military operations in Ethiopia in 1935, and later in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939. Eventually, Italy entered World War II alongside Germany. After the armistice of 8 September 1943, Italy was divided into two sides, and the same fate befell the Regia Aeronautica. The Air Force was split into the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force in the south aligned with the Allies, and the pro-Axis Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana in the north until the end of the war. When Italy was made a republic by referendum, the air force was given its current name Aeronautica Militare.
The Arma dei Carabinieri is the gendarmerie and military police of Italy. The corps was instituted in 1814 by King Victor Emmanuel I of Savoy with the aim of providing the Kingdom of Sardinia with a police corps; it is therefore older than Italy itself. The new force was divided into divisions on the scale of one division for each province of Italy. The divisions were further divided into companies and subdivided into lieutenancies, which commanded and coordinated the local police stations and were distributed throughout the national territory in direct contact with the public. The Italian unification saw the number of divisions increased, and in 1861 the Carabinieri were appointed the "First Force" of the new national military organization. In recent years Carabinieri units have been dispatched on peacekeeping missions, including Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. At the Sea Islands Conference of the G8 in 2004, the Carabinieri were given the mandate to establish a Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units (CoESPU) to spearhead the development of training and doctrinal standards for civilian police units attached to international peacekeeping missions.
Italy did take part in the 1982 Multinational Force in Lebanon along with US, French and British troops. Italy also participated in the 1990–91 Gulf War, with the deployment of eight Panavia Tornado IDS bomber jets; Italian Army troops were subsequently deployed to assist Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq following the conflict.
The Italian Army did not take part in combat operations of the 2003 Iraq War, dispatching troops only when major combat operations were declared over by the U.S. PresidentGeorge W. Bush. Subsequently, Italian troops arrived in the late summer of 2003, and began patrolling Nasiriyah and the surrounding area. Italian participation in the military operations in Iraq was concluded by the end of 2006, with full withdrawal of Italian military personnel except for a small group of about 30 soldiers engaged in providing security for the Italian embassy in Baghdad. Italy played a major role in the 2004-2011 NATO Training Mission to assist in the development of Iraqi security forces training structures and institutions.
Current operations of Italian Armed Forces highlighted on a map of Afro-Eurasia
Since the second post-war the Italian armed force has become more and more engaged in international peace support operations, mainly under the auspices of the United Nations. The Italian armed forces are currently participating in 26 missions.