Maintaining Deterrence and Defence: Italy’s Improving Submarine Capability Strengthens NATO’s Southern Flank

Italy’s new diesel-electric submarine (SSK) – being delivered under the U212 Near Future Submarine (NFS) programme – will arrive at a time when new submarine capabilities are having significant effect in an increasingly contested underwater domain. The boats’ improved capabilities will reinforce the output the Italian Navy is already generating with its Todaro class Type 212A SSKs.

In February 2023, NATO hosted its annu- al, Mediterranean-based anti-submarine warfare (ASW) exercise, ‘Dynamic Manta’, in the Ionian Sea off southern Italy. As ‘Dy- namic Manta’ takes  place on the door-step of the Eastern Mediterranean/Black Sea region, it is very much a real-world exercise. Since the return of great power competition and naval rivalry at sea, the region has become a critical stage within undergoing significant transformation, adding capabilities that support both national and international interests. This includes F-35s onboard the aircraft carrier Cavour, improved amphibious  capability the wider Euro-Atlantic theatre, as NATO navies and the Russian Federation  Navy use operational presence to joust for stra- tegic position across the Eastern Mediter- ranean, the Black Sea, and the Bosporus/ Dardanelles straits maritime choke point that connects them. The region’s geo- strategic significance is being borne out in how it has become a critical access and presence point in the Russo-Ukraine War. For NATO, the Italian Navy provides major presence in Central and Eastern Mediter- ranean waters. The Italian Navy has been based around the assault ship Giuseppe Garibaldi, surface punch provided for anti- air warfare and ASW tasks by its Bergami- ni class FREMM multi-mission frigates, and a recapitalised and expanded submarine force built around its Type 212A fleet.

One Type 212A was deployed on ‘Dynamic Manta’, according to NATO Maritime Com- mand (MARCOM). MARCOM and the na- vies themselves tend not to release names of submarines operating at sea. However, social media outlets  suggested  the boat was the second-in-class Scirè (S 527).