March 31, 2022No Comments

ITSS Verona 2021/22 Webinar Series: “The Russian-Ukrainian Conflict: What’s Next?” with Tracey German (KCL)

For its forth event of the 2021/22 Webinar Series, entitled "The Russian-Ukrainian Conflict: What's Next?", ITSS Verona members Ludovica Brambilla, Davide Gobbicchi and Fabrizio Napoli (from the Russia and Post-Soviet Space Team) discuss with Dr Tracey German (KCL) - one of Europe's main experts on Russian affairs - the status of the conflict in Ukraine, narratives, strategies, winners and losers, and political, social, cultural, economic implications for all actors involved.

Do not miss on the other ITSS Verona webinars, which are available at the following link:

October 22, 2021No Comments

Loitering Munitions, the new frontier of XXI° Century warfare

By: Marco Verrocchio, Danilo delle Fave

Source Image:


In recent years, the development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has increased rapidly, thanks to the successful use in unconventional warfare theatres, as well as for civil purposes, such as environmental disasters. Ranging from Aerial Reconnaissance to package delivery, their use is now consolidated all over the world in everyday life. Due to the large use of them in different fields, there is a significant interest in developing drones conceived to accomplish specific military purposes. Among them, today a new kind of drones is proving very popular among armed forces: The loitering munitions swarm. This weapon system combines the advantages of a UAV with the specifics of a swarm SAM rocket system with anti-armor, anti-personnel and anti-material targets. Called also “suicide drone” or “kamikaze drone”, a loitering munition differs from a conventional UAV because it is only equipped with an explosive warhead in order to crash towards the target. 

Although the interest in this kind of weapon rose recently, the development of an unmanned flying bomb can be tracked back to Nazi’s Germany. The German V-1 (Vergeltungswaffen 1 - retaliation weapon 1) can be considered as an ancestor of the loitering munitions weapon. It was an unmanned jet propelled flying bomb used to terrorize the civilians of Allied cities, especially London and Antwerp. In addition to be unmanned and one-target, the V-1 shared different features with the current loitering system, including low-cost production and easy assembly. Nowadays the modern loitering munition has been developed on a large scale by the Israeli Harop loitering munition system: presented in February 2009 at the Aero-India show, he represents the main model of modern loitering munitions for airforces around the world.

The modern use of loitering munitions

At the beginning, the initial model of loitering munition was designed to autonomously attack one kind of defensive installation, with the development of the communication system, technology, processing and miniaturized sensors, today the loitering munitions can serve a range of functions in war once reserved for crewed aircraft or artillery.

An example of their use during a conflict, and how they can influence the strategy of the warfare system, was during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, where both Azerbaijan and Armenia used the loitering munitions in order to destroy the anti-air defences of the opponent. In addition to that, the loitering munitions can be exploited to turn into a missile and crash into a target without needing direct human supervision. 

This action was seen last year in march, when a drone was used in this way against a human target. The episode happened in Libya, and there was a convoy of the Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar, which was attacked by drones, that may have included a Kargu-2 autonomous quadcopter and loitering munitions. 

Through the use of the loitering munitions during conflict or not, it is clear the fundamental importance of the airspace in the battlefield and moreover the necessity to establish a regulation of their use, because at the moment this technology, which enables this weapon system to be used without human control and to target people, is being used without regulation.

The future of unmanned warfare 

Loitering munitions and its systematic use has highlighted the new frontiers of warfare. As proven by recent experiments and projects, militaries around the world are developing programs in order to introduce the use of massive swarm attacks by drones, and countermeasures to drone warfare. Loitering munitions represents a peculiar use of drone warfare, which could be exploited primarily in the context of hybrid warfare. The most advanced militaries have the technology to implement countermeasures, from electromagnetic interference to anti-drone drones, while middle and small armies are the most affected by these cheap and effective weapons. 

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has shown how efficient are the loitering munitions against old SAM systems, which were the main target of the drone strikes by Azeri army: after annihilating air defences, the aviation had proceed to operate without the risks of anti-aircraft fire, and with the help of the loitering munitions, it destroyed the Armenian fortification, allowing a swift victory. Without loitering munitions, the war would have been dragged into a stalemate, as the Armenians would have entrenched themselves with the help of the mountains. Therefore, these new weapons would probably see implementation by military forces, like Iran and Turkey,  who would provide their proxies with them. For instance, the Houtis or Hamas have the interest to economically logorate their adversaries, Saudi Arabia and Israel: the high cost of air defence systems as the THAAD, could be exploited to increase the “war fatigue” of their enemies, with the use of cheap loitering munitions. 

Unmanned warfare is going to revolutionize the way in which war is fought: low tech will present the main challenge to the advanced militaries around the world, since the massive use of loitering munitions can saturate defence systems, no matter how advanced they are. The mix between high tech and low tech could drop to its knee even the mightiest army: loitering munitions represents pre-eminently the spearhead of low tech warfare in modern wars. 

September 23, 2021No Comments

Carl von Clausewitz: a milestone in the History of Strategic Thought

By: Danilo delle Fave, Javier Olaechea and Marco Verrocchio.

Carl von Clausewitz was born at Burg, in Prussia on the 1st of June 1780. His family had Polish origins and belonged to the Prussian middle-class. Aged twelve, in 1792 he entered the Prussian army as standard-bearer. He received his baptism by fire during the siege of Mainz in 1793, but he showed to be more interested in war, theory, and strategy. 

He started reading Frederick the Great’s “General Principles of War” and moved on to studying Machiavelli, Montecuccoli and other military strategy theorists. Clausewitz lived in a culturally successful period for European and German philosophy, so his thought was influenced by his contemporary philosophers such as Kant, Fichte, Schiller, and Hegel. During the war with France, he was present at the battle of Auerstaedt. After being held prisoner in Paris for a year, he was convinced of the need to reform the army and to apply new strategies. 

Once back in Prussia, Clausewitz joined General Gerhard von Scharnhorst in the attempt to reform the Army. Together they introduced conscription and limited the privileges of the nobility in the army, to create a more meritocratic military. Clausewitz also proposed the idea of “People in Arms”, a reserve force to defend the country on the side-lines. In 1810, Clausewitz married Maria von Brhul, a woman of noble origins close to the Court. When in 1812, Prussia (under the pressure of Napoleon) sided with France against Russia, Clausewitz and other officers joined the Tsarist troops.

He believed that the most dangerous enemy was Napoleon rather than Russia and soon he became an officer of tsarist-Prussian troops, fighting also at Borodino. In 1813, He played a key role in convincing General Yorck to sign the armistice of Tauroggen. Until the end of Napoleon, Clausewitz fought in the greatest battles in Western Europe such as the Battle of the Nations and Ligny. The period between 1818 and his death (occurred in 1831) was one of the more prosperous times for his studies. Clausewitz’s masterpiece, Vom Kriege (On War), was published in 1832, one year after his death. It was published thanks to the will of his wife Maria von Brhul, who also contributed to writing the introduction of the book. One (if not the only one) case of a woman who wrote an introduction to a classic of war strategy. 

 Why is Carl Von Clausewitz so important for our time? 

Carl von Clausewitz’s works have been studied extensively for 150 years by dedicated scholars and Clausewitz is acknowledged as one of the few great writers on war. Many aspects of his ideas and concepts have received much attention in recent years and continue to remain relevant and are often used in today’s doctrines and for civil-military educational processes. The most important theoretical aspects of war and strategy expounded by Clausewitz, some of which are enduring contributions to contemporary thought and still relevant to today’s strategists.

The first is "War is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means" and the second is " War is not a mere act of policy, but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means". The third is “War is an act of force to compel out enemy to do our will”. In addition to these quotes, Clausewitz is important to our time for the meaning of war, but also for his purpose, and suggest to task to follow to reach our goals on the field, which are still used nowadays:

  • First Task: planning for a war requires identifying the enemy's center of gravity and if possible, trace them back to a single one; (examples: enemy's army, capital or allies)
  • Second Task: To ensure that the main forces to be used to attack that point are concentrated for a main offensive.

Insights and Lessons for our Times: 

  • Delimitation of the final objectives: a war is not started, or rationally it should not be done, without the definition of its political and geo strategic aim, in the short term, and its ultimate goal, in the long run. In short, a total war that includes the civilian element and seeks unconditional surrender (World War II) is not the same as a limited war whose objective is to restore a previous situation (Las Malvinas).
  • Active defence: defence cannot be conceived without offensive reactions. Apparently, the defender has the advantage, but mere defence is incompatible with victory. If defence is ever necessary, it should be seen as a step prior to counterattack.
  • Operational flexibility: when two armies engage in combat, there are always elements who emerge unexpectedly, or that behave differently than planned (the so-called “friction”). The battlefield is dynamic, the military commander must know how to adapt to the circumstances. In addition, having a strategic reserve allows dealing with unforeseen situations.
  • Troop’s morale: The morale of the troop must be taken care of; it is a determining factor. A well-equipped army, immune to disinformation strategies through specific training, fights better and performs better under stress.
  • Limits of the action: every commander must know the limit of the army’s strength, in order to avoid losing what they have gained on the battlefield. This operational limit has to be clear at the time of planning.
  • Intelligence analysis: every decision maker must obtain intelligence reports in order to make decision at the strategic level in the right direction otherwise the decision making is likely to be taken over by method and routine, with potentially disastrous results

Since the end of the Cold War and the revamping of unconventional warfare, Clausewitz’s work has renewed significance for scholars and academics. However, even during the Cold War, it continued to be a milestone for several leaders and decision-makers. Roosevelt, Lenin, Mao Tse-tung and Hitler were among the important readers of Clausewitz. For instance, Lenin enlarged the concept of war as policy with other means to explain the conflict of the social classes. 

Today, the lucid approach of Clausewitz to war can be a useful help in understanding how to deal with asymmetrical threats in different fields.  The recent defeat in Afghanistan shows how it can be possible to win battles but lose the war. Clausewitz draws from his age concepts still used today: moral hazard, guerrilla, the importance of the human factor, etc. and therefore, On War remains even today, a benchmark for military and strategic thought.

September 20, 2021No Comments

Cybersecurity and Society

The team "Culture, Society, and Security" interviews Dr. Madeline Carr, Professor of Global Politics and Cyber Security in the Faculty of Engineering Science at the University College of London and Dr. Camino Kavanagh, visiting fellow at King’s College London, and member of UN advisory support team for negotiating processes related to cyber and international security.

Interviewing Team: Julia Hodgins and Sofia Staderini